Lascuña wins it all in playoff

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Tony Lascuña beams as he hoists his trophy after edging Elmer Salvador in sudden death. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Tony Lascuña beams as he hoists his trophy after edging Elmer Salvador in sudden death. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Tony Lascuña claimed the ICTSI Tournament Players Championship crown in thrilling fashion, rallying from three down in regulation and edging Elmer Salvador in sudden death in a fitting ending to a brilliant season that also netted him the Order of Merit (OOM) title on Saturday.

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Lascuña pounced on Salvador’s two errant drives on the par-4 18th of Wack Wack East, the first enabling him to force a playoff after a closing two-under 70 and the other, handing him the title on a routine par as Salvador, who wavered with a 73, flubbed a par-saving putt from 15 feet.

The Davaoeño aces wound up with identical eight-under 280s.

“I was very lucky in the last two holes. It was uncharacteristic for Elmer (Salvador) to hit back-to-back bad drives so it came as a surprise and also a blessing because it opened an opportunity for me,” said Lascuña, who banked another P650,000 and matched his five-leg title romp in 2014 to bag the third straight OOM diadem.

He lost it last year to Miguel Tabuena, who turned in a breakout season to nail his first OOM title.

But with the young Tabuena shifting his campaign abroad, Lascuña reclaimed the coveted individual crown and re-staked his claim as the country’s top player with total earnings of P3.7 million from five victories, including at Luisita, Eagle Ridge, Forest Hills and Bacolod.

“It’s a nice feeling closing out the season with a win – and securing the OOM crown,” said Lascuña, who also turned in a number of Top 5 finishes in the circuit sponsored by ICTSI.

It was a sorry finish for Salvador, who appeared to have foiled Lascuña’s fightback with a clutch birdie on 15th to preserve a one-stroke lead, only to falter with a wayward 3-wood tee shot on the 18th.

“I thought I landed on the fairway,” said Salvador, who settled for P430,000. “But when I saw it, the ball was plugged in a muddy spot under the trees.”

He failed to recover his bearing in sudden death, this time, hitting his drive to the right and needed to play out while Lascuña displayed grace under pressure and matched his fairway-green stint on the 72nd hole to snare the crown.

Jerson Balasabas, the third man in the final group, also closed to within three with a birdie on the second hole but reeled back just as quickly with a bogey on No. 5 and never contended the rest of the way. He wound up with a 74 for a 286 worth P240,000.

Zanieboy Gialon also rallied with a 69 to tie American Micah Shin, winner of the last leg at Central Azucarera de Tarlac Open who also limped with a 74, at 287 while Frankie Miñoza ended up solo sixth at 288 after a 73.

Cassius Casas bounced back with a 70 for seventh at 290, Toru Nakajima of Japan carded a 71 to share eighth place with compatriot Ryomi Miki, who hobbled with a 75, at 291 while Benjie Magada matched par 72 for a 292 and wound up 10th in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp, Champion, Ping and Yamaha.

The final leg of this year’s Philippine Golf Tour lived up to the hype as a potential thriller with Lascuña battling back from three down with clutch birdies and gutsy pars then cashing in on Salvador’s meltdown to score another win in the seventh season of the country’s premier circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

Wresting a one-stroke lead with a tough birdie on No. 15, Salvador failed to wrap it up in regulation when he hooked his drive on the 18th, reached the green in three and two putted from 16 feet.

Lascuña, on the other hand, missed snatching the crown on the 72nd hole, missing a pressure-packed eight-foot birdie putt.

But Salvador, who came into this P3.5 million championship brimming with confidence with a victory at Splendido and a joint third-place effort at Luisita in the last three weeks, sliced his drive into the woods on their return to No. 18. He played out, reached the green in three again and watched his last putt roll past the cup.

In contrast, Lascuña split the fairway then two-putted from 24 feet to frustrate Salvador, complete his come-from-behind victory and cap another remarkable season for the 45-year-old shotmaker,

Despite the foldup, Salvador said he was satisfied with his finish and looked forward to a more productive campaign next season.

“I gained so much confidence with my Splendido win and a third place finish at Luisita. I just had some bad breaks at the finish here. But I hope to be back stronger in 2017,” said Salvador.

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