TAINAN, Taiwan – Tony Lascuña stumbled at the finish and ruined what would’ve been an impressive start in a day of torrid scoring here, settling for a three-under 69 and falling four strokes behind Taiwanese-American Lein Benjamin after 18 holes of the $100,000 Nan Pao TPGA Open yesterday.
Looking at a potential birdie off a solid drive on his closing par-5 544-yard hole on No. 9, Lascuña went for his driver again from 297 yards out but didn’t hit it the way he had wanted, the ball fading then finding it later on a plugged lie just before the large pond fronting the green.
He came up short on his third shot, hit it over the green on the next before drilling a five-footer for bogey, one of two blue marks in an otherwise remarkable 36-33 card that dropped him to joint eighth after holding the joint No. 2 spot on the leaderboard with an eight-foot birdie on the par-3 third hole.
“I was really targeting a five- or six-under start and was on target despite missing some birdie chances. But I failed to hit right on my second shot on the ninth,” said Lascuña, who sizzled early in hot conditions with tap-in birdies on Nos. 10 and 12 then bounced back from a missed green mishap on No. 14 with birdies on the next two holes, including another “gimme” on the par-5 16th.
In calm conditions, the 6639-yard tree-lined course played short to the pros’ standards with nine players in the morning group gunning down an eagle each, including Benjamin, who scorched the backside with three birdies and an eagle before finishing with flourish of birdies at the front for a seven-under 65 marred by a double-bogey on the 17th on an errant drive that went out of bounds.
He stood two strokes ahead of Sattaya Supupramai, who took the cudgels for the Thais after Wisut Artjanawat, winner of the first Philippine Golf Tour Asia event overseas in Daan TPGA Open in Taichung last May, fumbled with a 75 and in danger of missing the 50-plus ties cut in this fifth leg of the third season of the region’s emerging circuit put up by ICTSI.
Also turning in a 67 card is Taiwanese Liu Yu Jui while another local bet Chen Po Hao carded a 68 in a tie with Thai Kammalas Namuangruk, who blew a five-under card with a bogey on No. 16.
Jay Bayron, the only other Pinoy entry in this sixth stop of the PGA of Taiwan (TPGA) backed by PLDT Enterprise, Meralco, BDO and PGT Asia official apparel Pin High, has a running two-under card after nine holes.
But among the early starters, Benjamin, on a break from PGA Tour Series China and China Tour, proved to be the best, bucking a shaky stint on the mound with crisp iron shots and superb putting to put in together a 32-33 card spiked by a chip-in eagle from 10 yards on the par-5 16th and highlighted by a power drive on the 337-yard par-4 No. 4 which landed 36 feet off the cup but muffed the eagle try.
The brawny 28-year-old shotmaker, born in California to Taiwanese parents, missed four fairways but hit all but four greens and made 27 putts as he fell short to matching the course record 64 set in 2017.