Lascuna leads by four over Indon Sjaichuddin

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Tony Lascuna birdied the last hole at the completion of first round play then fired a five-under 67 to grab a four-stroke clubhouse lead over Indon amateur William Sjaichuddin halfway through the rich ICTSI Classic at the Mount Malarayat composite courses in Lipa City, Batangas on Thursday.

A pair of three-string birdies at the Mount Lobo side turned what had been a lackluster backside start of 37 into another sizzling round, putting the reigning ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit champion, who tied Dutch Guido Van der Valk’s opening eight-under 64, in the lead at 131.

Lascuna, one of the 63 players stranded due to darkness in the rain-hit first round Wednesday, actually added two birdies in six holes at the break of dawn to preserve a solid 64 and join Van der Valk in the lead of the $60,000 event, the ninth leg of the both the Asian Development Tour and the ICTSI PGT.

But the ace Davaoeno shotmaker, joint 10th in last week’s Aboitiz Invitational in Cebu, lost his rhythm at resumption of the second round in tougher condition with the pins tucked in strategic spots. He muffed four birdie putts inside six feet at Mt. Malipunyo and overshot the par-5 No. 14 from just about 80 yards for bogey, his first in 32 holes.

With a one-over 37, he tumbled down the leaderboard littered with red numbers with 48 players breaking par at presstime, nearly matching the 49 who scored under-par in the weather-suspended first round of the tournament sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.

But it didn’t take long for Lascuna to recover and find himself back in a familiar spot.

He birdied three straight from No. 1 and after three straight pars, closed out with three straight birdies for the second straight day, barely missing an eagle putt from 18 feet on No. 9. The stirring finish, however, proved enough to shove him back into the lead at 13-under total heading to the final 36 holes of this ninth leg of both the ADT and the ICTSI PGT circuits.

“I’ve been struggling with my (putting) stroke the last few tournaments and I still do,” said Lascuna in Filipino. “But I’m hitting it pretty well off the tee and my iron game is quite okay.”

With a four-shot lead over the unheralded Sjaichuddin and the rest of the those in the afternoon wave struggling in demanding condition, things are looking up indeed for Lascuna.

Malaysian Nicholas Fung parred his last three holes for a five-under 67 in the first round but slowed down with a two-under 70 in the second day for a seven-under 137, six shots off the pace.

Frankie Minoza blew a two-under card after 15 holes with bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 at resumption of his first round but rattled four straight birdies from No. 14 in the second round to salvage a 69. The back-to-back winner of ICTSI Del Monte and ICTSI Pueblo de Oro, however, stood 10 shots off Lascuna at 141.

With Van der Valk fumbling with a two-over 38 after nine holes and Anthony Fernando, impressive with an opening 65, groping with a one-over card after six holes, Sjaichuddin took the provisional challenger’s role, firing a bogey-free 66 for a 135.

Japanese Yuki Usami likewise charged back after an opening 71, turning in a solid seven-under 65 to wheel back into contention at 136 in a tie with Aussie Darren Tan, who carded a second four-under 68 and Japan’s Masaki Sakati, who shot a 67.

Aussie David Lutterus had a two-under 34 at the turn for a running seven-under aggregate while Indon Cassius Casas and Elmer Saban shot a pair of 71s to lead the 139 scorers.

The other local aces likewise failed to impress with Aboitiz Invitational back-to-back champion Elmer Salvador settling for a 141 after a 68, Angelo Que carding a 37 at the turn for a running four-under total, and Miguel Tabuena scoring a one-under card after six holes for a two-under aggregate.

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