Tony Lascuña shrugged off a bogey start with a run of birdies that continued to drop like rain on Friday, coming through with a course-record tying eight-under 64 to force a three-way tie for the lead with Liu Yu Jui and Lee Cho-Chuan of Taiwan halfway through the $100,000 Nan Pao TPGA (PGA of Taiwan) Open at the Nan Pao Golf Club in Tainan, Taiwan.
Lascuña spiked his scorching game with a five-birdie binge from No. 9 and highlighted it with a couple of putts from 25 feet out to complete a sterling 33-31 round he actually launched with a missed green bogey on the opening hole.
But that mishap, off a wrong shot selection from 110 yards that bounced and went past the elevated green, only fired up the amiable Davaoeño shotmaker, who birdied the next two holes, added another on No. 5 before racking up five straight from No. 9. He missed his first crack at matching Taiwanese Tsai Chongyu’s 64 in 2017 with a flubbed putt from 16 feet on the par-15th but holed out with his ninth birdie on the 18th, a curling, uphill putt to cap his stirring performance.
“Meron pa rin ibubuga (I still can do it),” said the 48-year-old Lascuña in jest. “But I really knew I can score here.”
With his opening 69, Lascuña pooled an 11-under 133 total, catching the two local aces at the helm after Lee eagled his closing hole on No. 9 for a 67 and Li missed grabbing the solo lead with a double-bogey on No. 17 for a 66.
Erstwhile leader Taiwanese-American Lein Benjamin dropped to fourth at 134 with a 69 while Thai Sattaya Supupramai and Taiwanese Wang Jen Li assembled identical 135s after a pair of 68s to guarantee a shootout in the last 36 holes of the fifth leg of the third season of Phiilppine Golf Tour Asia and sixth stop of TPGA.
“It’s still a long way to go but I feel good about my chances. For as long my putting clicks, I’ll be in the hunt,” said Lascuña, who had posted three runner-up finishes in the last few tournaments on the Philippine Golf Tour and PGT Asia, including a playoff setback to Reymon Jaraula at Pueblo de Oro three weeks ago.
Earlier, Jay Bayron failed to sizzle in calm condition off an early start and needed to come up with a strong frontside finish to save a 71 and safely make the cut at 139 for joint 17th with four others.
Bayron brimmed with confidence as he headed to No. 10 after an impressive 68 Thursday that put him in the mix after 18 holes of the second Philippine Golf Tour Asia event here. But after a birdie on No. 12, he struggled on Nan Pao’s tough surface that likewise slowed the charge of many other bidders and missed par-saving putts inside six feet on the last two holes.
But he found his range and recovered his touch at the front, birdying Nos. 4 and 6 and rebounding from a missed green mishap on the water-laced par-3 No. 8 with a five-foot downhill birdie putt on the ninth to salvage a 34-37 card and stood six shots off the joint leaders heading to the last 36 holes of the fifth leg of Philippine Golf Tour Asia and sixth stop of TPGA co-organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
“Just didn’t get the breaks early on but worked my way out to come up with a big finish,” said Bayron, the lone Filipino entry in the first PGTA event in the Daan TPGA Open where he placed joint 27th in Taichung last May.
Big-hitting Sean Talmadge, a Fil-Am rookie pro from Hillsborough, California, also made it to the weekend play with a sterling bogey-free four-under 68, anchoring his charge with a solid 33 backside start that erased the stigma of his six three-putt miscue in a first round 72.
He, however, missed a couple of birdie chances at the front, settling for just one birdie on No. 6 but his 140 total and a spot in the last two rounds proved just enough to motivate him to aspire for more in this third season of the region’s emerging circuit put up by ICTSI and backed by PLDT Enterprise, Meralco, BDO and PGT Asia official apparel Pin High.