Cassius Casas showed flashes of his old brilliance and found himself in an old familiar place – on top of the heap with a six-under 66 for a two-stroke lead over Jun Bernis in the first round of the P1 million Canlubang Golf Invitational at Cangolf’s North course in Can-lubang on Wednesday.
Brandishing a new swing and cashing in on his superb putting all day, Casas went to work early with three straight birdies from No. 2 then added four more to negate a lone bogey mishap on the par-3 No. 6, giving him the needed strong start in a 54-hole tournament offering P200,000 to the winner.
“I feel good about my chances this week. I adjusted my swing a bit and had good looks at the target,” said Casas.
Bernis also liked his chances after rebounding from a roller-coaster round at the back with three birdies coming home, wresting solo second with a 68 while defending champion Zanie Boy Gialon strung three straight birdies from No. 8 to fire a 69 for joint third with Charles Hong and Japanese Toru Nakajima.
Jhonnel Ababa lost in a shootout with Casas and Gialon in one of the featured flights with a shaky windup of four bogeys against two birdies as he dropped to joint sixth with Orlan Sumcad and Jessie Balasabas with two-under 70s.
Ababa actually matched Casas’ outward 32 but the three-leg winner in 2001 lost his touch with bogeys on Nos. 11 and 12 for a closing 38.
Mhark Fernando proved to be a big letdown despite a birdie-opening on No. 10 as the ICTSI Riviera Classic runaway winner fumbled with three bogeys for a 39 before settling for a one-birdie stint at the front for a 74.
He stood eight shots off Casas, a big deficit with just 36 holes left to play in the event serving as the penultimate leg of the 15-stage circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Three other top bets groped for form and joined Fernando in 28th place, including 2011 champion Artemio Murakami, ICTSI Tagaytay Midlands winner Carl Santos-Ocampo and Elmer Saban, who beat Casas for the ICTSI Splendido Classic crown last month.
Clyde Mondilla, Paul Echavez and Richard Abaring all shot one-under 71s while Mars Pucay, Marvin Dumandan, Randy Garalde, Anthony Fernando, Lawrence Celestino and Jun Rates matched par 72s in tough condition.
But Casas made the most of the lift, clean and place rule, coming through with superb iron shots and exceptional putting to dominate the field.