Cassius Casas gets the chance to slug it out with Tony Lascuña in a key duel between the country’s former No. 1 and the hottest player on the local circuit today highlighting the start of the rich ICTSI Pilipinas Invitational at Manila Southwoods’ Legends Course in Carmona, Cavite today.
“This is a good pairing. I really want to play with Onyot [Lascuña], who’s been playing well lately. I just hope to hold my own and prove that I still got what it takes to win big-time tournaments,” said Casas, on the eve of the third of four P3.5 million tournaments lined up by organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. this year.
The duo underscored their readiness for the battle for the top P650,000 purse as Lascuña led his team that included Manolo Agojo, Jung Duk Chang and Thirdy Escaño to victory with an 18-under 54 in yesterday’s pro-am tournament. Casas’ squad composed of Mike Igarashi, Eric Jaudines and Richie Santos also scored a 54 but lost the title in the countback.
Dante Beciera, with Arnel Paras, Urbano Burgos and Gerry Sy, finished third with 55.
Casas used to dominate the previous local circuits in late 90s and early 2000s but got slowed down by age and poor form although he made a comeback of sorts lately, winning the ICTSI-backed tour’s last leg at Wack Wack last year and The Country Club Invitational for the second time last February.
Still, focus will be on Lascuñpa, who has won four tournaments this year, including the last two on the ICTSI PGT calendar—the ICTSI Negros Occidental Classic last July and the recent Aboitiz Invitational at Rivieral’s Couples layout.
“My ball-striking has been quite okay lately so I’m very confident with my game. I’ll just try to put myself in position [to win]again,” said Lascuna, who is actually eyeing a third straight championship at Southwoods after beating Angelo Que in 2012 and Jhonnel Ababa and Miguel Tabuena last year.
“The greens are in great condition so I expect a birdie contest in all four days here,” said Lascuña, also out to firm up his bid for a third straight Order of Merit crown in the circuit Nike Golf, Pacsports Phils. Inc., Srixon, Callaway, Mizuno, Empire Golf, Footjoy, Titleist, Custom Clubmakers, Sharp and KZG, the Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. with ABS-CBN Sports & Action, Balls and Inquirer Golf as media partners.
Clyde Mondilla will join the fancied duo in the 7:40 a.m. flight on No. 10 where Tabuena, seeking to nail to rule another P3.5 million tournament after dominating a stellar field at ICTSI Masters at Eastridge last June, will also kick off his title drive with Marvin Dumandan and Arnold Villacencion at 8:40 a.m.
Elmer Salvador, raring to atone for his failed three-peat bid at Aboitiz, also hopes to come out strong against recent Asean PGA Tour leg winner Jhonnel Ababa and Benjie Magada in the 7:40 a.m. flight on No. 1 where Charles Hong, the other winner of the P3.5 million event at Sherwood last April, will also start his bid against John Hay leg winner Jun Rates and veteran Robert Pactolerin at 8:40 a.m.
“The iron shots will be key here since the greens are holding up well,” said Hong, who made it to the third stage of the Japan PGA Tour Q-School.
Jay Bayron, winner of this year’s kickoff leg at ICTSI Splendido Classic, drew an early start at 7:20 a.m. with Mars Pucay and Randy Garalde where they hope to take advantage of ideal conditions and put in under-par rounds at the bunker-laden layout.
“I think it will boil down to strategy, especially if the wind come into play, and putting since our length is pretty much the same,” said Lascuna.
Frankie Miñoza also tries to rebound from a missed-cut stint at Aboitiz as he leads the 8:20 a.m. group on No. 1 that includes Gerald Rosales and Miguel Ochoa.