Tony Lascuña bucked a bogey start and the spirited charge of the elite field, shooting a six-under 65 to wrest a two-stroke lead over Clyde Mondilla and three others at the start of the ICTSI Forest Hills Championship at the Forest Hills Golf and Country Club in Antipolo on Wednesday.
Lascuña, hardly showing the effects of a grueling stint in Thailand last week, recovered from his early mishap with solid driving and superb iron shots, setting up birdie chances inside seven feet which he made, including on Nos. 3, 6, 9, 12, 13, 16 and 18.
“My irons clicked and so was my putting,” said Lascuña, chasing a third leg win on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour after scoring a runaway victory at Luisita last April and posting a one-shot triumph over Japanese Ryoma Miki at Eagle Ridge early this month.
The 46-year-old former three-time PGT Order of Merit added he actually flubbed two makeable birdie putts but took those misses in stride as he likewise drilled in two putts from two-pin length distance and went on to turn in one of his strongest starts in the circuit sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
“I had a good rest after coming back and just happy to sustain my form and shoot this well today (yesterday),” said Lascuña, who ended up joint 11th in the Queen’s Cup last Sunday and went straight to the practice green to further hone up his stroke.
But Mondilla, whose three-straight title bid was snapped by Lascuña at Eagle Ridge, was also quite satisfied with his 67 churned out in one of the early morning flights at the par-71 rolling layout which yielded 12 under-par scores. Like Lascuña, the Del Monte star also fumbled with a bogey on No. 1 and had two more miscues against three birdies after 10 holes.
But the Eastridge and Calatagan legs champion finished strong with four birdies in the last seven holes and rebounded from joint 17th to a share of second with a 34-33 card, just two behind the hot-starting Lascuña.
Michael Bibat produced a pair of back-to-back birdie feats on Nos. 4 and 15 and added another on No. 10 against a lone bogey on the ninth, while Korean Park Min Ung checked a roller-coaster backside start of three birdies against the same number of bogeys with four birdies at the front, including the last two, for a 31-36 card.
Unheralded Nelson Huerva, meanwhile, put in a career-best start of eagle-spiked 31 at the back but lost his touch and luck at the front, finishing with a 36 and missed seizing solo lead with a bogey on the ninth for the other 67.
Joenard Rates, Marvin Dumandan and Charles Hong all shot 68s for joint sixth while Jay Bayron fired a 69 for a share of ninth with Benjie Magada, Arnold Villacencio and Reymon Jaraula, who missed joining the three-under par group with a bogey on the 18th.
Mars Pucay, winner when the event was first held here in 2010, mixed four birdies with the same number of bogeys to lead the even par scorers, who included Jerson Balasabas, Rene Menor and Japanese Yuta Sudo.
Jobim Carlos blew a 34 start with two bogeys and a double bogey without a birdie to show in a backnine meltdown that sent the fancied rookie pro, who lost to Mondilla in a playoff at Eastridge, tumbling down to joint 27th at 74 in the company of Elmer Salvador, Rico Depilo, Paul Echavez, Richard Abaring, and Rolando Marabe Jr. behind John Rey Pactolerin, Jun Bernis, Korean Park Jun Song, Orlan Sumcad and Danny Zarate, who all had 72s, and Dutch Guido Van der Valk, Jhonnel Ababa, Randy Garalde, Justin Quiban and James Ryan Lam, who shot identical 73s.
The other pre-tournament favorites in the eighth leg of the circuit backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp and Champion also struggled and in danger of missing the 40-plus cut, including Rufino Bayron, Zanieboy Gialon and Mhark Fernando, who hobbled with 77s, Ferdie Aunzo and Robert Pactolerin, who fumbled with 78s, and Cassius Casas, who limped with a 79.