Vintage Casas holds one-shot lead at Valley with 68

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ANTIPOLO – Cassius Casas bucked a bogey start with a cluster of birdies as he took charge of a star-studded field with a four-under 68 for a one-stroke lead over Tony Lascuña, Elmer Salvador and Jhonnel Ababa at the start of the rich ICTSI Valley Golf Challenge at the Valley Golf Club here Wednesday.

Coming off a rather forgettable stint on the Asian Tour, Casas bounced back from an early mishap with six birdies, including three straight from No. 3 and back-to-back from No. 11, although he dropped one shot coming home to settle for a 33-35 despite teeing off late for the lead in the P2 million tournament serving as the fifth leg of the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.

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Cassius Casas flashed his old form to take the opening day lead.

“Sayang, lamang sana ng dalawa, na miss yung putt sa huli,” rued the 47-year-old Casas, referring to his second and last bogey on the par-4 No. 16 where he failed to return a seven-footer.

He missed the green on the opening hole but birdied three of the four par-5s, including on No. 7, and barely knocked in another on the 17th, the last par-5, when his putt got past the hole.

For a while, Lascuña, Salvador and Ababa stood as joint leaders after similar 69s fashioned out in the privacy of an early morning flight until Casas, who missed the cut in the Indonesian Open and failed to advance in the Solaire Open, both Asian Tour events, and the ICTSI Splendido last March, charged home in his strongest start since winning The Country Club Invitational last February.

Lascuña, fresh from his joint 11th place finish in The Championship in Singapore last Sunday, salvaged two pars then birdied three of the last five holes at the back where he started. But the rigors of playing three straight weeks on the Asian Tour finally took their toll on him at the front as he struggled to finish with a 36 for that 69.

“I was really too tired going to the last nine holes. I couldn’t swing properly and was lucky to finish with a 69,” said Lascuña, who turned in a joint 24th place finish in the Malaysian Open and shared 22nd place in the Indonesian Open.

But the reigning back-to-back ICTSI PGT Order of Merit champion and current leader remains confident of his title chances in the four-day championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by Nike Golf, KZG, Titleist, Cleveland, Pacsports, Srixon, Callaway, Sharp, FootJoy and Custom Clubmakers, which also offers P50,000 for the Player of the Year award at the end of the season.

“I just need some rest and I hope to be okay tomorrow (today),” said Lascuña.

Salvador, the back-to-back Aboitiz Invitational champion, birdied two of the last four holes while Ababa held his ground against Lascuña and Canadian ace Rick Gibson in one of the featured flights, firing three birdies against a bogey to complete an all-Davaoeño cast on top.

Young Micah Shin, toughened up by his runner-up feat to Cebuano Charles Hong at ICTSI Sherwood two weeks ago, put himself in early contention with two birdies in the last five holes for a 70, the same output put in by Paul Echavez and Japanese amateur Yuto Katsuragawa for a share of fifth while Carl Santos-Ocampo, Rufino Bayron and Elmer Saban turned in identical 71s.

Santos-Ocampo actually took the early lead with a 32 at the back but the Fil-Am shotmaker, who won at ICTSI Midlands last year, floundered with four bogeys against a birdie for a closing 39.

Bayron, who this leg as an amateur in late 2008, hit four birdies but fumbled with three bogeys while Saban bogeyed the par-4 18th to drop to joint seventh in the event sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.

ICTSI John Hay leg winner Jun Rates carded a 74 in a tie with Richard Sinfuego, Arnold Villacencio, Erwin Vinluan, Anthony Victoria, Mhark Fernando, Ferdie Aunzo and Jessie Balasabas while Hong wavered with a 75 to fall into the group of Marvin Dumandan, Dante Becierra, Anthony Fernando, Norman dela Pena, Jesus Casas Jr., Orlan Sumcad, Rene Menor, Gerald Rosales and American Elliot Hume.

Gibson sputtered with a 79 while Miguel Tabuena skied to an 80 and in danger of missing the cut in the event offering P360,000 to the winner.

 

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