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Cebu, Philippines: Filipino Elmer Salvador battled to a second straight one-over-par 71 to seize the halfway lead at the Aboitiz Invitational presented by ICTSI on the Asian Development Tour on Thursday.

Salvador traded four birdies against five bogeys on a tough Cebu Country Club to lead by one shot with his two-over-par 142 aggregate from American Jonathan Moore, who also returned a 71 in the US$65,000 event which is the first ADT tournament held in the Philippines. 

Such was the tough conditions that not a single player in the field matched par on the second day as scores soared. 

Salvador, who is a former Philippine Open winner, has two runner-up finishes this season but is hoping to better those performances by one rung this week. But he said he needs to putt better to have a chance of winning. 

“I’ve been struggling with my putting stroke. I had two three putts in the first two rounds and my putting must click if I am to win here. The greens are really firm and tough. I believe the player who can pitch and putt well will become the winner,” said Salvador. 

Moore, a former US Walker Cup player and winner of the Impian Classic in Malaysia in May, stayed in title contention with a fighting display, shooting one birdie against two bogeys. He dropped a bogey at his last hole which denied him a share of the lead with Salvador.

“The greens are so firm … just like this table. They’re the firmest greens I’ve ever played on. You get only a few chances in the round. There are not a lot of birdie opportunities out there. It’s all about the approach shots here,” said the American.

Veteran Cassius Casas, a former Philippine Open champion, was bunched in joint third place alongside countrymen Rufino Bayron and Antonio Asistio. Casas fired three birdies but dropped four bogeys and one double bogey for a 73.

Bayron and Asistio returned cards of 71 and 73 respectively as they kept alive hopes of a first Filipino winner on the ADT since the circuit was launched last year by the established Asian Tour as a platform for rising stars to hone their skills and talent. 

Promising Sri Lankan Mithun Perera will enter the final two rounds just three shots off the pace after he improved by three strokes with a tidy 71 for a 145 total, which includes the likes of local hopes Anthony Fernando (72), Jay Bayron (74), who finished runner-up in the ICTSI Philippine Open on the Asian Tour earlier this year, Marvin Dumandan (75) and Michael Bibat (72).

Overnight leader Arnold Villancencio stumbled to tied 35th place after a forgettable 82.

The halfway cut was set at 153 with 50 players progressing into the last two rounds. 

The Aboitiz Invitational is staged in partnership with the Philippine Golf Tour. It is the seventh and penultimate leg of the 2011 ADT season which will reward the top three players from the Order of Merit with Asian Tour cards for 2012.

Leading second round scores

142: Elmer SALVADOR (Phi) 71-71

143: Jonathan MOORE (USA) 72-71

144: Rufino BAYRON (Phi) 73-71, Antonio ASISTIO (Phi) 71-73, Cassius CASAS (Phi) 71-73

145: Anthony FERNANDO (Phi) 73-72, Jay BAYRON (Phi) 71-74, Mithun PERERA (Slk) 74-71, Marvin DUMANDAN (Phi) 70-75, Michael BIBAT (Phi) 73-72

146: Richard SINFUEGO (Phi) 74-72, Albin ENGINO (Phi) 73-73, Jonel ABABA (Phi) 73-73, Matt DOCKING (Aus) 73-73, Ernie RELLON (Phi) 74-72

Photo - Asian Tour 

Asian Tour 

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