Cassius Casas bucked a bogey start with a cluster of birdies as he took charge of a star-studded field with a four-under 68 for a one-stroke lead over Tony Lascuna, Elmer Salvador and Jhonnel Ababa at the start of the rich ICTSI Valley Golf Challenge at the Valley Golf Club in Antipolo on Wednesday.
Casas bounced back from an early mishap with six birdies, including three straight from No. 3 and back-to-back from No. 11, although he dropped one shot coming home to settle for a 33-35 despite teeing off late for the lead in the P2 million tournament serving as the fifth leg of the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
For a while, Lascuna, Salvador and Ababa stood as joint leaders after similar 69s fashioned out in the privacy of an early morning flight until Casas charged home in his strongest start since winning The Country Club Invita–tional in February.
Lascuna, fresh from his joint 11th place finish in The Championship in Singapore last Sunday, salvaged two pars then birdied three of the last five holes at the back where he started. But the rigors of playing three straight weeks on the Asian Tour finally took their toll on him at the front as he struggled to finish with a 36 for that 69.
But the reigning back-to-back ICTSI PGT Order of Merit champion and current leader remains confident of his title chances in the four-day championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by Nike Golf, KZG, Titleist, Cleveland, Pacsports, Srixon, Callaway, Sharp, FootJoy and Custom Clubmakers, which also offers P50,000 for the Player of the Year award at the end of the season.
“I just need some rest and I hope to be okay tomorrow [today],” said Lascuna.
Salvador, the back-to-back Aboitiz Invitational champion, birdied two of the last four holes while Ababa held his ground against Lascuna and Canadian ace Rick Gibson in one of the featured flights,firing three birdies against abogey to complete an all-Davaoeño cast on top.