Tony Lascuña pounced on Guido Van der Valk’s early meltdown then fended off Jay Bayron’s late-hole charge in a sweltering high-noon shootout, drilling in a pressure-packed 14-foot birdie putt on the final hole to snare the ICTSI Manila Masters crown by one with a 70 in Binangonan, Rizal on Saturday.
Lascuña nearly blew a three-stroke lead with two holes to go with a bogey on the par-4 No. 17 which Bayron birdied, setting the stage for a thrilling finish at the par-5 18th. Bayron sustained his charge and closed out with a tap-in birdie for a 71, bracing for a playoff after Lascuña’s pitch from 40 yards stopped 14 feet short of target.
But the reigning Order of Merit champion displayed grace under pressure, canning in that matching birdie putt from an uphill lie and preserving a one-shot victory for the country’s winningest pro who finally nailed one at the Eastridge Golf Club here with a 285 aggregate worth P550.000.
“I really wanted this one very badly since I’ve never won here at Eastridge for years,” said Lascuña, who placed outside the Top 10 here last year in a season where he racked up five victories to reclaim the OOM crown from absentee Miguel Tabuena.
It was a sorry setback for Bayron, who also won two titles in last year’s circuit sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., who recovered from a disastrous triple-bogey 7 on No. 9 with three birdies in the last four holes to get a shot at the playoff.
“He’s really good at putting,” said Bayron, who wound up with a 286 and settled for P370,000.
True to Lascuña’s third round forecast, Van der Valk did crumble under pressure from the local aces, blowing an overnight three-shot lead with a bogey-riddled, birdie-less 41. Lascuña took charge by three with a 35 as Bayron, who shared the lead up to the eighth, dropped three strokes on the par 4 ninth.
But the Dutchman fought back with birdies on Nos. 10 and 13 but faltered again with a triple-bogey on the 16th and ended up with a 78, falling to sixth place instead at 290 worth P115,000.
Hirotaro Naito of Japan rallied from way down with a tournament-best tying 68 to tie Jhonnel Ababa, who matched par 72, at third at 288 worth P190,000 each while Josh Salah of the US fired a 71 to place fifth at 289 and received P130,000.
Mhark Fernando carded a 72 and shared seventh with Rene Menor and American John Michael O’Toole, who both shot 73s, and Paul Harris of the US, who wavered with a 75, at 291.
“I played good and my putting clicked,” said Lascuña, who couldn’t make the putts in a third round 76 that dropped him to joint second after 54 holes of the P3 million event backed by BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT.
The final round foldup extended the Manila-based Van der Valk’s winless run in the circuit, blaming poor putting for his defeat to Lascuña, who also nipped him in a playoff to annex the Bacolod leg crown last year.
“I played horrible. My putting was really bad and I’m very disgusted it happened in the final round,” said the Dutchman, who nevertheless praised Lascuña for his solid final round game.