Tony LascuÑa misfired on the 18th and holed out with a bogey for a 69, enabling a surging Miguel Tabuena and Cassius Casas to close within one and a slew of others to move within striking distance halfway through P3.5 million ICTSI Pilipinas Invitational at Manila Southwoods’ Legends Course in Carmona, Cavite on Thursday.
Unlike in the opener where he outdueled Casas with a 65 on a blazing windup, Lascuña wavered at the finish this time, failing to get up-and-down off a plugged lie from the bunker for the lone black mark in an otherwise another superb round. Though he remained in the lead at 10-under 134, Tabuena and Casas moved within 135 after a pair of bogey-free 66 and 67, respectively, and Elmer Saban, Keanu Jahns and Marvin Dumandan threatened at 136 after a 67, 68 and 69, respectively.
Clyde Mondilla, Elmer Salvador and Jhonnel Ababa shot similar 66s and Mars Pucay turned in a 68 for identical 137s while unheralded Joey Huerva fired the tournament-best seven-under 65 to wheel back into contention at 138 in a tie with club bet Anthony Fernando, who shot a second 69.
That guarantees a spirited battle for the top P650,000 purse with two rounds left in the 72-hole championship, the third of four P3.5 million events sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Even Orlan Sumcad and Jay Bayron stayed in contention at 139s after a 68 and 71, respectively, as the country’s top guns tamed the bunker-laden layout for the second straight day in the absence of the wind with 29 breaking par.
“I just had a bad lie on the 18th but overall, I still played good to stay ahead. This is going to be a good fight,” said Lascuña, winner of the last two tournaments on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour (ICTSI Negros Occidental) and Asian Development Tour (Aboitiz Invitational), who will be as much tested as Casas and Tabuena in the featured threesome today.
Outgunned in the first round despite a 68, Casas matched Lascuña’s frontside 34 then struck with three straight birdies from No. 13 before watching his fellow Davaoeno ace fumble with a bogey on the 18th.
The country’s former No. 1 also won this year’s The Country Club Invitational but remained winless after 11 legs of this year’s circuit backed by Nike Golf, Pacsports Phils. Inc., Srixon, Callaway, Mizuno, Empire Golf, Footjoy, Titleist, Custom Clubmakers, Sharp and KZG.
Tabuena, who opened with a 69 Wednesday, stood in the middle of the pack with five straight pars but gained on the leaders when he strung four straight birdies inside five feet from No. 6 for a 32. He settled for four pars at the back then birdied Nos. 14 and 18 while preserving a spotless round for that 66.
The 19-year-old Tabuena is trying to win his second P3.5 million event after dominating the field at ICTSI Manila Masters at Eastridge last June.
Saban, who failed to make an impact on the circuit after scoring a breakthrough win at Splendido last year, scorched the backside with four birdies then added two more at the front only to reel back with a bogey on the par-5 No. 6 for that 67.
Dumandan, just two strokes off Lascuña at the start of the round, fell behind with a mediocre 36 at the front but finished strong with three birdies in the last five for a 69 and back to within two while Jahns bettered Dumandan’s solid windup with a sizzling five-birdie splurge at the back for a 31 and a 68.
Relegated to the background by his more illustrious flightmates after struggling with a 71 in the first round, Mondilla showed up his fancied rivals this time, gunning down four birdies at the front then firing three more against a bogey at the back to outhit them with a 66.