Tony Lascuña birdied No. 9 for the second straight day for a four-under 67 then pounced on Ferdie Aunzo’s late miscues to grab a one-stroke lead halfway through the P3 million ICTSI Forest Hills Championship at the Forest Hills Golf and Country Club in Antipolo on Thursday.
Aunzo looked headed to seizing the second day honors with an eagle-spiked seven-under card in another ideal condition at the par-71 Nicklaus course. But the former national champion seeking an end a long title drought bogeyed two of the last three holes and blew the lead with a 66.
That enabled the reigning Order of Merit titlist to take charge at seven-under 135 as erstwhile leader Arnold Villacencio failed to match his hot birdie-laden 65 start with a bogey-riddled 74 despite the absence of the dreaded wind at the hilly layout.
“I just played my usual game,” said the 46-year-old Lascuña, one of the winningest players on the circuit. He added that he has nothing more to prove although he moved 36 holes away from nailing a follow-up to his one-shot win over Jay Bayron at Manila Masters at Eastridge last April and snapping a string of runner-up finishes at least in the last four legs of the tour sponsored by ICTSI.
“I’m not getting any younger and easily get tired unlike before,” added Lascuña, who birdied four of the first 11 holes from the back then holed out with that six-footer to negate his second straight bogey on the difficult par-4 No. 5.
While Lascuña savored his big finish, Aunzo rued his bogey-par-bogey windup that ruined what had been a remarkable start for a player who last won way back in 2009.
He birdied two of the first three holes, dropped a shot on the fourth but rolled in an eagle-putt from 20 feet off a solid rescue shot from 230 yards. He kept his charge with birdies in the next two and after a routine par on the ninth, he gunned down another pair to launch his backside bid.
But just when he thought he had the course in check and the field in control, Aunzo wavered at the finish, missing the par-5 16th green and the last for bogeys.
That also allowed a slew of others to close in and get a crack at the top P550,000 heading to the final 36 holes of the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. with recent Calatagan leg winner Zanieboy Gialon also shooting a 67 to join rookie Ira Alido, who matched par 71, at fourth at 138.
After gunning down seven birdies against a bogey Wednesday, Villacencio had just one birdie and limped with four bogeys, including three in the last seven holes to drop to 139 in a tie with Jhonnel Ababa, who bounced back from a 73 with a 66.
Miguel Tabuena likewise rebounded from an opening 72 with an eagle-aided 68 although the European Tour campaigner still stood five strokes back at 140 with Joenard Rates, who also fought back with a 69.
Jay Bayron, a two-leg winner last year, hardly improved with a 70 for a 141 while Justin Quiban, Gerald Rosales and Nilo Salahog all matched par 71s to tie Anthony Fernando, Benjie Magada and Elmer Salvador, who also turned in 72s, at 142.
Forty five players advanced to the final two days of the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, BDO, Meralco, Sharp, KZG, PLDT, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and K&G Golf with two-leg winner and pre-tournament favorite Clyde Mondilla barely making the cut at 149 with a 76, along with John Abdon (74), Michael Bibat (74), Mhark Fernando (72), Korean Kang Chon Koo (71), James Lam (73), Aussie Nathan Park (69), Dino Villanueva (75) and amateur Raymart Tolentino (78).
Among the notables who failed to advance were Cassius Casas (71-150), Dutch Guido Van der Valk (77-150), Jerson Balasabas (72-151), Korean Park Jun Sung (73-152) and Orlan Sumcad (75-153).