ILOILO – Cassius Casas buried clutch putts from long range to sink Elmer Salvador in a backside shootout, breaking loose from a tight duel to lead by three with a five-under 65 in the third round of the ICTSI Iloilo Golf Challenge at the Iloilo Golf and Country Club in Sta. Barbara here Friday.
As the weather continued to improve, Casas sustained his fine form, firing away six birdies, including a pair of improbable putts from 32 feet that thrust him into the lead at eight-under-par 202 heading to the final round of the 72-hole P1 million-championship.
“I felt good today (yesterday). I knew they would try to score on a sunny day, so I also made my move,” said Casas, after moving 18 holes away from nailing his first win after closing out last year’s season with a victory at ICTSI Wack Wack Championship and kicking off this year’s campaign with a romp at The Country Club Invitational.
But he remained winless after eight legs of the 2014 ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour in a stint marred by two missed cuts and two cracks at the title with final round foldups.
This time, he vowed to go all the way.
“Tomorrow (today), I intend to play steady, the way I played in the last three days. The pressure is on them,” said Casas, who knocked down a 30-footer for birdie on No. 11 to negate a three-putt miscue on the 10th. He hit it short on the par-3 13th but rolled in a downhill putt from 35 feet before birdying the par-5 14th to pull away.
Salvador did turn in a splendid a bogey-free 68 but the ICTSI Riviera Classic winner continued to struggle with his balky putter, flubbing a pair of four-footers for birdies on Nos. 14 and 18 that could’ve put him within a shot off his fellow Davaoeño.
“Those missed (birdie) chances really ruined by bid. Now I have to shoot around six-under to overtake him (Cassius),” said Salvador, who also rolled in a 30-footer for birdie on No. 2 and an eight-footer on the fourth.
Orlan Sumcad fired a 67 to tie Salvador at second at 205 as the Mt. Malarayat bet earned a rare stint in the championship flight in the ninth leg of the 16-stage circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
“I just need to work hard to get a shot at the crown,” said the soft-spoken, big-hitting Sumcad in Filipino.
Tied with Casas and Salvador halfway through the event, organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., Arnold Villacencio lost his poise when ranged with two of the country’s aces, tumbling to fifth at 208 after a 71.
Tony Lascuña bucked a so-so 36 start and a bogey on the 10th with three straight birdies from No. 11 but muffed making it four straight from five feet on the par-5 14th. He settled for a 68 and moved to fourth at 207, five shots adrift in the event backed by Nike Golf, Pacsports, Srixon, FootJoy, It’s More Fun in the Philippines, Callaway, Mizuno, Custom Clubmakers, Titleist, Sharp and KZG.
“Cassius is playing well but I will give it my best shot tomorrow (today),” said Lascuna, chasing a third leg win after dominating the ICTSI Eagle Ridge and Valley Golf stages to firm up his hold of the Order of Merit lead.
Local bet Paul Vesinica rebounded with a 68 after a 72 to join obscure Rico Depilo, who also shot a 68, at sixth at 209 while Angelo Que made a double-bogey on the first hole but fought back with a closing 32 to salvage a 70 for joint eighth with Mhark Fernando (68), Rolando Marabe (69), Rene Menor (69) and Ferdie Aunzo (71).