Tony Lascuña put up a pair of three-birdie strings to close out both nines, hiking his lead to three shots over Jhonnel Ababa and Ira Alido with a three-under 68 in the third round of the ICTSI Forest Hills Championship at the Forest Hills Golf and Country Club in Antipolo on Friday.
Flashing vintage form, Lascuna showed up fellow veteran Ferdie Aunzo and rookie Alido with his near-impeccable game in another hot, humid day at the Nicklaus layout, producing eight birdies, including three straight from Nos. 6 and 15, against a double-bogey and three bogeys.
The last, on No. 18, marred what could’ve been a solid windup for Lascuña although it enabled Ababa and the rest of his pursuers to stay within striking distance with 18 holes to play in the P3 million event sponsored by ICTSI.
“The course remains tough even in the absence of the wind,” said the 46-year-old Lascuña, citing the narrow fairways and deep ravines that could make or break one’s title bid in the event sponsored by ICTSI.
“You have to be precise off the tee since a slight mistake will cause you trouble,” he said. “I also dread the backnine since it’s an uphill stretch and I easily get weary now because of my age.”
But the Manila Masters winner at Eastridge, who ruled this event via a whopping 11-shot romp over Zanieboy Gialon and Orlan Sumcad last year, seemed not to get tired of winning as Lascuña looked fine at 10-under 203, three ahead of Ababa, who shot a 67, and Alido, who bounced back with a 68, for 206s.
Ababa, out to snap a long title spell, sustained his second round 66 with three birdies in the first six holes but he dropped a shot on No. 13 before hitting back-to-back birdies from No. 16 to remain in contention.
Alido actually held his ground when ranged against Lascuña and Aunzo in the featured flight, turning in a gutsy 33 and bucking a bogey-bogey mishap from No. 14 with two birdies in the last three holes to spark hopes for a breakthrough and a crack at the top P550,000 purse in his rookie season in the circuit backed by Custom Clubmakers, BDO, Meralco, Sharp, KZG, PLDT, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and K&G Golf.
Gialon closed out with three straight birdies and shot a 69 but the runaway winner in the last leg at Calatagan stood four strokes adrift at 207 while Miguel Tabuena turned a one-over card to a three-under 68 with four birdies in the last 11 holes. He, however, could only pool a 208 to stay five behind Lascuña although the young former Philippine Open champion had rallied from seven down to snare the Luisita crown last month.
Aunzo failed to check his skid coming off a bogey-par-bogey finish for a 66 in the second round as he bogeyed two of the first three holes and dropped two strokes on the par-4 No. 5 to tumble down the leaderboard. He recovered with three birdies in the next five holes but bogeyed No. 15 and limped with a 73 for a 209.
First round leader Arnold Villacencio hardly recoiled from a 74 with an even 71 as he dropped to seventh at 210 while Gerald Rosales fired a 69 and Joenard Rates stumbled with a 72 to the eighth and ninth places at 211 and 212, respectively.