REY Pagunsan failed to sustain a hot start, settling for a 68 and a share of the lead with three others in the first round of the P1 million ICTSI Splendido Classic on Wednesday at the Splendido Golf and Country Club in Tagaytay.
Pagunsan, seeking an end to a string of poor finishes including a missed cut stint at Southwoods last month, appeared headed for an explosive windup after moving to six-under in his first nine holes.
But the long-hitting former amateur hotshot, uncle of the more illustrious Juvic Pagunsan, missed the last two greens and failed to return putts from six feet.
“Despite my poor finish, I’m satisfied with round, overall. I just hope to play this good again in the next round,” said Pagunsan.
His shaky windup enabled Cassius Casas, Elmer Saban and Jun Rates to gain a share of the lead among the tour’s lesser-fancied bets as two of the circuit’s top guns limped home with soaring scores at the challenging layout made tougher by difficult pin placements.
Money leader Tony Lascuna and defending champion Carl Santos-Ocampo hobbled with a 76 and 81, respectively, and stood below the cut-off line.
Lascuna, coming off a joint eighth place finish in the Taiwan Masters on Sunday, made a horrible 41 at the front, and dropped two strokes on No. 10 before ramming in three birdies in the last four holes.
“I had a bad start although I recovered a bit in the end,” said Lascuna, who said he hasn’t had enough sleep the last few days. “But I hope to bounce back and hopefully get into the mix in the final round.”
Santos-Ocampo opened with an atrocious 44 at the front and hardly recovered with a 37 for a nine-over total, his worst-ever round in a young pro career.
Benjie Magada had a three-under 69, tied for fifth with Jay Bayron. Dutchman Guido Van Der Valk hit three birdies against a bogey for a 70 for joint seventh.
Miguel Tabuena, No. 2 in the money list, carded a 71, same as the scores of Arnold Villacencio, Korean Micah Shin, Japanese Tomokazu Yoshinaga, Rene Menor and Charles Hong. Mhark Fernando, Anthony Fernando and Mars Pucay matched par 72s.
Pagunsan hit two short birdies at the back to kick off his bid, made two birdies inside three feet on Nos. 1 and 2 before rolling another pair from pin-high length on Nos. 6 and 7. But just when he thought he had all the momentum to go for a fiery finish, he went out of regulation in the last two holes and missed the par-saving putts and the solo lead.
Casas missed grabbing the solo lead with a final hole bogey on No. 9 from just four feet, while the diminutive Rates gunned down seven birdies to negate a double-bogey on No. 5 and a bogey on the 12th.
“Some of the pin placements were tough, like at No. 9. But if I play this good the next two days, I’ll be in contention,” said Casas
The reed-thin Saban, meanwhile, rammed in three birdies at the front to turn in the lone bogey-free round, putting himself in contention for the top prize of P200,000 purse in the 54-hole championship serving as the 12th leg of the ICTSI PGT.