Cavinti, Laguna—Tony Lascuña charged back from a three-putt miscue on No. 17 with a birdie from short range on the last hole, keeping a four-under 68 and forcing a four-way logjam at the helm after 18 holes of the ICTSI Caliraya Springs Championship here on Tuesday.
But a happy mix of young guns and seasoned campaigners, including Sean Ramos and Elmer Salvador, matched 69s at the well-kept Caliraya Springs Golf Club, while seven others, led by recent Bacolod leg winner Ira Alido, produced identical 70s to make it a crowded leaderboard in the early going of the P2.5 million championship put up by ICTSI.
Lascuña worked his way up in conventional fashion, targeting the long holes and birdying all but one of the four par-5s. He then rebounded from his lone mishap with a closing birdie on the par-4 18th for a pair of 34s.
“I focused on holes where my chances for birdies are good,” said Lascuna, who gained on No, 4, 12 and 16, (all par-5s) to go with his other birdie on No. 8. “My driving, irons and putting were okay but the greens are a little bit tough.”
“My target is to shoot 4-under in four days to earn a shot at the title,” added the ace Davaoeno shotmaker, eyeing a top podium finish after placing second in Bacolod and Iloilo last month.
Multi-titled Angelo Que missed joining the two-under par group with a bogey on the penultimate hole but his 71 tied him with four others at 18th, well within striking distance of Lascuna, Lloyd Go, Clyde Mondilla and red-hot Rupert Zaragosa.
Unlike Que, Go sizzled despite the absence of a practice round following their stint in International Series Vietnam over the weekend, posting one of the two bogey-free cards in a day that started in gray skies and drizzle and ended under scorching sun.
It took Go, a full-card holder on the Asian Tour, practically three holes to figure out the up-and-down Arnold Palmer-designed layout which demands consistency off the tee. Like Lascuna, he birdied three par-5s (Nos. 4, 6 and 12) and though he missed completing his domination of the long holes on No. 16, the Cebuano ace and former national champion matched Lascuña’s birdie on the 18th and a pair of 34s.
“I played very well, hit all the fairways. Pretty much, I didn’t miss today (yesterday) and I had few lucky birdies,” said Go, seeking his first Philippine Golf Tour victory. “The key here is to hit the fairways and hit my wedge closer to the hole. Hopefully, I’d get to win this week.”
So does Mondilla, who lost by four to Zanieboy Gialon here last year. With five birdies against a lone bogey, the former Philippine Open champion and winner of PGT and PGT Asia titles tied up some loose ends of a failed title bid and took the first step to connecting the pieces together with a 35-33.
“My tee shots and driving were okay. Though I missed a couple of birdie chances inside 6-7 feet, I still felt good, at least I’m in good position,” said Mondilla, out to atone for his mediocre finishes in the Bacolod and Iloilo.
Mondilla agreed it will boil down to consistency off the mound, saying: “If you hit it solid off the tee, you will be rewarded with short irons or wedges for you approach.”
“But I would need to stay patient and hopefully my putting would click in the next three days to further go low,” he added.
But Zaragosa showed he’s more than ready to go for another win after a dominant career breakthrough in Iloilo where he beat Lascuna by 9, overcoming a bogey on No. 3 with an eagle on the par-5 next. He then snapped a run of pars with three birdies in the last eight holes to put himself again in the conversation.
“My game was pretty solid, my driving was very good,” said Zaragosa. “I’m just happy to have played according to my (game) plan and hopefully, I’d be able to sustain it in the next three days and win again.”
But with a slew of others bunched together, it will take Zaragosa more than momentum to essay another victory as Fidel Concepcion fired the day’s only other solid round – a 69 to tie Jhonnel Ababa, Michael Bibat, Reymon Jaraula, Ramos and Salvador at fifth, just a shot behind the four leaders.
Rufino Bayron, Elee Bisera, Marvin Dumandan, Eric Gallardo, Nilo Salahog and Korean Kim Min Seong matched Alido’s 70, while Jay Bayron, Lee Hwan and Rho Hyun Ho, both from Korea, and Mars Pucay joined Que at 18th with 71s.
Guido van der Valk, Joenard Rates, Art Arbole, Kristoffer Arevalo, Albin Engino, Leandro Bagtas, Gabriel Manotoc, Dino Villanueva and Gialon, on the other hand, matched par 72s to guarantee a wild, wooly chase for berths in the last 36 holes of third leg of this year’s PGT organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments. Inc.