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Lascuña upbeat but wary

Foiled in the last three regular Philippine Golf Tour events, Tony Lascuña seeks to snap the spell and end the season in a triumphant mode when the ICTSI Villamor Match Play Invitational unwraps 15 November at the Villamor Golf Club.

But like the general mood at the upcoming tournament, the multi-titled campaigner is setting out for the four-day event with guarded optimism given the sheer unpredictability of the one-on-one format and the depth of the competing field.

“Match play is far different from medal. In head-to-head, every shot counts since you can’t predict what your rival would shoot on a particular hole. So you have to make the most of your chances. There’s little or no room at all for errors,” Lascuña said.

The winningest on Tour with four Order of Merit titles, Lascuña is hard-pressed to come up with a top podium finish after ending up second in the last three PGT legs closing out the season at Eagle Ridge-Aoki, Riviera and Pradera Verde.

“Most frustrating was my playoff loss to Juvic (Pagunsan) at Riviera. I was leading going to the final hole but still lost. But that’s golf, you just have to learn from your mistakes and try to get better.”

But he has to churn out his best in all four days next week as the rest of the 32-player field are also all primed up for a crack at the championship.

The organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc. used to hold the North vs South Duel to highlight each PGT season but has opted for head-to-head duels among the top 32 players in this year’s Order of Merit ranking to further generate interest and test the field’s skills in a knockout format.

It will be held side-by-side with the women’s match play with Chihiro Ikeda and Harmie Constantino headlining the 16-player roster.

Lascuña is coming in as the No. 2 seed behind Dutch Guido Van der Valk, who clinched the top ranking by reigning at Pradera Verde and emerging the only two-leg winner this year after edging Luisita leg winner Miguel Tabuena in sudden death at Splendido Taal.

Others in the fold are former Philippine Open champion Clyde Mondilla, Caliraya Springs leg winner Zanieboy Gialon, Eagle Ridge-Aoki champion Michael Bibat, Reymon Jaraula, Jhonnel Ababa, Ira Alido, Joenard Raes, Sean Ramos, Ruperto Zaragosa, Lloyd Go, Rico Depilo and Orlan Sumcad.

Also worth watching out are Dino Villanueva, Jay Bayron, Marvin Dumandan, Frankie Miñoza, Anthony Fernando, Gerald Rosales, Keanu Jahns, Albin Engino, Enrico Gallardo, Fidel Concepcion, Richard Sinfuego, Art Arbole, Mars Pucay and Paul Echaves.

Jerson Balasabas, who nipped Van der Valk in a playoff to nail a career breakthrough when Villamor last hosted a PGT event in the Philippine Masters in 2018, finished at No. 17 in the OOM ranking and is raring to make it again at the flat but tight, challenging layout.

No. 5 Miguel Tabuena, No. 7 Pagunsan and No. 19 Que are likely to skip the event due to their commitments abroad with the next three players in the rankings expected to take their spots, including Dan Cruz, Arnold Villacencio and Jun Bernis.

The Round of 32 will be played Tuesday with the winners advancing to the next round on Wednesday.

The survivors will then move to the grueling third day action with the quarterfinals and semifinals on tap.

The championship and the battle for third will be held Friday.

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