DAVAO – Tony Lascuña moved 18 holes away from completing a rare back-to-back feat here and abroad, holding on to a big five-stroke margin over a charging Nilo Salahog despite a 73 as the rest failed to mount a charge that would merit a shot at the lead in the third round of the ICTSI Apo Golf Invitational here yesterday.
Ferdie Aunzo, who took second spot halfway through the P3 million event, and Ira Alido, whose eagle-spiked 67 Thursday put him back in contention, both staggered while trying to put the pressure on the veteran shotmaker early on in the pivotal round, making early bogeys instead and enabling Lascuña to preserve his huge lead built around a 65-68 start.
But three flights ahead, Salahog sneaked into contention with three birdies at the front and two more in the last five that negated his second straight bogey on the par-3 seventh, his 68 slashing Lascuña overnight 10-shot lead to a half with a 54-hole total of 211.
It, however, stood too far behind Lascuna’s 206 aggregate but still gave the obscure pro a slim chance for a breakthrough victory in the event sponsored by ICTSI and serving as the eighth leg of the 10th season of the Philippine Golf Tour organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
“There’s no need to attack. I just played it safe and avoided getting into trouble,” said Lascuña, who came into this event exuding confidence following a thrilling triumph in the PGT Asia leg in Taiwan last Sunday where he upstaged a couple of Thai aces and one of Taiwan’s rising stars to end a two-year title spell.
He admitted later that he’s tired but the 48-year-old shotmaker said an even par card would be enough to frustrate his challengers and net him the crown worth another P550,000.
“I’m not getting any young and playing seven straight tournaments is no joke,” said Lascuña. “But I think I only need to score an even-par to win.”
Alido bucked a bogey-bogey mishap from No. 3 with back-to-back birdies from No. 8 but flubbed a couple of birdie tries at the back and ended up with a 72, staying at joint third at 213 with Clyde Mondilla and Keanu Jahns, who both fired 68s, and Dutch Guido Van der Valk, who also matched 72.
Among his pursuers, Lascuña said Mondilla and Van der Valk have the tools and skills to stage a comeback but stressed he’s more than ready to foil them.
“They’re both battle-tested and certified winners,” said Lascuña of the reigning Philippine Open champion and winner of this year’s PGT’s kickoff leg in Cebu last June, respectively.
Aunzo reeled back with three bogeys in the first four holes but birdied three of the last 13 holes for a 38-36 card marred by a double-bogey on No. 11. He tumbled to joint seventh with Paul Echavez and local amateur Elee Bisera, who both carded 71s for 214s.
Reymon Jaraula, who stunned Lascuña in a playoff at Pueblo de Oro last month, also rallied with a 68 to tie a faltering Gerald Rosales, who struggled with a 73, at 215 with 18 holes left 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.