Dabawenyos stay ahead as co-leaders fumble

Dabawenyos Cassius Casas and Elmer Saban shot a pair of two-under 70s to remain on top as erstwhile co-leaders Rey Pagunsan and Jun Rates slowed down in severe condition and Tony Lascuna withdrew due to back injury in the second round of the P1 million ICTSI Splendido Classic at the Splendido Golf and Country Club in Tagaytay yesterday.
Casas, out to snap a long title drought, birdied Nos. 14 and 18 for the second straight day to anchor his 70 while the unheralded Saban, still in search of a breakthrough win, hit three birdies against a bogey in the first 10 holes then closed out with a run of pars to match his fellow Davaoeno’s output for six-under 138s.
Pagunsan missed keeping his spot at the helm with a bogey on the par-5 18th, ending up with a 71 and dropping to joint third at 139 with American Samuel Cyr (68), Korean Hanmil Jung (69) and Jay Bayron (70).
With at least eight others just a stroke or two behind after battling sun and rain and the wind, which forced the organized Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. to use the winter rules, a spirited battle for the top P200,000 purse is expected in today’s final round of the 54-hole tournament serving as the 12th leg of the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
“I’m still knocking on the door. I just want to show them that I’m still here fighting,” said Casas, who used to dominate the local circuit in the early 2000s but has struggled to regain his form the last few years.
Rates birdied No. 4 to stay in the mix but reeled back by dropping four strokes in a three-hole stretch from No. 7, which he double bogeyed. He never recovered and finished with a 36 for a 75 and fell to joint 13th at 143.
But a slew of others got into contention, guaranteeing a down-to-the-wire finish in this event sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
But the pursuers will not include the reigning Order of Merit champion and two-leg winner.
Lascuna, who carded a 76 in the first round where he rallied from a seven-over card with three birdies in the last four holes, opted to quit so as not to aggravate his injury that has bothered him in his last few tournaments.
Dante Becierra turned in a 68 to move to joint seventh with Rufino Bayron, who had a 70, at 140 while Dutch Guido Van der Valk shot a 71 for a 141.
Miguel Tabuena, No. 2 in the OOM race, turned in a two-under 142 aggregate after a second 71 as he joined Japanese Tomokazu Yoshinaga (71) and Gerald Rosales (72) at 10th.
“It’s tough to putt, the greens are slow. The fairways are also soggy but it’s good that we played under preferred lies so I made a charge since it’s difficult if you fall behind by so many strokes as the greens are tough to read,” said Bayron, who won at ICTSI John Hay. He had five birdies, including three straight from No. 1, against two bogeys.
Like Bayron, Cyr bucked the wind and birdied the first three en route to a 67 on a day he hit all but two greens as the in-form American put himself in contention after finishing second in last week’s Taiwan Masters.
“It was windy today (yesterday) just the way when I practiced the course before the tournament and that made it easy to play since I knew where to hit it in that condition,” said the 27-year-old Cyr, who barely missed an eagle bid on No. 11.
Young Korean Jung Hanmil also primed up for a breakthrough win as he fired a 68 on a brilliang four-birdie binge at the back.
“It’s my first time to be in this position in the ICTSI PGT event. I’m very hapy with my short game,” said the 22-year-old Jung, playing out of Riviera, who muffed an eagle try from 15th feet on No. 15.
Other backers of the event were Nike Golf, Srixon, Custom Clubmakers, Pacsports, Cleveland Golf, Callaway, Ping, Mizuno, Empire Golf and Sports Shop, FootJoy, Titleist, Sharp, BMW and Gergia Energy Foods.(pr)

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