Pucay saves best for last, cops ICTSI TPC crown

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Mars Pucay put on a solid eagle-spiked five-under 67 to turn what was expected to be a tight finish into a cruise, running away with a four-shot romp over Jun Rates and snapping a three-year title spell by winning the P3.5 million ICTSI Tournament Players’ Championship at Southlinks Golf Club on Friday.

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Mars Pucay CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Mars Pucay CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Pucay kept the ball in play on the tight layout and kept his rivals away from his sight with a bogey-free 34 after nine holes. As erstwhile co-leaders Rates and James Ryan Lam and pursuers Rolando Marabe, Ferdie Aunzo and Elmer Saban struggled to save pars and fell behind one after the other, Pucay sustained his form at the back, birdying No. 10 to pull away.

But it was not until he buried a chip-in eagle on the par-5 No. 14 that he knew he had the elusive title—and the top P650,000 purse—under wraps in the final leg of the 16-stage circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.

“The turning point was my chip-in eagle on the 14th which gave me a five-shot lead over Rates. So I just played it safe—fairway, green and two putts,” said Pucay, whose closing 34-33 card gave him a 72-hole total of eight-under 280.

It was Pucay’s first victory since copping the ICTSI Iloilo Challenge crown in 2012.

Rates, tied with Pucay and Lam at the helm after 54 holes, fell by one behind Pucay with a birdie on the seventh but reeled back with back-to-back bogeys from No. 8. He parred the first four holes at the back but fell five strokes off Pucay despite a birdie on the 14th.

But the diminutive winner at ICTSI John Hay made it a three-birdie binge on Nos. 15 and 16 to negate a bogey mishap on the 17th and secure second place at 284 after a 71 in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. He took home P430,000.

Mhark Fernando bogeyed the 18th for a 70 and missed seizing solo third, dropping to joint second runner-up finish with Ferdie Aunzo and Elmer Saban, both turned identical even par 72s, at 286 in the tournament backed by Nike Golf, Pacsports Phils. Inc., Srixon, Callaway, Mizuno, Empire Golf, Footjoy, Titleist, Custom Clubmakers, Sharp, KZG and Rudy Project.

Lam, who birdied the last two holes in the third round to earn a rare spot in the championship flight, cracked under pressure and bogeyed the first two holes and hobbled with a 74, tumbling to joint sixth with Michael Bibat, who matched Pucay’s 67 with a sizzling opening five-under 31, at 287.

Dutch Guido Van der Valk also rallied with a 69 to salvage solo eighth at 289 while Rolando Marabe wavered with a 76 and slid to ninth at 290.

Japanese Yuto Katsuragawa captured the low amateur honors for the third straight leg with a closing 67 as he ended up joint 10th with Miguel Ochoa, who carded a 71, at 292.

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