Juvic Pagunsan put an epic ending to a wild ICTSI Riviera Championship with a delicate par-putt from pin-length high on the first playoff hole as he foiled Tony Lascuña and regained the crown he emphatically won in stormy conditions at the Langer course in Silang, Cavite three years ago.
Pagunsan set up the title-clinching putt with a brilliant blast from the frontside bunker of No. 18, the ball bouncing on the front of the green before resting some eight feet short of the cup. But he slightly gained the upperhand as Lascuna, who overshot his approach on the tough finishing par-4 hole the way he did in regulation, chipped past the target, leaving him a longer putt to return.
He missed as the ball swerved to the right and Pagunsan gently and confidently stroked his putt that rolled straight before disappearing into the cup, punching the air with full-fisted glee to celebrate his unlikely return to the top podium of a premier Philippine Golf Tour leg.
“Mahirap this week, hindi ko alam talaga kung papano laruin ang Riviera. Me time na malakas ang hangin, minsan mahina naman. Yung greens, unpredictable din,” said Pagunsan, who rallied with a two-under 34 at the back of the par-71 to salvage a 71 and force a playoff at five-over 289 as Lascuna missed clinching it outright with a costly double-bogey miscue on the 18th for a 69.
“Nagkataon lang na pinagbigyan ako na makahabol kasi nung umpisa pa lang, behind na ako ng 3- or 4-shots down. Sa last day, 4 down pa din,” he added.
But a backside rebound after a wobbly two-over frontside 37 put the former Asian Tour No. 1 back in the hunt and his birdie on the par-3 No. 17 for the second straight day proved crucial to his comeback bid.
“Key yung birdie ko sa No. 17, tapos nakita ko si Mr. Lascuna na na-double bogey sa last hole. So, yun, nabigyan lang talaga ako ng chance,” added Lascuna, who also thanked ICTSI for keeping the pros busy with its series of tournaments in post-pandemic.
The victory was worth P360,000 for the smooth-swinging Pagunsan, who bucked lack of practice after hitting town Monday following a stint on the Japan Golf Tour with Angelo Que last Sunday.
Lascuna took home P236,000 while Zanieboy Gialon carded a 73 and grabbed solo third at 290 worth P136,000.
It was indeed a wild, wild finish to a tournament that has all the trimmings of such ending – with a stellar cast and on a wind-swept course that repels anything less than accurate shots.
Fidel Concepcion emerged the surprise first round leader, yielded it to Guido Van der Valk in the next before regaining it in moving day Saturday. The Dutchman, however, wrested control early in the final round, fended off a slew of threats that came from at least five aces before wilting under extreme pressure, leading to a pair of double bogeys in the stretch.
Six shots behind after 54 holes, Lascuna got into the mix with three birdies in the first 10 holes, bounced back from a mishap on the tough par-4 No. 14 with back-to-back birdies from the next to storm ahead by three heading to the final hole two flights ahead of the championship group.
But Langer proved again that it’s not over till the last putt is dropped as Lascuna hit the fairway bunker, forced to make a lay-up but overshot the firm green where the pin is strategically placed near the front side edge.
He circled the spot of his landing target but his chip shot curled past the hole and he muffed a pressure-packed five-footer for a double-bogey.
In a flight behind, Pagunsan four down with 18 holes to play, came out of a harrowing frontside stint that had him yielding three strokes in the last four holes at the front after a birdie on the par-3 No. 4. He even threw the ball into the hazard in disgust after missing a short par-putt on the ninth but regrouped at the back with two birdies to rescue an even-par round and earn a shot at the crown.
Pagunsan, whose victory here in 2019 capped a Tour record four-tournament run, missed clinching it outright as he came up short on the final hole, needing to drain an uphill par-putt to force a playoff.
But it was Lascuna who squandered the biggest chance with that unlikely double bogey finish.
Gialon, the runaway winner at Caliraya Springs last April, missed a couple of birdie chances in the stretch but rescued a par on the 18th to post a 73 while Rico Depilo failed to sustain a decent 37 start in tough conditions as he bogeyed Nos. 14 and 16 and wound up with a 75 and a 291, just two strokes off Pagunsan and Lascuna.
Depilo, however, posted his best finish in years – a joint fourth place effort at 291 with Orlan Sumcad, who rallied with a 69, and Van der Valk, who blew it all with a pair of double bogeys on Nos. 14 and 16 that sandwiched a birdie before holing out with a bogey for a 76.
Ira Alido, who reigned here in bubble setup in 2020 sans Pagunsan, also fumbled with a 76 to tumble to seventh at 293 while Concepcion shot himself in the foot with an 80 and ended up eighth at 294.
Club pro Marvin Dumandan finished ninth at 295 after matching par-71 while Jay Bayron and Clyde Mondilla matched 73s to tie Rupert Zaragosa, who limped with a 75, at 10th 296.