Davao’s Tony Lascuna birdied the last hole at the completion of first round play early yesterday then fired a five-under 67 to grab a four-stroke lead over Dutch Guido Van der Valk and Indon amateur William Sjaichuddin halfway through the rich ICTSI Classic at the Mt. Malarayat composite courses in Lipa City, Batangas yesterday.
A pair of three-string birdies at the Mt. Lobo side turned what had been a lackluster backside start of 37 into another sizzling round, putting the reigning ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit champion, who matched Van der Valk’s opening eight-under 64, in the lead at 131.
But none among the next 10 pursuers are local players as Anthony Fernando, impressive with an opening 65, hobbled with a 73 and tumbled to solo 11th at 138, seven shots behind, and last week’s Aboitiz Invitational winner Elmer Salvador and runner-up Angelo Que stood way behind at 141 after a 69 and at 140 after a 73, respectively.
Van der Valk birdied Nos. 16 and 17 in tough condition in late afternoon to salvage a 71 and catch up with Sjaichuddin, who shot a bogey-free six-under 66, at 135 after falling behind with a poor opening of 38.
Japanese Yuki Usami likewise charged back after a 71 with a solid seven-under 65 to be at 136 in a tie with Aussie Darren Tan, who carded a second four-under 68, Japan’s Masaki Sakata, who shot a 67, Thai Sattaya Supupramaim, who made a 67, and American Greg Moss, who fired a 69.
Aussie David Lutterus carded a 70 to share ninth place with Malaysian Nicholas Fung, who slowed down with a 70 after a 67, at 137, six shots adrift while Arnold Villacencio rallied with a 69 to tie Cassius Casas and Elmer Saban, who both saved 71s, at 139.
“We need to match Lascuna’s solid game. He’s playing real well,” said Fernando. “Just one good under-par round, and we’ll be back in the hunt.”
Lascuna, one of the 63 players stranded due to darkness in the rain-hit first round Wednesday, actually added two birdies in six holes at the break of dawn to preserve a solid 64 and join Van der Valk in the lead of the $60,000 event, the ninth leg of the both the Asian Development Tour and the ICTSI PGT.
But the ace Davaoeno shotmaker, joint 10th in last week’s Aboitiz Invitational in Cebu, lost his rhythm at resumption of the second round in tougher condition with the pins tucked in strategic spots. He muffed four birdie putts inside six feet at Mt. Malipunyo and overshot the par-5 No. 14 from just about 80 yards for bogey, his first in 32 holes.
With a one-over 37, he tumbled down the leaderboard littered with red numbers with 46 players breaking par, nearly matching the 49 who scored under-par in the weather-suspended first round of the tournament sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
But it didn’t take long for Lascuna to recover and find himself back in a familiar spot.
He birdied three straight from No. 1 and after three straight pars, closed out with three straight birdies for the second straight day, barely missing an eagle putt from 18 feet on No. 9. The stirring finish, however, proved enough to shove him back into the lead at 13-under total heading to the final 36 holes of this ninth leg of both the ADT and the ICTSI PGT circuits.
“I’ve been struggling with my (putting) stroke the last few tournaments and I still do,” said Lascuna in Filipino. “But I’m hitting it pretty well off the tee and my iron game is quite okay.”
With a four-shot lead over Van der Valk and unheralded Sjaichuddin, things are looking up indeed for Lascuna.
Frankie Minoza blew a two-under card after 15 holes with bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17 at resumption of his first round but rattled four straight birdies from No. 14 in the second round to salvage a 69. The back-to-back winner of ICTSI Del Monte and ICTSI Pueblo de Oro, however, stood 10 shots off Lascuna at 141.
Miguel Tabuena bounced back with a 69 joint the 140 scorers at 16th place who include Aussie Jake Stirling (70), American James Bowen (73), England’s Ian Keenan (70), Carl Santos-Ocampo (70), Orlan Sumcad (71), Canada’s Lindsay Renolds (69), Thai Tommy Mansuwan (69). Rufino Bayron (71), Randy Garalde (71) and Que.
The other backers of the event are Nike Golf, Srixon, Custom Clubmakers, Pacsports, Cleveland Golf, Callaway, Ping, Mizuno, Empire Golf and Sports Shop, FootJoy, Titleist, Sharp and BMW with Balls, Studio 23, Pinoygolfer.com and Inquirer Golf as media partners.(pr)