Casas brandishes vintage form, leads by 1
(The Philippine Star) - September 23, 2015 - 10:00am

TRECE MARTIREZ, Cavite, Philippines – Cassius Casas recalled his old fierce form and shot a bogey-free six-under 66 in soft conditions, wresting a one-stroke lead over Jhonnel Ababa at the start of the season-ending ICTSI Tournament Players Championship at the Sherwood Hills Golf Club here yesterday.

Trying to save a winless season marked by two top five finishes, Casas flashed solid iron game and superb putting that netted three birdies on both nines of the par-72 layout softened by overnight rain, spiking his 33-33 card with a 35-foot birdie putt on the par-3 16th.

“My irons and putter complemented well. I just hope to sustain my form till the final round,” said Casas, who shot a 62 that anchored his victory here more than a decade ago.

Tuesday night’s downpour rendered the course soggy and the surface unreceptive, forcing the organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. to apply preferred lies rule.

“The greens are soft. One has to come up with accurate iron shots to set up birdie chances since the ball hardly rolls,” said Casas, who won two tournaments last year but could only place third at Luisita Championship last May and fourth at ICTSI Open at Wack Wack two weeks ago. He used his putter just 25 times.

Ababa did expect to get into the mix early in this final leg of the 15-stage circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. with a confidence boosted by his runner-up finish in last week’s Central Azucarera de Tarlac Open, also at Luisita. Like Casas, the former amateur hotshot started at the back and hit three birdies against a bogey then closed out his solid frontside stint with a 33 to card a 67.

Zanieboy Gialon, a player known for his hot start but noted more for his endgame meltdowns, was at it again, firing three birdies in the first six holes at the backside to negate a bogey mishap on the 18th. He gunned down three more in the first six holes at the front but bogeyed the par-4 seventh and fell to joint third with Rufino Bayron, Michael Bibat and Korean Park Jun Hyeok.

Bayron, seeking a follow-up to his Asian Development Tour win at Orchard Championship last year, scorched the first 13 holes with four birdies but reeled back with a bogey on the next before birdying the last hole while Bibat leaned on a solid backside start to likewise put in a bogey-free round of 35-33.

Park, on the other hand, struck back with three birdies in the last five holes at the back to emerge the top foreign bet in the early going of the four-day championship missing the presence of Order of Merit winner Miguel Tabuena and No. 3 Angelo Que, who are competing in Japan.

Jay Bayron, winner at ICTSI Summit Point last month, rallied with three birdies at the front to likewise churn out a bogey-less 69 for joint seventh with Korean Woo Seong Bin, who spiked his opening round charge with three birdies in the last five holes, also at the front.

Tony Lascuña, vowing to atone for his failed title bid at Wack Wack and poor finish at CAT Open, rode on a three-birdie binge in a four-hole stretch from No. 5 to shoot a 33 but failed to hit any birdie at the back and even took a bogey on the par-5 15th, settling for a 70 for joint ninth with Luisita Championship winner Charles Hong, Clyde Mondilla, Arnold Villacencio and Nilo Salahog.

Mars Pucay had a rollercoaster start to kick off his title-retention drive, mixing three birdies with four bogeys but birdied Nos. 16 and 18 to salvage a 71 in a tie with Chris delos Santos, Reymon Jaraula and Rey Pagunsan, while Frankie Miñoza traded two birdies with the same number of bogeys for a 72, the same output put in by Korean Anthony Kim, Benjie Magada, John Rey Pactolerin and Riviera leg winner Elmer Salvador.

ANGELO QUE ARNOLD VILLACENCIO AND NILO SALAHOG ASIAN DEVELOPMENT TOUR ATILDE BENJIE MAGADA BIRDIES BOGEY LAST LUISITA CHAMPIONSHIP THREE WACK WACK
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