GEN. TRIAS, CAVITE, Philippines – Tony Lascuña used a near-impeccable iron game to tame a “friendlier” Norman course for a three-under 69 and a two-stroke lead over Charles Hong as erstwhile joint leaders Jay Bayron and Marvin Dumandan tumbled with over par scores at the tougher Faldo layout midway through the P3 million ICTSI Eagle Ridge Classic at the Eagle Ridge Golf and Country Club here yesterday.
Lascuña, who barely survived a day-long ordeal at Faldo with a 71 Tuesday, came through with solid approach shots that set up four birdies inside five feet in scorching heat then rescued all but one par in four times that he went out of regulation for a 34-35 card and a 36-hole haul of 140.
That was two shots ahead of Hong, who birdied Nos. 16 and 17 to fire a 70, also at Norman, and assume the challenger’s role at 142 as Dumandan faltered early and barely recovered with a 74 for a 143 and Bayron wavered coming home for a 76, both at Faldo, for a 145.
“It’s good that the wind hardly blew at Norman, made it a lot easier for us to putt),” said Lascuña, the reigning back-to-back ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit champion out to nail a win here after placing fourth at ICTSI Splendido and second at ICTSI John Hay, in Pilipino. “Unlike at Faldo, which has difficult pin placements, it’s nice to play here at Norman.”
Truly, of the 47 players who played at Faldo yesterday, no one produced an under-par card with two 73s proving to be the best, including one turned by Elmer Salvador that put him in joint fifth at 144 with Dante Becierra, who fumbled with a 74, and Canadian Rick Gibson, who shot a 71, both at Norman.
For a while, Dumandan looked headed for another stint at the top after parring the first nine holes but he lost his way trying to hit the pins at the back, bogeying the first two holes, dropping another stroke on No. 15 and needing to birdie the 18th to salvage a 74.
“I didn’t expect the pins to be away from spots they were placed during practice rounds. It’s too difficult to make approach shots since almost all pins are placed on slopes. If not on the downhill side, they’re on risky uphill lies,” rued Dumandan, who dropped to joint third with Carl Santos-Ocampo, who made a 70 at Norman, at 143, three shots off the pace.
Bayron fought back from a three-over card after 11 holes with a birdie on No. 13 and an eagle on the next. But the former OOM champion and winner at ICTSI Splendido chipped past the hard surface of Nos. 16 and 17 and outside the green then holed out with a double-bogey off an errant drive for a 76. He slipped to eighth at 145.
Frankie Miñoza made a second 73, this time at Norman, and stayed in the hunt at 146 while Jhonnel Ababa and Paul Echavez stood at joint 10th at 147 after a 73 at Norman and a 74 at Faldo, respectively, heading to the final 36 holes of the event sponsored by International Container Terminal Services and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Unheralded Rico Depilo shot the other 73 at Faldo for a 148, the same output put in by Orlan Sumcad, who hobbled with 77, also at Faldo, while Angelo Que also succumbed at the demanding Faldo layout and skied to a 77 for a 149 in a tie with Miguel Ochoa (77-Faldo), Joey Huerva (75-Faldo) and Michael Bibat (74-Norman).
Jun Rates, the surprise winner at ICTSI John Hay, hardly recovered with a 74 at Norman as he lay 10 strokes off Lascuña at 150 while young gun Miguel Tabuena recovered with a 73 at Norman to join Korean Gyuha Park (78-Faldo), Eric Mina (77-Faldo), Chris delos Santos (76-Faldo), Anthony Fernando (73-Norman), Clyde Mondilla (80-Faldo) at 151.
The dreaded Dye course was supposed to be the third round venue but Eagle Ridge general manager Raymond Bunquin said “the greens and bunkers of Dye are too firm and would be unfair for the golfers to play on,” forcing them to hold the last two rounds at Aoki for the 42 survivors who made the cut at 155.
“Holding the final two rounds at Aoki would be okay. Although I’m in the lead, it’s still anybody’s race since we are all bunched together,” said Lascuña, who birdied No. 1 from three feet, rolled in a 12-footer on the third before dropping a stroke on No. 6 after missing a five-footer. But he struck with another four-footer for birdie on the seventh and tapped in for another birdie on No. 17 to go with his par saves on Nos. 2, 4 and 8.
The other backers of the event are Nike Golf, Custom Clubmakers, Titleist, Cleveland, Pacsports, Srixon, Callaway, Sharp and FootJoy and media partners Balls TV and ABS-CBN.