Lascuña hangs tough with 70, hikes lead to 3

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GEN. TRIAS, CAVITE – Tony Lascuña birdied two of the par-5s at the back to card a two-under 70, hold off a rallying Elmer Salvador and stretch his lead to three in the third round of the P3 million ICTSI Eagle Ridge Classic at the Eagle Ridge Golf and Country Club here Thursday.

Playing for only the second time at the wind-raked Aoki layout, Lascuña bucked poor driving with a superb short game and solid putting, coming away with a couple of tap-in birdies coming home to move 18 holes away from nailing his first victory in the early going of this year’s ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.

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Tony Lascuña

“Masama ang palo pero maganda ang short-game at putting. Second time ko lang malaro ang Aoki after the practice round at lamang dito talaga ang long and straight hitters,” said Lascuña, who outplayed flightmates Charles Hong of Cebu and Carl Santos-Ocampo to build a three-shot cushion with a 210 heading to the final round of this third leg of the circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.

A flight ahead and four shots behind Lascuña, Salvador overcame a bogey on the par-5 No. 2 with three birdies in the next seven holes then birdied Nos. 12 and 15 to close within. But the back-to-back Aboitiz Invitational champion hit an errant tee-shot on the par-3 No. 16 for bogey, settling for a 69 and a 213.

Hong, who put himself in contention with a 70 halfway through the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, inc., actually rebounded from a two-over card with three birdies in a four-hole stretch from No. 12, only to fumble with bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17. He wound up with a 72 but still gained a spot in the championship flight at 214.

With the next player Marvin Dumandan too far behind at 218 after a 75, Lascuña will only have Salvador and Hong – and Aoki – to handle to pocket the top P550,000 purse in the event backed by Nike Golf, Custom Clubmakers, Titleist, Cleveland, Pacsports, Srixon, Callaway, Sharp and FootJoy and media partners Balls TV and ABS-CBN.

“Ngayon lamang pa rin ako, mag-iisip sila kung pano sila hahabol. Pero kailangan makuha ko ang timing sa palo, ” said Lascuña, who held his ground at the challenging Faldo layout with a 71 then surged ahead of the field with a 69 at Norman Wednesday.

But he somewhat hinted at how his rivals could stymie his title bid, saying “Dapat kasi tamang position ang palo para sa second shot para umiskor dito sa Aoki.”

The reticent Salvador, who shot a 71 at the Norman course but stumbled with a 73 at Faldo course, found the tough pin placements and the sleek putting surface of Aoki difficult to handle.  But, like Lascuña, he overcame a shaky stint off the mound with his iron game and steady putting.

“Di ko pa din ma-feel and driving ko. Mahirap ang Aoki kesa Faldo at Norman so kailangan solid talaga ang palo ang maka diskarte ng maganda para umiskor ng mababa,” said Salvador, who gunned down five birdies inside seven feet but three-putted No. 2 and failed to return a six-footer for par on No. 16.

Unlike his two fancied rivals, Hong, who honed his skills at the Cebu Country Club where he started with its junior golf program to later become both junior club and club champion on the same year, hit the ball well off the tee but struggled a bit in the wind and on the unpredictable surface of Aoki.

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Chuckie Hong

“I’m hitting the ball well but the strong wind got in the way and I need some good breaks on putting,” said Hong, chasing a follow-up to his maiden win at ICTSI Pueblo de Oro in 2012. “I have to be slow, steady and sure of my strokes tomorrow (today).”

Santos-Ocampo came in ruffled by the wind and hobbled with a 76 for a 219, dropping to joint fifth with Manila-based Canadian Rick Gibson, who turned in a 75, while three-time Asian Tour winner Angelo Que failed to sustain a fine 35 start with two bogeys against the same number of birdies at the back for a 71 to tie obscure Nilo Salahog, who also carded a 71, at 220.

Jay Bayron, winner at ICTSI Splendido and joint leader in the first round, continued to sputter, signing for a second 76 after a 69 as he slipped to joint 10th with Frankie Miñoza, who made a 75, at 221.

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