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Back-to-back 64s shove Pagunsan to the top

Juvic Pagunsan acknowledges cheers from the gallery after firing a second straight 64

LIPA City – Juvic Pagunsan emerged from a crowded leaderboard in the last eight holes to seize control in pivotal day of the ICTSI Summit Point World 18 Challenge here, churning out a second straight 64 for a two-stroke lead over an equally hot-charging Tony Lascuna.

A crisp approach shot on the par-4 18th set up another birdie chance from six feet which he calmly knocked in to cap a brilliant backside 31 and firm up his lead at 17-under 199 that had appeared a bit shaky after Lascuña turned in his own version of a 33-31 that moved the veteran shotmaker from joint sixth to solo second at 201.
“It was a superb game and I hope I could sustain it to the finish,” said Pagunsan, who rushed to and hugged son PJ after holing out with that birdie feat, his 17th in the last two days marred by just one birdie in a brilliant show of shotmaking, iron game and putting on a well-kept course that features replicas of 18 of the world most renowned golf holes and which he calls home.

American Brett Munson, who started the day ahead by three over Pagunsan and Jhonnel Ababa, staved off the Filipinos’ charge by bucking an early bogey with an eagle on the ninth. But he bogeyed three of the first four holes at the back and fell with a thud to joint seventh at 205 with Aussie Jack Lane-Weston, who rallied with a 66

Tony Lascuna sets up a keenly awaited duel with Juvic Pagunsan with his own version of an eight-under card

“Unlike in the second round, I had problem with my putter. But it happens in golf and I have to shoot a 64 to win. But of course, it’s quite tough to do it,” said Munson in jest.

Ababa also reeled back with a mediocre 35 start but almost matched Pagunsan’s backside attack with a four-birdie binge from No. 12 then rescued pars in the next two to shoot a 67 for third at 202.

That arranged a perfect all-Pinoy final grouping among Pagunsan, who posted a record four-win-in-row feat to bag this year’s PGT Order of Merit title; Lascuña, the former three-time OOM winner who swept the last two legs of PGT’s milestone 10th season coming off a PGT Asia Taiwan victory last month; and Ababa, the winningest player on PGT Asia with four victories.

Despite his lead, Pagunsan remained wary of his chances for the top $17,500 prize and a second Philippine Golf Tour Asia crown after dominating the Riviera leg early this year, stressing “other players are capable of shooting a 64. No game plan and will just play my game.”

Jhonnel Ababa hopes to come out on top in a duel with two of the country’s premier pros

“I’m happy with my game, especially my putting. Sana ganito uli bukas (today),” said Lascuña, also out to post a two-title PGT Asia feat in the third season of Asia’s newest circuit after his Taiwan escape.

Munson’s bogey on No. 10 enabled Keanu Jahns, Pagunsan and Lascuña to force a four-way tie at 12-under with Ababa, Aussie Damien Jordan and Clyde Mondilla just a couple of shots behind at 10-under.

But Jahns failed to sustain a fiery 32 start with a par game at the back for a 68 and a share of fourth at 204 with Mondilla and Jordan, who shot 66 and 68, respectively.

Lexus Keoninh also came through with a solid 66 spiked by four birdies in the last six to tie fellow American Sam Gillis, who fired 68, at ninth at 206.

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