ELMER SALVADOR pounced on Keanu Jahns’ costly mishit on No. 8 and went on to essay a big 4&3 triumph as the International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) The Country Club (TCC) Match Play Invitational unfolded with a blend of unexpected turns and seasoned triumphs Tuesday in Santa Rosa, Laguna.
Top seed Jhonnel Ababa, defending champion Tony Lascuña, Miguel Tabuena, Justin Quiban, Angelo Que, Rupert Zaragosa, Ira Alido and Guido van der Valk all sailed through with convincing victories while a couple of matches went past 18 holes to highlight the start of the head-to-head clashes in the P2 million championship at the TCC course.
But Salvador took the spotlight in fair conditions at one of the country’s toughest courses, seizing the opportunity when Jahns faltered on No. 8, turning what seemed like an impending defeat into a surprising triumph.
“I don’t even know how I won,” said the reticent former Order of Merit (OOM) winner, underscoring the unpredictable nature of his comeback.
One hole down after seven holes, Salvador appeared resigned after Jahns almost reached the par-5 No. 8 in two. But the Fil-German uncharacteristically fouled up on his third shot and ended up with a par while Salvador stuffed his approach shot from 100 yards to within six feet and made the putt to draw level.
The veteran Davaoeño campaigner then won four of the next seven holes as Jahns failed to recover his rhythm as the former advanced against Del Monte’s Reymon Jaraula, who edged Gerald Rosales, 1-up.
Ababa, whose victories at Villamor-Philippine Masters and at South Pacific propelled him to his first Philippine Golf Tour (PGT) OOM crown, trampled Ferdie Aunzo, 3&2; while Lascuña, who dominated Jahns’ 4&3, to rule the inaugural staging of the event that took over from the North and South Duel at Villamor last year, dominated Gab Manotoc, 5&4.
Tabuena, on the other hand, put away fellow Asian Tour campaigner Lloyd Go, 3&2, with the two-time Philippine Open champion and No. 2 in this year’s Asian Tour Order of Merit facing Zaragosa in an interesting matchup in Round 2 of the knockout duels organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc.
Quiban, who wore down Marvin Dumandan on the fourth playoff hole to claim the South Pacific title last September, trounced Elee Bisera, 5&3; while Que ripped Korean Min Seong Kim with an early burst, going 3-up after six holes and then coasting to a 7&5 triumph.
Zaragosa whipped Mars Pucay, 3&2; Alido bucked an early slip and battled back from one-hole down to get past legend Frankie Miñoza, 4&3, while van der Valk also annexed a 4&3 victory over Art Arbole to launch his drive for a third straight title at this long, exacting layout after topping The TCC Invitational the past two years.
Others who advanced to the Last 16 were Albin Engino, who outlasted Nilo Salahog on the 20th hole; Marvin Dumandan, who blew a 1-up lead on the 18th but nipped Rico Depilo back on No. 1 with a birdie; Fidel Concepcion, who edged Sean Ramos, 1-up; Joenard Rates, who also foiled Dino Villanueva, 1-up; and Zanieboy Gialon, who routed Jay Bayron, 6&5.
Korean Hyun Ho Rho posted the day’s other reversal as the Q-School topnotcher toppled Michael Bibat, 3&2.
In other engrossing second round matches, Que slugs it out with Alido, Quiban tests Rho, Ababa battles Engino, van der Valk tangles with Concepcion, Rates collides with Dumandan, and Lascuña squares up against Gialon.
Image credits: Roy Domingo