GEN. TRIAS, CAVITE, Philippines - Jay Bayron used a strong finish to shoot a second straight 69 and leave behind a field that continued to struggle in demanding condition at Eagle Ridge's Faldo Course in the second round of the ICTSI Eagle Ridge Invitational here Thursday.
Bayron turned what had seemed to be a mediocre card into an explosive round as he birdied three of the last five holes, including the last two to match his first round output and pull away from the pack with a 36-hole haul of 138.
That was five shots ahead of a three-player group that includes two of the fancied bets in the fold, headed by last year's Del Monte stage champion Mhark Fernando and Asian Tour veteran Tony Lascuna, who both pooled 143s after a 72 and 73, respectively.
Charles Hong, skipper of the South team in next week's North vs South Ryder Cup-style duel at Alabang, fired a 71 to join the mix heading to the final 18 holes of the P1 million event serving as the fourth leg of a 16-stage circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Splendido leg winner Miguel Tabuena recovered from a woeful 75 with a bogey-free 69 to assemble an even 144 for solo fifth. But the 17-year-old find would need to work doubly hard to catch up with Bayron and contend for another crown after scoring a come-from-behind victory over Ferdie Aunzo to record his maiden win at ICTSI Splendido last March.
Jhonnel Ababa, a three-leg winner last year, matched par 72 to lead the 145 scorers, who included Benjie Magada, who rallied with a 32 at the back for a 69, and Joenard Rates (70) while Jun Bernis carded a second 73 for a 146 to tie rookie pro Clyde Mondilla, who shot a 71.
Elmer Salvador, the pre-tournament favorite after scoring a four-shot romp at the nearby Sherwood Hills Golf Club last month, hardly recovered from a 74 with a 73 as he stood too far behind Bayron at 147 in the company of Dante Becierra (76), Orlan Sumcad (74) and Mars Pucay (74).