Tony Lascuna and Justin Quiban barely held on to the lead with a pair of scrambling 71s, enabling Japanese Toru Nakajima and Clyde Mondilla to gain a crack at the crown after the punishing third round in the P3.5 million ICTSI Luisita Championship in Tarlac on Friday.
Lascuna and Quiban, who went 3-up on Nakajima with flawless rounds at the Luisita Golf and Country Club Thursday, switched places at the helm with roller-coaster rounds from tee-off, yielded the lead to a surging Nakajima halfway through but found themselves tied again at the helm at 207 with those one-under par cards in sweltering heat.
But Nakajima lurked behind at 208 after a 69, failing to sustain an impressive 32 start that startled his joint leading flightmates with a bogey on No. 10. But his run of pars the rest of the way kept the Japanese within sight of a second ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour title after nipping Jay Bayron in the playoff to snare the ICTSI Wack Wack Invitational crown in 2013.
Mondilla made it a four-way battle in the second leg of the 17-stage ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour as the Del Monte ace matched Nakajima’s 69 to seize solo fourth at 209, just two adrift of the joint leaders.
“I have to play extra cautious and concentrate on my game tomorrow (today) because my rivals are young and aggressive,” said the 45-year-old Lascuña, a multi-titled tour winner but still in search of a first win on the former home of local circuit’s version of the President’s Cup.
He said putting will be the key in what promises to be a high-noon shootout for the top P650,000 purse in the 72-hole championship sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
“I have to keep my putting in check because it will determine the winner. If my putting clicks, I have good chances of winning,” said Lascuña.
Quiban underscored his readiness for the crown on his first foray on the pro tour by draining a 20-foot birdie putt on the last hole to save a 71 and stay side-by-side with the former three-time Order of Merit winner.
“I’ll just play it relaxed. If everything goes smoothly, well and good. If not, it’s also fine,” said the 20-year-old Quiban.
At least six others made a run and moved into contention with impressive starts only to get slowed down by the heat and errant shots and flubbed putts and stayed way behind.
Korean Park Jun Hyeok, eight down after 36 holes on a pair of 72s, strung up six birdies in an eight-hole stretch from No. 4, including four straight, to bounce back, only to reel back with back-to-back bogeys from No. 15.
But he came through with a rare birdie on the treacherous par-3 17th that all but wiped out Angelo Que’s chances as Park shot the day’s best 67. He, however, stood four shots off the leaders at 211.
Jerson Balasabas, the former amateur hotshot still in pursuit of a big win, turned in a more impressive start of five-under 31 and tied the course record with two more birdies on Nos. 13 and 14. But like majority of the field, he lost steam, wavered and dropped three strokes in last four holes, including a closing double bogey for a 68 and 212 in a tie with Orlan Sumcad and Albin Engino, who carded a 70 and 72, respectively.
Que, just four behind Lascuna and Quiban halfway through the event, backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp and Champion, stayed in the hunt with an opening 34 and moved to seven-under overall with another birdie on No. 16. But the former three-time Asian Tour winner used three balls on the 214-yard No. 17 and wound up with a 7 and a 73 to drop to solo ninth at 213.
“I just wanted to finish (the round) and go home. But I’m kind of used to it. I also once shot a 12 on a par-5 in one tournament,” said Que, who came into the event as one of the top picks after a strong joint fourth place finish in the Indian Open last week.
Korean Seok Jun Min shot a 70 for a solo 10th at 214 while defending champion Charles Hong rattled off three straight birdies from No. 14 for a backside start of 33 but failed to hit any at the front and made one bogey, finishing with a 70 for 215 in a tie with John Rey Pactolerin, who also fired a 70, Jay Bayron, who carded a 71, Frankie Miñoza, who matched par 72, and Rufino Bayron, who stumbled with a 74.