Tony Lascuña pulled through with a gutsy two-under 70, grabbing a two-stroke lead over an equally surging Dutch Guido Van der Valk as erstwhile leaders Benjie Magada and Justin Quiban hobbled in another blustery day halfway through the ICTSI Manila Masters at the Eastridge Golf Club in Binangonan, Rizal on Thursday.
Lascuña used a near-impeccable short game and superb putting to gun down four birdies, negating his bogey mishaps on Nos. 4 and 17 as the reigning Order of Merit champion moved from joint third to the top of the heap at five-under 139 heading to the final 36 holes of the P3 million tournament sponsored by ICTSI.
Magada and Quiban, who wrested control with 68s Wednesday, fell one after the other in separate flights with the former coming in ruffled by the wind with a 79-147 and the latter blowing a one-under card with three bogeys at the back for a 74-142.
“I played relatively good. Everything’s in place, especially my putting,” said Lascuña, who dominated last year’s edition of the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. with five victories on his way to reclaiming the OOM crown.
“Hopefully, I’ll be able to sustain my form and break the jinx here,” added Lascuña, who has racked up victories in perhaps all the local courses except here.
However, Lascuña, who birdied Nos. 1, 6, 14 and 18, will face a pair of foreign rivals in the pivotal third round as Van der Valk, seeking a breakthrough on the Philippine Golf Tour, turned in a bogey-free 69 to post the day’s best score and take solo second at 141 and American Nicolas Paez settling for a 72 for joint third with Quiban, who rued his poor putting.
“My putting was awful. I hit all the greens at the back but failed to hit a single birdie,” said a dejected Quiban, 21, who remained in the hunt for a maiden victory in the circuit backed by BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT.
Veteran Cassius Casas birdied the par-5 18th for the second straight day to card a 71 and join American Josh Salah, who also shot a one-under card, at 143, while Frankie Miñoza also bounced back with a 71 to tie Jay Bayron, who matched par 72, Mhark Fernando, who made a 71, Rene Menor, who struggled with a 73, at 144.
Young Japanese Genki Okada, who matched Lascuña’s opening 69, wavered in tough condition and skied to a 76 to fall to joint 11th with Elmer Salvador and Korean-American Micah Shin, who had 70 and 73, respectively.
Forty players made the cut at five-over 149 with Angelo Que and Clyde Mondilla, champions in the last two years, as the biggest casualties. The Japan PGA Tour-bound Que, who won in 2015, faltered with a 79 off a bogey-riddled frontside 40 and ended up with a 79 for a 150 while Mondilla, who nipped Jobim Carlos in a playoff to snare the crown last year, also skied to a 79 and wound up with a 155.
Barely making it to the final 36 holes at 149 are Gerald Rosales (75), Anthony Fernando (72), Marvin Dumandan (72), Omar Dungca (72), Charles Hong (78), Americans Sam Chien (75), John Jackson (76) and Lexus Keoninh (76), and Japanese Hirotaro Naito (78).
Others who missed the cut were Mars Pucay (72-150), Jun Bernis (72-151), Rufino Bayron (79-152), Zanieboy Gialon (79-154), Robert Pactolerin (78-154) and Orlan Sumcad (75-154).