CAVINTI, Laguna—Tony Lascuña ripped the course and the field with a fine display of shotmaking, churning out a solid six-under 66 and pulling ahead by three over a fast-charging Ira Alido and two others halfway through the ICTSI Caliraya Springs Championship here yesterday.
Bracing for another wild chase after forcing a four-way tie for the lead with a last-hole birdie for a 68 Tuesday, Lascuña sizzled in a backside start, blending his solid driving and iron play with near-impeccable putting on the softened greens of Caliraya Springs Golf Club.
He produced four birdies then added two more at the front for a 36-hole aggregate of 10-under 134. His 34-32 card, together with that of defending champion Zanieboy Gialon’s eagle-spiked 31-35, also became the new course record at the par-72 well-maintained championship course hosting a pro tournament for only the second time.
Gialon ruled last year’s inaugurals by four strokes over Clyde Mondilla where six players, including the eventual winner, posted 67s.
But Lascuña isn’t after the course mark, but the championship after finishing runner-up in the Bacolod and Iloilo legs of the Philippine Golf Tour last month.
“I hit all fairways and missed just one green, so that summed up my game,” said Lascuña, whose iron play set up a number of birdie chances, six of which he drained, including the farthest from 12 feet on No. 15.
“Maganda ang green, sumusunod sa allowance ang putt,” added Lascuña, whose daily goal is to shoot four-under. “My target is to score 2-under on each nine but after going 4-under at the back, I knew I could hit more birdies.”
He did as he gained strokes on Nos. 5 and 7 for a three-stroke lead that however remained shaky in anticipation of a feisty rush from among the contenders in moving day in the P2.5 million championship put up by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
But while the multi-titled campaigner sustained his first round charge, erstwhile co-leaders Lloyd Go, Rupert Zaragosa and Clyde Mondilla slowed down despite near-ideal conditions. Go turned in a 71 on a three-birdie, two-bogey round to slip to joint ninth at 139; while Zaragosa, runaway winner in Iloilo last month, and Mondilla mixed three birdies against the same number of bogeys for identical 72s that dropped them to a share of 12th at 140.
But moving up to joint second at 137 is the troika of Alido and Marvin Dumandan, who matched 67s, and Elmer Salvador, who put in a 68, while Gialon bounced back from an opening 72 with his own version of a 66, sparking his charge with a chip-in birdie on No. 11, then highlighting it with an eagle on the par-5 No. 4 and a closing three-birdie binge at the front.
Gialon, however, remained four shots behind Lascuña at 138, with Eric Gallardo, who fired a 68, and Jhonnel Ababa and Reymon Jaraula, who matched 69s, joining him at fifth.
Young Korean and PGT Q-School topnotcher Rho Hyun Ho carded a 67 and Elee Bisera also shot a 69 as they tied Go at ninth while The Country Club Invitational back-to-back champion Guido van der Valk fought back with a 68 after a 72 to catch Rufino Bayron (70), Nilo Salahog (70), Sean Ramos (71), Zaragosa and Mondilla at 12th.
Forty one players advanced to the last 36 holes with Jelbert Gamolo firing a 71 to tie Francis Morilla and Korean Lee Hwan, who stumbled with 73 and 76, respectively, at 39th with 147s.
Among the notables who missed the Top 40 and ties cut were Jobim Carlos (72) and Frankie Miñoza (73), who both wound up with 148s, Jerson Balasabas (71-149), Gerald Rosales (75-150) and Russell Bautista (74-151).
While Alido’s surge was expected, those of Dumandan and Salvador came as a bit of a surprise in a day of changing fortunes.
The big-hitting Dumandan, who tied for 35th in Iloilo, dazzled in a frontside windup, birdying four of the first five holes on his way to a solid 67, while Salvador, who missed the cut in Bacolod in his Tour return after a long absence due to illness, came through with six birdies against two bogeys for a 68.
“Malaking bagay to (68), gumanda ang palo ko unlike sa Bacolod and Iloilo,” said the inaugural PGT Order of Merit winner in 2009, who tied for 22nd in Iloilo. “Kailangan mag-ingat sa last two rounds para magkaroon ng chance.”
Alido actually had a chance to pull closer to Lascuna after rattling off three birdies in row from No. 3 on his way home for a running five-under card and seven-under overall. But he settled for pars in the last four holes for a 33-34 and stayed in the group of Dumandan and Salvador.
Gallardo likewise flourished in a frontside finish, hitting four birdies to put himself in strong contention for a career breakthrough.
“I wasn’t expecting to play well. I hit my tee-shot into the water on No. 13 and made a bogey. Thank God, I was able to birdie No. 16 and I told myself to stay patient and keep playing my game.”
He birdied Nos. 1, 4, 5 and 8 to join the fancied names at fifth.
“No target, I don’t want to get ahead of myself, just stay in the present,” said Gallardo in downplaying his surge.