Tony Lascuña turned from flawed to flawless and foiled two gritty foreign rivals to annex a third straight championship on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
Lascuña came away with a bogey-free five-under 65 then sank a 12-foot birdie putt off the fringe on the first playoff hole on No. 9 to edge Dutch Guido Van der Valk and American Micah Shin, completing his fightback from a shocking third round foldup and a three-stroke deficit to snare the ICTSI Bacolod Golf Challenge crown at the Bacolod Golf and Country Club in Binitin on Saturday.
“I just got lucky my putt off the fringe went in,” said Lascuña after pulling off the tense-filled victory that moved him two wins away from matching his record five-title romp in 2014 that netted him a third straight Order of Merit crown.
But it took him a solid round to fashion out the stirring come-from-behind triumph, particularly in a duel of wits and nerves at the back that saw him hit all the fairways and greens and pick up birdies on Nos. 12 and 14 to finish with a 10-under 270.
In contrast, Shin bogeyed No. 17 and ended up with a 68 but missed the green in the
playoff while Van der Valk matched Lascuña’s closing five-under card but rued a crucial double-bogey mishap on No. 15 and flubbed his birdie bid from long range on their second trip to the par-4 ninth.
“I played perfect golf at the back, hit all the fairways and greens and made two birdies,” said Lascuña, who also tackled the short, tricky par-4 13 with an iron and made a routine par after dropping five strokes on two out-of-bounds drives Friday.
With another P270,000 purse, Lascuña hiked his earnings to P2,143,115 and firmed up his hold of the OOM lead heading to next week’s stop at Negros Occidental Golf and Country Club where he won when it last hosted a PGT leg in 2014.
Shin and Van der Valk received P145,000 each.
Lascuña’s solid final round comeback further underscored the brilliance and resiliency in the veteran Davaoeño shotmaker, who blew a three-stroke lead with a horrible 9 on No. 13 in the third round and instead fell by three heading to the final 18 holes of the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
But he knew he still had a chance and he pressed his bid by ramming in three birdies in the first nine holes to pull within Shin and Van der Valk while three others stood just two shots behind in what proved to be tightest finish after nine legs of the circuit backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp and Champion.
Truly, six stayed in contention heading to the backside with Shin slugging it out with Jay Bayron and Orlan Sumcad in the final group and Lascuña, Van Der Valk and Mhark Fernando keeping it close in a flight behind.
Van der Valk actually threatened to sneak into the solo lead with three birdies in the first four holes at the back to go 10-under but hit an errant drive on the par-5 No. 15, took a drop and ended up with a double-bogey and fell off the lead.
But the veteran Dutch campaigner fought back with back-to-back birdies from No. 16 then parred the last to finish with a 65.
Lascuña put himself back in title contention with a 32 and hit two more birdies at the back to likewise go 10-under. He parred the rest to match Van der Valk’s five-under card.
Shin, who started the round with an eight-under card, made two birdies against a bogey at the front and joined Van der Valk and Lascuna in the lead with a birdie on No. 13. The young Davao-based American slid to third with a three-putt miscue on No. 17 but came through with a gutsy birdie on the closing par-3 to force a three-way playoff.
Bayron, who seized control halfway through the P1.5 million event sponsored by ICTSI, struggled all day with three birdies against the same number of birdies to finish solo fourth at 272 while Casas failed to sustain a solid 32 start and a birdie on No. 15 with two bogeys in the last three holes, ending up with a 68 for joint fifth with Fernando, who rallied with two birdies in the last five holes to fire a 68, at 274.
Zanieboy Gialon turned in a bogey-free 66 to tie Jhonnel Ababa and Jerson Balasabas, who closed out with identical 67s, and Sumcad, who stumbled with a 71 for seventh at 276.