CASSIUS Casas bucked a bogey start to fire a four-under 68 and take a one-stroke lead over Tony Lascuna, Elmer Salvador and Jhonnel Ababa on Wednesday at the start of the ICTSI Valley Golf Challenge at the Valley Golf Club in Antipolo.
After dropping a shot early, Casas hit six birdies, including three straight from No. 3 and back-to-back from No. 11. He did dropped another shot but the nines of 33-35 were enough for him to take the top of the leaderboard in the P2 million tournament.
“Sayang, lamang sana ng dalawa, na miss yung putt sa huli,” rued the 47-year-old Casas, referring to his bogey on the par-4 No. 16 where he failed to return a seven-footer.
He missed the green on the opening hole but birdied three of the four par-5s, including on No. 7.
For a while, Lascuna, Salvador and Ababa stood as joint leaders after similar 69s in the morning until Casas charged home in his strongest start since winning The Country Club Invitational last February.
Lascuna, fresh from his joint 11th place finish in The Championship in Singapore last Sunday, said he was exhausted after playing three straight weeks on the Asian Tour.
“I was really too tired going to the last nine holes. I couldn’t swing properly and was lucky to finish with a 69,” said Lascuna, who placed joint 24th finish in the Malaysian Open and shared 22nd place in the Indonesian Open.
But Lascuna remains confident of his title chances in the four-day championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by Nike Golf, KZG, Titleist, Cleveland, Pacsports, Srixon, Callaway, Sharp, FootJoy and Custom Clubmakers.
“I just need some rest and I hope to be okay tomorrow,” said Lascuna.
Salvador birdied two of the last four holes, while Ababa held his ground against Lascuna and Canadian ace Rick Gibson in one of the featured flights, firing three birdies against a bogey to complete an all-Davaoeno cast on top.
Micah Shin, the 17-year-old pro who placed second at Sherwood two weeks ago, shot a 70, the same output by Paul Echavez and Japanese amateur Yuto Katsuragawa.
Carl Santos-Ocampo, Rufino Bayron and Elmer Saban turned in identical 71s.
Santos-Ocampo actually took the early lead with a 32 at the back but the Fil-Am shotmaker floundered with four bogeys against a birdie for a closing 39.
Bayron, who this leg as an amateur in late 2008, hit four birdies but fumbled with three bogeys. Saban bogeyed the par-4 18th to drop to joint seventh in the event sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
Rick Gibson sputtered with a 79 while Miguel Tabuena skied to an 80 and in danger of missing the cut in the event offering P360,000 to the winner.