TONY Lascuna tries to tighten his grip on the top spot of the Order of Merit, end a string of runner-up finishes and make it as a repeat champion in the rich ICTSI Manila Southwoods Championship teeing off Wednesday at Southwoods’ Legends Course in Carmona, Cavite.
Lascuna won the Calatagan Challenge crown last May but has since placed second or shared runner-up honors five times, including at last month’s Tagaytay Midlands Challenge where he lost by six to young gun Carl Santos-Ocampo.
While Santos-Ocampo remains a hot favorite for this week’s crown owing to his dominant performance at Midlands where he shot two 65s and went without a bogey in the last 36 holes, Lascuna is still tipped as a strong title contender in a tournament he ruled in big fashion last year.
Lascuna outgunned Elmer Salvador and Angelo Que in a shootout stretching 12 holes to win by two on a 14-under 274 aggregate at the Masters Course. He, however, sees a lower scoring total this time given the form of the competing field and the condition at the bunker-laden Legends layout.
“I think we can do better than 14-under at Legends. Everybody is in tip-top shape and eager to get going after a three-week break,” said Lascuna in Filipino.
Despite his failure to complete another victory run the last seven legs, Lascuna’s series of second place efforts was enough to move past teener Miguel Tabuena in the money list heading to the last five legs of the 15-stage circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services Inc. and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc.
With earnings of P1,232,332, Lascuna wrested the lead from Tabuena, who slid to No. 2 with P1,191,527 winnings. Que is third with P1,026,276, while Salvador has bagged P957,776.
At stake in the 72-hole championship at Southwoods is P450,000.
John Hay leg winner Jay Bayron is running fifth with his P778,870 earnings, followed by Santos-Ocampo, who has piled up P777,068.
Although a distant seventh with winnings of P493,936, Frankie Minoza is also fancied to get into the mix with the veteran campaigner also trying to become the first player to win three titles after scoring back-to-back victories at ICTSI Del Monte and ICTSI Pueblo de Oro.
Lascuna, Santos-Ocampo, Salvador, Minoza, Tabuena and the other leading pros see action Tuesday in the traditional pro-am with guests and officials from the event’s chief backers including Nike Golf, Srixon, Custom Clubmakers, Pacsports, Cleveland Golf, Callaway, Ping, Mizuno, Empire Golf and Sports Shop, FootJoy, Titleist, Sharp and BMW.
Others in the field are Jhonnel Ababa, Ferdie Aunzo, Rufino Bayron, Jun Bernis, Cassius Casas, Anthony Fernando, Zanieboy Gialon, Rey Pagunsan, Gerald Rosales and Richard Sinfuego.
After the Southwoods leg, the tour will head back to Tagaytay for the ICTSI Splendido Classic at Splendido Golf Club from Oct. 9 to 11 before Riviera hosts the 13th stage – the ICTSI Riviera Classic from Oct. 16 to 19, another P2.5 million event. Canlubang will host the penultimate leg from Nov. 6 to 8 for the ICTSI Canlubang Golf Invitational before the circuit winds up at Wack Wack for the ICTSI Wack Wack Championship set Nov. 20 to 23, another 72-hole, P2.5 million tournament.