Lascuna seizes control despite wobbly finish

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Tony Lascuna reacts on a flubbed birdie-chip try on No. 13. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Tony Lascuna reacts on a flubbed birdie-chip try on No. 13. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Tony Lascuña rode on a near-impeccable frontside charge to dislodge Orlan Sumcad then survived a late hole mishap and the erstwhile leader’s late fightback to wrest a one-stroke lead after three rounds of the ICTSI Eagle Ridge Invitational at the Aoki layout in Gen. Trias, Cavite on Thursday.

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Lascuña rattled off four birdies against a bogey at the front, overcoming an early two-shot deficit to storm to a three-stroke lead as Sumcad went one-over after 10 holes but the latter cashed in on a two-shot swing on No. 17 with a birdie from four feet coupled with Lascuña’s three-putt miscue, setting the stage for a shootout for the top P360,000 purse in the P2 million event sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.

Lascuna and Sumcad actually switched places as the former, seeking a follow-up to his runaway triumph at Luisita last April, took his familiar role as leader at 11-under 205.

“Aoki is a tough course and I’m just lucky to have a good start because the backside is tougher,” said Lascuña, also eyeing a third triumph at this sprawling layout after winning at Faldo in 2011 and here at Aoki in 2012.

Despite yielding the top spot, the 42-year-old Sumcad kept his crack at a career breakthrough win alive, thanks to a birdie-birdie feat from No. 16 for the third straight day that saved him a 71 and a 206.

He went straight to the practice green to polish his stroke, which he said would be key to his title bid and at the same time familiarize himself with the putter given to him by Lascuña.

“I’m having a hard time putting from long range. But once I get the feel of it, I think I will have a chance,” said Sumcad.

Zanieboy Gialon, who with Lascuña started the round just one behind Sumcad, actually kept Lascuña in check with an opening 34 but he stumbled with a bogey on the par-5 11th and missed a couple of birdie putts the rest of the way to settle for a 71. He dropped to third at 207.

Clyde Mondilla, who came into the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. oozing with confidence following victories at Eastridge and Calatagan, fumbled with a 37 at the front but rallied with two birdies in the last six holes to also salvage a 71. But the young Del Monte rising star stood four strokes off the last player to have racked up three straight leg victories in 2014 with a 209.

Jerson Balasabas, another player trying to nail the elusive first win, bounced back strong from a disastrous second round 76 with four birdies in the first five holes only to reel back with back-to-back bogeys from No. 8. But he recovered his touch at the back and birdied three of the last seven holes to fire a 67 and join Mondilla and Jhonnel Ababa at fourth.

Ababa, who placed second to Mondilla at Calatagan, missed taking solo fourth with a final hole bogey for a 70.

The rest are too far behind to contend in the seventh leg of the circuit with Joenard Rates firing a 69 and Japanese Ryoma Miki shooting a 71 for 210s and Mars Pucay and Justin Quiban tied at 211 with a pair of 70s.

Sumcad pressed his bid early with a birdie on the opening hole to go 2-up on Lascuña, only to drop into a tie with a bogey on the par-5 No. 3 which Lascuña birdied from six feet. He regained the lead with another birdie on the next but Lascuña hit back-to-back birdies from No. 5 to re-take the upperhand, bogeyed No. 7 but birdied the next for another two-shot swing as Sumcad bogeyed the par-4 holes and dropped another stroke on No. 11 to fall behind by three.

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