CANLUBANG – What he lacked in power, Tony Lascuña made up with his solid iron play and superb putting as he shot a bogey-free three-under-par 67 to hold off Cassius Casas and overnight leader Rey Pagunsan and grab a one-shot lead in the third round of the P5 million The Country Club Invitational at the TCC layout here yesterday.
Lascuña capped a solid performance on the long, windy 7,181-yard course with a 20-foot birdie on the par 4 No. 18 as he took his familiar role as leader with a seven-under-par 203.
He was one stroke ahead of Casas, who came through with a stunning eagle on the par-4 No. 5 to shoot a 68 for a 204.
Pagunsan slowed down with a one-over 71 on Day Three but stayed within striking distance at 205 as the troika braced themselves for a final-day shootout for the P1.5 million champion’s purse.
“Medyo lamang sila Cassius at Rey kasi long-hitters sila pero gagamitan ko na lang ng diskarte (Casas and Pagunsan, being long-hitters, have the advantage in this type of course but I’ll just offset it with strategy),” said Lascuña.
He is out to snap a 10-year title drought at TCC.
“Hindi naman paramihan ng birdies dito kasi ang hirap ng course (It’s not a case of shooting as many birdies on this tough course),” said Lascuña, who ruled the 2004 edition.
Casas, tied with Lascuña at the start of the round, caught up with Pagunsan with a eagle-2 on No. 5 but went on a rollercoaster finish of two birdies and two bogeys for a 68 and missed joining Lascuña at the helm.
Still, the inaugural champion in 2003 remains confident of his title chances heading to the final 18 holes..
“Fight tayo and I feel I have a big chance to win here again,” said Casas, who bogeyed No. 14 after missing the green but birdied two of the next three only to drop another stroke on the par-3 17th to reel back.
He earlier punched in an eagle from a stymied lie after an errant drive on the par-4 No. 5.
“Swerte yung eagle sa No. 5 kasi napunta sa may puno ang drive ko at hindi ko kita ang green. Dinunggol ko lang at pumasok,” said Casas, whose feat enabled him to tie Pagunsan at the helm at six-under.
Lascuña made it a three-way tie with a birdie on No. 6 and took the solo lead when Casas bogeyed No. 13 and Pagunsan stumbled with bogeys on No. 9 and 11.
Pagunsan, who birdied Nos. 1, 4 and 5 in the first two rounds, went birdie-less at the front and blew an overnight two-shot lead with a three-putt bogey on No. 9.
He fumbled with another bogey on No. 11 but hit back-to-back birdies from No. 12 only to fall back with a double-bogey on No. 15 on another three-putt miscue.
He went for broke on the 18th and netted a birdie to salvage a 71 but dropped two strokes off Lascuña.
Still, the title-hungry Pagunsan exudes confidence in his bid to end a long title spell not only on the premier event but also on the local circuit.
“This will be a great fight. I’m hungry for a win here,” said Pagunsan. “I just had bad breaks with two three-putts.”
With the rest of the elite field too far behind, the title chase is reduced to a three-player affair with Lascuña hoping to cash in on his gameplan against two of the tour’s power-hitters.
Lady amateur Princess Superal, who surprised the field with a flawless 67 Thursday, turned in a 71 but fell seven shots off Lascuña at 210 while Mars Pucay stood at 211 after a 72.
Rufino Bayron, who lost to Frankie Miñoza in a three-man playoff last year, shot the day’s only other bogey-less round, a two-under 68 as he moved up to joint sixth at 213 in a tie with Zanie Boy Gialon, who matched par 70.
Jhonnel Ababa carded a 71 for a 214 while Michael Bibat fired a 69 to lead the 215 scorers, who included Miñoza, who also matched par 70, Anthony Fernando, who made a 75, and three-time champion Angelo Que, who failed to sustain a birdie-birdie start and finished with a 72.