LIPA, Batangas – Tony Lascuña banged in a 15-foot putt on the 18th to cap a birdie-birdie windup, gain a two-shot swing against erstwhile leader Robert Pactolerin and snatch a one-stroke lead after the third round of the ICTSI Classic at Mt. Malarayat’s composite courses on Friday.
Lascuña battled back from three strokes down with six holes left in a flight behind Pactolerin, making birdies on Nos. 13 and 17 from close range then calmly drilling another on the finishing hole for a four-under 68 to to set himself up for another title in this year’s ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
“My ball-striking is quite okay and my irons are solid. But I still need to polish my putting stroke as I missed a couple of birdie putts early on,” said Lascuña, who headed straight to the practice green after turning in his scorecard that yielded six birdies against two bogeys.
With a nine-under 207 aggregate, Lascuña got past Pactolerin, who padded his overnight two-shot lead over Lascuña with a birdie on No. 12 but missed the 18th green and flubbed a six-foot par bid to settle for a 71. He dropped to second at 208.
First-day leader Arnold Villacencio bounced back into contention after a so-so 73 in the second round, firing a three-under 69 to join Pactolerin at second in the hunt for the top P270,000 purse in the 10th leg of the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
“This will be an interesting flight among ‘seniors,’” said the 44-year-old Lascuña in jest, referring to Villacencio, 47, and Pactolerin, 54.
Jay Bayron also put himself in the mix with a 68 to lay just two strokes adrift at 209 in a tie with unfancied Albin Engino, who sizzled with a 67, while amateur Jobim Carlos stood four shots behind at 211 after a 72, ensuring another thrilling finish the way Lascuña came from behind to nip Miguel Tabuena by one at ICTSI Apo three weeks ago.
Clyde Mondilla bogeyed No. 3 but last year’s ICTSI Cangolf champion rattled off seven birdies in the next 15 holes to shoot the day’s best score of 66 for a 212 for joint seventh with Korean Anthony Kim, who fired a 70, and a faltering Joenard Rates, who limped with a 38 and a 74.
Woo Seong Bin, who started the day in joint second with fellow Korean Lee Seongki and Rates, stayed in the race with a 35 start at Mt. Lubo but failed to solve the Malipunyo riddle and ended up with a 40 for a 75. He slid to 10th at 213.
Worse was Lee, who succumbed to pressure and shot himself in the foot with a 76 to tumble to joint 11th at 214 with Randy Garalde (68), Orlan Sumcad (68), Japanese Yuta Sudo (71), Benjie Magada (71), Anthony Fernando (72), Jhonnel Ababa (72), Artemio Murakami (73), Rufino Bayron (73) amd Zanieboy Gialon (75).
Elmer Salvador, winner at ICTSI Riviera last month, stumbled with a second 73 and fell way behind at 215 in a tie with Rolando Marabe, who made a 76, while Juvic Pagunsan failed to mount a rally and settled for a 73 for joint 23rd with five others at even 216.
“With Pacto and Arnold, there won’t be much difference in driving and iron play, so it will likely boil down to putting,” said Lascuña, winless after eight legs this year but now on track for a crack at another string of victories the way he dominated last year’s edition with five leg wins, including three straight at Negros, Aboitiz Invitational and ICTSI Pilipinas Invitational.