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Even at slow pace, Lascuña still sizzles

TARLAC – Tony Lascuña slowed down with a two-under 70 but still took his familiar role as leader, seizing a one-stroke lead over American Micah Shin, Dutch Guido Van der Valk and Ferdie Aunzo as Elmer Salvador wavered despite ideal condition halfway through the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Open at the Luisita Golf and Country Club here yesterday.

Lascuña birdied the par-3 sixth from long range and the two par-5s at the back inside four feet for the second straight day to negate a missed green bogey on No. 13, giving him a 36-hole aggregate of 138 and the solo lead after sharing the opening round honors of the P2.5 million event sponsored by ICTSI with Salvador with 68s Wednesday.

But Salvador, the recent ICTSI Splendido Classic winner, turned from awesome to awful, hobbling with a five-over 77 as he struggled on the putting softened by the overnight rain. He fell seven strokes off the pace at 145 for joint 27th.

“I’m satisfied with my game. The greens are soft but the condition is okay since there was hardly any wind to deal with,” said Lascuña, who also rescued pars in the last two holes to grab the take control.

But a slew of others – a mix of the fancied players, perennial contenders and unheralded bets – stood within striking distance, guaranteeing another tight finish the way it did in the last three legs of the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., two of which were decided via playoffs.

“It’s nice to be on top again but it comes with great pressure, having to deal with a lot of tough players ready to pounce on every miscue,” said Lascuña, trying to zero in on a fifth leg win this year in a bid to reclaim the Order of Merit title he had held for three years from 2012-14.

Aunzo saved a couple of pars to preserve a bogey-free 69, putting the former amateur hotshot in chase of a follow-up to his first win at Royal Northwoods in 2009 just a stroke off Lascuña.