TAGAYTAY – Rene Menor wore down Thai Pasavee Lertvilai in a record six-hole playoff and captured the ICTSI Splendido Classic crown of the PGT Asia Tour at Taal Splendido here yesterday.
Menor, who matched Lertvilai’s closing six-under 66 to force a three-way playoff with American John Michael O’Toole at 12-under 276, hit his drive on the par-5 No. 10 into the hazard but found a big lift as the Thai drove out-of-bounds.
He took a penalty shot but had a closer approach for his third shot while Lertvilai had to tee off again from the mound, enabling the unheralded local shotmaker to finish off the PGTA Q-School topnotcher with a scrambling par and annex his first-ever championship.
“I couldn’t believe I won,” said an overwhelmed Menor, who banked $17,500 for his tough feat that nearly tripled his combined earnings in a long winless spell on the local circuit “Actually, I didn’t even expect I would be able to come back and survive a long playoff duel.”
But he did as Lertvilai blinked and wound up with a bogey and settled for runner-up purse of $11,500 in the second leg of the PGT Asia Tour sponsored by ICTSI.
O’Toole, who battled from eight down by shooting a course-trying record 64 in bogey-free fashion, bowed out right in the first playoff hole on No. 18, stumbling with his first bogey in the day. He took home $7,000.
Four more trips back to the closing par-4 hole failed to produce a winner and the Menor-Lervilai duel had to be brought to No. 10 for the sixth playoff hole.
Menor, who has had a series of solid starts in a number of tournaments, only to crumble under pressure and fade, this time fought back from six down off third round leader Rufino Bayron in regulation and held his own with the fire and grit of a veteran campaigner in the grueling playoff that bettered Frankie Miñoza’s victory over Miguel Tabuena in last year’s PGT Negros Occidental Classic that took five extra holes to finish.
It was indeed a bizarre ending to a tournament that had appeared headed to a runaway triumph after Bayron stormed four shots clear off Clyde Mondilla and Mars Pucay after the pivotal third round of the 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
But the championship flight, and the second-to-last group of Tony Lascuña, Jhonnel Ababa and Aussie DJ Loypur all bombed out at the challenging backside of the up-and-down layout, paving the way for the unlikely surge of Lertvilai, O’Toole and Menor.