Tony Lascuña stumbled with a late bogey at the front and dropped into a share of the lead with Elmer Salvador at 68 as the Davaoeño aces took a one-stroke lead over the unheralded pair of Ramil Bisera and Rico Depilo at the start of the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Open in Tarlac on Wednesday.
Lascuña and Salvador matched 33s at the backside of the tight Luisita Golf and Country Club course in separate flights with the former looking headed for a solid opener with two more birdies at the front until he knocked in his approach shot on the par-4 seventh into the greenside bunker and missed a six-footer for par.
“I played relaxed today compared with my stint at Splendido,” said Lascuña, referring to his campaign in the last ICTSI-sponsored leg where he led in the first two rounds but faltered in the third day with a 74 and wound up third to winner Salvador and runner-up Jay Bayron.
“Except for my late bogey, I played a solid game today (yesterday),” added Lascuña, seeking a fifth leg win and a fourth Order of Merit title in the last five years of the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
But with Salvador all primed up for a second straight victory and a host of others laying just a stroke or two behind, Lascuña could be in for another challenging week the way he had at Splendido.
“I’ve been putting well lately but one has to be consistent from tee to green here at Luisita,” said the soft-spoken Salvador, who gunned down three more birdies at the front but bogeyed the two par-3s.
Bisera and Depilo, who have never figured in a title chase in a long, long while, suddenly found themselves in spotlight after turning in a pair of 69s with the former putting in a bogey-free 35-34 card and the latter firing five birdies against two bogeys.
Marvin Dumandan, a noted long hitter, went to his 3-wood and rescue shots in tackling the tree-lined layout, carding a 70 and leading the big group of two-under par scorers, who included Jhonnel Ababa, Ferdie Aunzo, Dutch Guido Van der Valk, Americans Micah Shin and Paul Harris and Jay Bayron.
Australian Peter Stojanovski fought back from a two-over card with three birdies in a four-hole stretch from No. 12 to salvage a one-under 71 for joint 12th with Mhark Fernando, Rey Pagunsan and compatriot Ben Ratcliffe while Frederick Park, another Aussie bet, blew a two-under card start at the back with three bogeys and needed to bogey the par-5 ninth to save a 72 in a tie with 10 others, including three-leg winner and OOM contender Clyde Mondilla, who opened his campaign with a two-birdie, two-bogey effort.
Other even-par scorers were Americans Josh Salah and Nick Sherwood, Japanese Shotaro Onuki, Korean Park Jun Song and local aces Mars Pucay, Justin Quiban, Zanieboy Gialon, James Lam, Cassius Casas and Charles Hong, a former winner at Luisita.
Asian Development Tour leg winner John Michael O’toole rammed in four birdies but fumbled with three bogeys and a double-bogey to settle for a 73, five strokes behind the joint leaders in the penultimate of the 16-stage circuit backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp, Champion, Ping and Yamaha.