TONY LACUSÑA put in three late birdies in row to outduel Cassius Casas and fend off a charging Marvin Dumandan yesterday, taking charge again with a seven-under 65 for a two-stroke lead at the start of the P3.5 million ICTSI Pilipinas Invitational at Manila Southwoods’ Legends Course in Carmona, Cavite on Wednesday.
Fighting back from two shots down with a wobbly start at the back where they teed off, Lascuña birdied Nos. 17 and 18 to tie Casas at 33 then leaned on a two-shot swing on the par-5 No. 6 with a birdie to seize control. He capped his fiery wind up with birdies on Nos. 7 and 8 for that 65 and found himself on a very familiar place—on top of a stellar field.
“I had a rather wobbly start, missed a five-footer for birdie on No. 11 and bogeyed No. 12. But I was able to get my rhythm back though it was not until Cassius made some mistakes on No. 6 that I was able to get into the lead,” said Lascuna, seeking a follow-up to his three-shot victory over Angelo Que in Aboitiz Invitational co-staged by the Asian Development Tour and the Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. at Riviera last week.
Casas, who ended up tied for 20th in Aboitiz, showed up Lascuña, who birdied No. 10 but bogeyed the 12th, with three birdies in the first four holes but slowed down with a spate of pars, enabling Lascuña to tie at the turn. But he drove into the fairway bunker on the sixth then dumped his third shot into the greenside bunker and failed to get up-and-down for his lone bogey in a low scoring day.
Casas settled for a 68, allowing Dumandan to wrest second place at 67 in this third of four P3.5 million championships sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
Lascuña, also aiming for a third straight championship here at Southwoods, also struggled on the bunker-laden layout, needing two shots to get out of the left trap on the par-3 No. 12. But he quickly recovered his form and birdied the four par-5s, including a 20-footer on the sixth and an eight-footer on the eighth.
Like Casas, the power-hitting Dumandan, out to end a long title spell, sizzled in the early going at the back six flights behind, birdying three of the first five, and like Lascuña, charged home with two birdies in the last four for a 67.
Jay Bayron, on a slump since snatching the crown in the kick-off leg of this year’s ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour at Splendido, shot a bogey-free 68 to tie Casas and unfancied Keanu Jahns, who fired six birdies against two bogeys, at third while Anthony Fernando flashed his familiarity with the layout he calls home and turned in a 69 that featured four birdies against a bogey to join Mars Pucay, Elmer Saban and Miguel Tabuena.
Pucay, an Asian Tour regular also trying to end a long victory drought on the local circuit, also gunned down four birdies against a bogey, while Saban, unheard of since scoring a breakthrough win at ICTSI Splendido last year, bogeyed the par-3 16th and missed joining the third group.
Tabuena, who routed a stellar field in the second P3.5 million event at ICTSI Manila Masters at Eastridge last June, rebounded from a so-so- 36 at the back with three birdies coming home to put himself in contention for the top P650,000 purse.
Erwin Vinluan, Chris Mamaril and Chris delos Santos arded identical 70s while 12 players turned in similar 71 cards, including Frankie Minoza, Elmer Salvador, Rufino Bayron, Jhonnel Ababa, Dutch Guido Van der Valk, Rico Depilo, Kris Etter, Rolando Marabe, Arnold Villacencio, Orlan Sumcad and Japanese amateur Yuto Katsuragawa.