• Wild finish looms as Lascuna ties Bibat at helm

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    Tony Lascuña studies the line of his putt on No. 8. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

    Tony Lascuña studies the line of his putt on No. 8. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

    Deficit with a near-impeccable start and cashed in on a two-shot swing on No. 15 to wrest control but fumbled with a closing bogey to settle for a 68 and a share of the lead with Michael Bibat in the third round of the P3.5 million ICTSI Tournament Players Championship at the Sherwood Hills Golf Club in Trece Martirez, Cavite on Friday.

    Lascuña finally flaunted the form missing in his last two tournaments and pounced on Bibat’s poor iron game to move closer to redemption from stinging setbacks at ICTSI Open and Central Azucarera de Tarlac Open that cost him a crack for a fourth straight Order of Merit title.

    As Bibat sputtered with a two-birdie, two-bogey 72 after going bogey-free in the first 36 holes and Lascuña back in his old fiery shape to force a tie at 206, the chase for the top P650,000 purse in this final leg of the 2015 ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour became wide open with three more title hungry players wheeling back into contention with under-par scores.

    Orlan Sumcad sustained an impressive start of four birdies in the first eight holes and closed out with two birdies in the last four to negate his two bogeys for a 68, joining Cassius Casas and Clyde Mondilla, who both carded 69s, at 208, just two shots behind the joint leaders heading to the final 18 holes of the event sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.

    “This is going to be an exciting finish with at least five players closely bunched together,” said Lascuña, who pushed his 9-iron shot from 140 yards and missed the green on the 18th. “But the key here is a good start and I think a 67 will win it all.”

    Rey Pagunsan also bounced into contention for the first time a long, long while as the long-hitting former amateur standout fired a 67 to join Elmer Salvador and Korean Hyeok Park Jun, who both had 71s, at 210, four adrift of Bibat and Lascuña.

    Pagunsan could’ve move closer to the leaders but bogeyed the last hole and settled for a five-under card while Jhonnel Ababa matched par 72 for a 211 following by Rufino Bayron, who also carded a 72 for a 212.

    Despite blowing a four-shot lead, Bibat remains upbeat of his chances to end a two-year title spell but hopes to recover his iron game and at the same time keep his focus and touch off the tee and Sherwood’s putting surface.

    “My driving and putting were actually okay. In fact, I made just 23 putts. But I struggled with my irons and hit just six greens,” rued Bibat.

    For a while, Bibat appeared to have sustained his form coming off a solid 68 and 66, matching Lascuña’s birdie opening and pars in the next two. But as he scrambled to salvage pars in the next three, Lascuña picked up two birdies and after both bogeyed the difficult par-4 seventh, the dusky Davaoeño shotmaker moved within one with back-to-back birdies against Bibat’s birdie on the eighth.

    Another birdie on the par-3 11th tied Lascuña for the lead although he fell behind again with a missed green bogey on No. 14 before birdying the next from five feet off a superb iron shot while watching Bibat fumbled with a bogey.

    One-up, Lascuña matched Bibat’s pars in the next two but stumbled with a missed green bogey on the 18th to drop to a share of the lead.

    Mondilla, the third player in the featured threesome, kept within striking distance with a 35 start then came through with birdies on Nos. 14 and 15 to stay in the hunt for a second pro win after a scoring a breakthrough in Canlubang last year.

    Casas, who led in the first round with a solid 66 but reeled back with a second day 73, also fuelled his own title drive with a 69 that featured six birdies against three bogeys.

    “It’s anybody’s game in the final round. Anything can happen especially if the wind come into play,” said Casas, who won two tournaments last year, including the tour’s flagship tournament – The Country Club Invitational – and the ICTSI Iloilo Challenge.

    Focus will also be on Sumcad, the long-hitting pro still chasing for his maiden on the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. Fighting back from a 73 start with a second round 67, he clawed back with three straight birdies from No. 4, added another one on the eighth to offset his bogey mishap on the ninth.

    Sumcad bogeyed the par-5 12th for the third straight day but birdied Nos. 15 and 17 to put himself within two of Bibat and Lascuña and clinch the third spot in the final group.

    Other backers of the event are Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Callaway, Srixon, Mizuno, TaylorMade, Nike Golf, Sharp, Custom Clubmakers, Titleist, Rudy Project, Pacsports, Omnisource, Cleveland Golf, KZG, FootJoy, Silicon, Empire and Great Depot.

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