Rey Pagunsan blew a six-under par card with a bogey-bogey finish at the front, settling for a 68 and dropping to a four-way tie for the lead as the favorites floundered at the start of the P1 million ICTSI Splen-dido Classic at the Splendido Golf and Country Club here on Wednesday.
Pagunsan, seeking an end to a string of poor finishes, including a missed cut stint in the last ICTSI-Philippine Golf Tour leg at Southwoods last month, appeared headed for an explosive windup after an opening 34 at the back, going at six-under with a pair of back-to-back birdies from Nos. 1 and 6.
But the long-hitting former amateur hotshot, uncle of the more illustrious Juvic Pagunsan, missed the last two greens and failed to return putts from six feet, finishing with another 34 for that 68.
“Despite my poor finish, I’m satisfied with round, overall. I just hope to play this good again tomorrow (today),” said Pagunsan, who finished no higher than joint ninth at ICTSI John Hay leg of the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
His shaky windup enabled Cassius Casas, Elmer Saban and Jun Rates to gain a share of the lead among the tour’s lesser-fancied bets as two of the circuit’s top guns limped home with soaring scores at the challenging layout made tougher by difficult pin placements.
Tony Lascuna, the Southwoods’ leg back-to-back winner and the reigning Order of Merit champion, and Carl Santos-Ocampo, who outclassed the field with a pair of solid 65s to runaway with the ICTSI Midlands crown last August, hobbled with a 76 and 81, respectively, and stood below the cut-off line.
Lascuna, coming off a joint eighth place finish in Taiwan Masters last Sunday, made a horrible 41 at the front, and dropped two strokes on No. 10 before ramming in three birdies in the last four to salvage a 76.
“I had a bad start although I recovered a bit in the end,” said Lascuna, who also rued lack of sleep the last few days. “But I hope to bounce back strong tomorrow (today) and hopefully get into the mix in the final round.”
Worse was Santos-Ocampo, a two-leg winner on the tour sponsored by ICTSI who opened with an atrocious 44 at the front and hardly recovered with a 37 for a nine-over total, his worst-ever round in a young pro career.
Benjie Magada also bogeyed the tough No. 9 and dropped to fifth with a three-under 69 in a tie with Jay Bayron, who parred the last three holes at the front with a 35-34 while Dutch Guido Van Der Valk hit three birdies against a bogey for a 70 for joint seventh.
Other two-under par scorers were title-hungry Marvin Du-mandan, Edward Reyes, Rolando Marabe, Richard Abaring and Rufino Bayron.
Miguel Tabuena, No. 2 in the OOM derby, squandered a two-under card after seven holes with bogeys on Nos. 8 and 9, needing to birdie No. 12 to save a 71 and join Arnold Villacencio, Korean Micah Shin, Japanese Tomokazu Yoshinaga, Rene Menor and Charles Hong while Mhark Fernando, Anthony Fernando and Mars Pucay matched par 72s.
Pagunsan hit two short birdies at the back to kick off his bid, made two birdies inside three feet on Nos. 1 and 2 before rolling another pair from pin-high length on Nos. 6 and 7. But just when he thought he had all the momentum to go for a fiery finish, he went out of regulation in the last two holes and missed the par-saving putts and the solo lead.
Like Pagunsan, Casas missed grabbing the solo lead with a final hole bogey on No. 9 from just four feet while the diminutive Rates gunned down seven birdies to negate a double-bogey on No. 5 and a bogey on the 12th.
“Some of the pin placements were tough, like at No. 9. But if I play this good the next two days, I’ll be in contention,” said Casas.
The reed-thin Saban, meanwhile, rammed in three birdies at the front to turn in the lone bogey-free round of 33-35, putting himself in early contention for the top P200,000 purse in this 54-hole championship serving as the 12th leg of the ICTSI PGT.