Tony Lascuña shouldered himself past a fading Arnold Villacencio with a flawless four-under 66, overhauling a three-stroke deficit for a two-stroke lead and a crack at another crown in the P1 million Negros Occidental Classic at the Negros Occidental Golf and Country Club here in Bacolod on Friday.
It was actually Lascuna’s second straight bogey-free round after a 68 Thursday tied him with Michael Bibat at second, three shots behind Villacencio halfway through the 72-hole championship. But his 66, coupled with Villacencio’s backside meltdown for a 71, put Lascuna into a familiar place and closer to a third leg title in this year’s ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
“I was just able to put it all together – driving, irons and putting,” said Lascuna, whose nine-under 201 total moved him 18 holes away from nailing another crown after dominating the ICTSI Eagle Ridge and Valley Golf legs of the circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
Villacencio, who launched his bid for a breakthrough win with back-to-back 66s, stayed three shots clear off Lascuna after No. 10 but cracked when the going got tough in the closing holes, making three bogeys for a one-over 71. He dropped to second at 203,
Bibat, who pressed his drive for a second career victory with a 66 in the second round, muffled a couple of birdie putts from close range and made two bogeys in a birdie-less backside stint, He limped home with a 72 and tumbled down to joint sixth at 207.
Amateur Lloyd Go followed up an impressive 67 Thursday with a four-under 66 to force a three-way for third at 206 with Carl Santos-Ocampo, who shot a 67, and Elmer Salvador, who settled for another 70.
But with his fiery round, Go earned a rare spot in the championship flight as he joins Lascuna and Villacencio in the final group with Salvador and Santos-Ocampo relegated to second-to-last flight with Ferdie Aunzo.
“My target is to score 12-under total so I think a three-under card tomorrow (today) will do it. But I want to focus on my game, on each shot, especially on Marapara’s putting surface which is very unpredictable,” said Lascuna.
The ace Davaoeno shotmaker, also gunning for a record third straight Order of Merit crown on the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., actually banked on his putting to wrest control, sinking birdies from 8 feet on Nos. 3, 7 and 15 while rolling in a 16-footer on No. 11.
Villacencio, who cut the dog-leg par-4 No. 6 and made an eagle that anchored his second 66 and put him three shots clear of Lascuna and Bibat halfway through, held sway after 10 holes but lost his putting touch and composure, flubbing par putts from short distance on Nos. 11 and 12 and missed another one from five feet on No. 15 for a 37 and a 71.
“I just struggled with my putting,” said Villacencio, who has squandered a number of winning chances with final round collapses.
“He’s been playing well lately and he really needs a win to toughen him up,” said Lascuna of Villacencio.
Aunzo rebounded with a 67 to tie Jhonnel Ababa, who slowed down with a 70 after a 68 and 79, and Bibat at sixth while Peter Villaber turned in the day’s third 66 to share ninth place with Mhark Fernando, who fired 69, at 209, eight strokes behind.
Orlan Sumcad made a 69 for a 210 while ICTSI Iloilo leg winner Cassius Casas settled for antoher 70 for a 211 aggregate in a tie with Marvin Dumandan (67), Rey Pagunsan (68), ICTSI Sherwood Hills leg winner Charles Hong (69) and Miguel Ochoa, Rolando Marabe and Joey Huerva, who all had 70s.