Flawless Lascuña pulls away by 6, nears Valley Golf Challenge crown

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Tony LascuÑa moved in the threshold of a first victory on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour this year when he more than doubled his overnight three-shot lead with a bogey-free 67 in the third round of the ICTSI Valley Golf Challenge at the Valley Golf Club here in Antipolo on Friday.

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Lascuña, fully recovered from a grueling three-week campaign on the Asian Tour, matched Cassius Casas early birdie-binge then watched the first day leader lose steam at the back to move almost unassailably ahead at 13-under 203 for a seven-stroke lead over Casas and Jhonnel Ababa with 18 holes left in the P2 million event.

“My driving and irons clicked and made some clutch putts at the back,” said Lascuna, on the verge of improving on his fourth place effort at ICTSI Splendido and runner-up finish to Jun Rates at ICTSI John Hay. “I was expecting a shootout with Cassius but he kind of slowed down at the back.”

Casas, who seized control with an opening 68 but fell four strokes off Lascuna with a 72 halfway through, battled Lascuna in the first nine holes—shot for shot and putt for putt—as both made the turn with four-under 32s. But after they both birdied No. 11, Casas bogeyed the next, dropped another shot on No. 15 and holed out with another bogey, enabling Lascuna to pull away with a slew of regulation pars.

Casas wound up with a 70 and joined Ababa, who carded a 71, at 210 with both players needing to shoot in the low 60s to possibly foil their fellow ace Davaoeño’s crack for glory in the event sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.

Carl Santos-Ocampo fired a 69 to move up to fourth at 211 while Micah Shin, runner-up to Charles Hong at ICTSI Sherwood two weeks ago, rattled off three birdies at the back for a 69 and a 212 for fifth.

Mars Pucay stood a shot farther back at 213 after a 69 while Miguel Tabuena finally hit his stride and shot a sterling six-under 66 to join Orlan Sumcad (71), Albin Engino (72) and Elmer Saban (74) at seventh.

Tabuena birdied all four-par 5s and hit four more birdies to negate his bogeys on Nos. 1 and 15.

But nothing, it seems, could stop Lascuña from nailing the victory worth P360,000 which is expected to fuel his bid for a record third straight Order of Merit crown.

“It’s still a long way to go and a lot of good players are emerging, so I can’t be so sure. But I have to be always in tip-top shape to contend for the championship of each leg,” said Lascuña, who with Casas birdied Nos. 2, 3 and 5 then rammed in a six-footer on the par-3 No. 8.

Casas bogeyed No. 1 but strung up five birdies, including on Nos. 7 and 9 to match Lascuna’s 32. But after birdying the par-5 11th for the third straight day, the Country Club Invitational champion lost his rhythm and bogeyed Nos. 12, 15 and 18 after missing the green.

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