Davao– Tony Lascuña kept his fiery form coming off a big Philippine Golf Tour Asia victory in Taiwan, sizzling with a seven-under 65 to open a huge three-stroke lead over surprise challenger Gerald Rosales at the start of the ICTSI Apo Challenge at the Apo Golf and Country Club here yesterday.
Lascuña actually fumbled with a bogey on the par-3 11th when he kicked off his campaign at the backside of the quaint layout where he grew up, worked as a caddie and honed his skills. But after shaking off his early struggle, there was no stopping one of the best players to have come out of the country’s spawning ground of golf talents.
He birdied the par-5 13th from six feet, closed out his backside stint with three straight birdies, stretched his birdie-binge to four with another feat on the first hole, birdied the third next and holed with back-to-back birdies in hot conditions.
With a 32-33 start, the 48-year-old shotmaker took control of the 78-player starting field which came into the P3 million event put up by ICTSI upbeat of their respective chances and ready to stop whatever momentum Lascuña had gained from his triumphant campaign abroad last Sunday that snapped a two-year title spell for one of the country’s multi-titled players.
“I played relatively good, everything’s in place,” said Lascuña, now on track to ending a two-year title spell on the PGT. “I just hope to sustain my form in the next three days.”
Rosales, a former winner of the all-local Philippine Open at Riviera in 2000, earlier found himself a bewildered clubhouse leader with a 68, highlighted by five birdies in the last seven holes at the front, until Lascuna came in with his scorching round.
Despite his strong rally, Rosales rued his day-long struggle on Apo’s last line of defense but remained hopeful of finally snapping a long, long drought on the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
“I three-putted the first hole and missed putts from close range on Nos. 12 and 15,” said the former amateur hotshot.
Save for a couple of players, the homegrown talents cashed in on their local knowledge of the flat but challenging layout with Jhonnel Ababa, winner at PGT Del Monte two weeks ago, rebounded from a bogey-bogey miscue from No. 12 with birdies on Nos. 16 and 18 to card a 70 for joint third with another Davaoeño amateur Elee Bisera and Michael Bibat, while Ferdie Aunzo, Ramil Bisera and Rufino Bayron, who also call the Apo their home, churned out identical 71s to share sixth place with Nilo Salahog and Dutch Guido Van der Valk, winner of the kickoff leg of the milestone 10th season of the PGT in Cebu last June.
But while Lascuña and Ababa lived up to pre-tournament hype, the other fancied players groped for form with Pueblo de Oro leg winner Reymon Jaraula mixing three birdies with the same number of bogeys for a 72 for joint 11th with 11 others, including reigning Philippine Open champion Clyde Mondilla and Fil-Am Sean Talmadge, who dished out an impressive joint 17th finish in Taiwan.
Ira Alido, who has turned in a number of Top 5 finishes in the last few legs of the PGT, failed to recover from a double-bogey mishap on No. 1 as he fumbled with three more bogeys against three birdies for a 74 that dropped him to joint 30th that includes American Lexus Keoninh, while Jay Bayron, another local ace itching to redeem himself from a string of mediocre finishes here and abroad, bogeyed four of his first 11 holes and had a rollercoaster finish of three birdies against two bogeys in the last six holes for a 75 in a tie with the likes of former PGT Asia leg titlist Joenard Rates and another local ace Elmer Salvador.
Worse were American Tarik Can, winner of the Aboitiz Invitational of PGT Asia at Wack Wack last month, and defending champion and reigning PGT OOM winner Jobim Carlos, who limped with six-over 78s for joint 55th and in danger of missing the 40-plus ties cut in this eighth leg of the PGT backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology.