TARLAC – Bracing for a shootout, Tony Lascuña turned the final round of the ICTSI Luisita Championship into a blowout, firing a near-impeccable seven-under 65 and winning by four over Korean Park Jun Hyeok here Saturday.
It was vintage Lascuña right from tee-off in the last 18 holes of the P3.5 million championship – three birdies in the first four holes, an eagle on the fifth and another birdie on the seventh of the Luisita Golf and Country Club.
From a tied match with rookie Justin Quiban after 54 holes, the veteran Davaoeno ace moved up by four at the turn, this time over an equally charging Park with a stirring six-under 30. He could’ve made their backside stint a victory walk of sort but the former three-time Order of Merit champion still went for the course record, hitting back-to-back birdies from No. 12 for an eight-under card although an inconsequential bogey on the par-5 16th foiled his bid to produce a new mark.
Instead, he settled for that 65 set by Danny delos Santos in 1988 and matched by Quiban in the second round Thursday for a 16-under 272 total worth P650,000.
“Finally, I made it after four tries,” said Lascuña after completing his domination of the stellar field marred by the pullout of reigning Order of Merit champion Miguel Tabuena in the second round. It was Lascuña’s first win at the former home of the President’s Cup after finishing tied for second here last year, ending up 12th in the Azucarera de Tarlac Open last September and sharing for 18th in the Philippine Open last December.
True to his vow, he banked on his putting all throughout the final round, drilling early birdies inside seven feet in the first four holes and hitting a pitch-in eagle from 20 yards off a 5-iron second shot from 230 yards on No. 5.
“My putting was pretty good and it was the key to my victory,” said Lascuña, who has dominated the local circuit put up by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. from 2012-14 until Tabuena scored on a breakout season last year.
In a flight ahead, Park actually matched Lascuña’s sizzler of a frontside 30 and moved within three with another birdie on the 10th to equal the course record. But that was the closest that the Korean could get as he settled for pars in the next five holes, bogeyed the par-5 16th but birdied the tough par-3 17th for that 65 and a 276. He pocketed the runner-up purse of P430,000.
“I wanted to win by my effort fell short,” said Park.
Que atoned for a third round 73 ruined by a “7” on the 17th as he closed out with a 31 for a bogey-free 65 and tied for third with Quiban at 10-under 278. The former three-time Asian Tour winner, priming up for the Japan PGA Tour, spiked his fiery windup with an eagle on the par-5 12th and got back at No. 17 with a birdie.
Quiban, impressive in his first crack at the pro ranks after three rounds, did hold his own in the early going, matching Lascuña’s eagle feat on the fifth and hitting one birdie. But he stumbled with two bogeys and fell by five at the turn despite a 35.
He recovered with back-to-back birdies from No. 11, fell back with back-to-back bogeys from No. 14 but birdie the final hole for a second straight 71 in an impressive performance by the rookie pro.
“He’s (Lascuña) really good. I really wanted to win but the tournament wasn’t meant for me,” said Quiban.
Japanese Toru Nakajima, who upstaged Lascuña and Quiban with a 69 in the third round to close within one, bowed out early with two bogeys and no birdie to show at the front. He struggled to finish with a 73 and dropped to solo fifth at 281.
Brothers Jay and Rufino Bayron rallied with identical 67s and shared sixth place at 282 while Orlan Sumcad and Jerson Balasabas finished tied at eighth at 283 with similar 71s and Albin Engino matched par 72 for a 284 for 10th.
Last year’s champion Charles Hong turned in a 71 to share 11th place with Korean Seok Jun Min, who had a 72, at 286 in the second leg of the 17-stage ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp and Champion.