JUVIC Pagunsan swept the Bacolod legs of the four-leg Visayan swing of the Philippine Golf Tour in emphatic fashion, beating James Ryan Lam by four with a 69 and retaining the ICTSI Negros Occidental Classic crown on Saturday in Bacolod.
Pagunsan shrugged off an early pressure from Nilo Salahog and a brief challenge from Lam, finishing with three birdies against two bogeys and winning by a big margin despite his worst round in four days after a pair of 66s and a 68 for an 11-under 269.
Still, his closing 34-35 proved enough to outclass practically the same field he dominated in last week’s Bacolod Golf Challenge in Binitin, which he won by seven over Rufino Bayron, thus becoming the first player to score back-to-back leg wins on the PGT since Clyde Mondilla topped the Manila Southwoods Championship and the Philippine Masters in May 2017.
The multi-titled shotmaker, who edged Jobim Carlos in two extra holes here last year, also became the first player to successfully defend a crown in the circuit put up by ICTSI since Tony Lascuña won the Forest Hills Championship in 2016-17.
“This is one of my toughest wins. I really struggled this week and couldn’t focus,” said Pagunsan, whose latest feat capped a week of uncertainties for the hometown hero who had thought of withdrawing from the P3 million event he ruled in a playoff last year to attend to his ailing wife.
But assured of her recovery, Pagunsan did play – and contend early with a 66, surged ahead with another four-under on card Thursday and held on to a one-stroke lead over Salahog with a third round 68.
“I was tired and actually aiming even for a one-stroke win. But after I birdied No. 9 and took some chocolates, I got energized,” said Pagunsan, who bagged P550,000.
The former top earner on the Asian Tour guns for a third straight win in Iloilo next week, his final local tournament before heading back to Japan which he made as base the last few years.
Salahog, whose third round 65 pulled him within one off Pagunsan, kept the pressure despite a run of pars but fell by two with a bogey on the seventh and went three-down as Pagunsan birdied the ninth of the Negros Golf and Country Club course for the fourth straight day.
He never recovered at the back and holed out with back-to-back bogeys for a 73, enabling Lam to snatch runner-up honors at 273 after a 69.
Four behind Pagunsan after 54 holes, Lam birdied three of the first six holes to threaten within one with a 32. But like Salahog, the former PGT Asia leg winner at Luisita wavered at the back, bogeying two of the first five holes for a 37. He took home P370,000.
American Pete Vilairatana birdied three of the last eight holes to fire the day’s best four-under 66 and shared third place with Salahog at 274 worth P190,000 each while Japanese Ryui Hashimoto rallied with a 68 to tie for fifth at 276 with Richard Sinfuego and 2012 champion Zanieboy Gialon, who shot 68 and 70, respectively.
Jay Bayron stumbled with a 72 after back-to-back 67s and dropped to eighth at 277 while Englishman George Twyman carded a 69 for joint ninth at 278 with Reymon Jaraula and Elmer Saban, who turned in 70 and 71, respectively, in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.