Casas fires sizzling 68, grabs ICTSI lead
MANILA, Philippines — Again displaying sharp form, Cassius Casas gunned down six birdies to shoot a four-under-par 68 yesterday and grab a one-stroke lead over a formidable trio after the opening round of the P2 million ICTSI Valley Golf Classic at South Course in Antipolo.
The 47-year-old Casas, a former Philippine Open champion enjoying the second wind of his career, knocked down three straight birds from the third to make up for an opening bogey and went on to forge ahead of Antonio Lascuña, Elmer Salvador and Jonel Ababa, who all fired 69s.
Paul Echavez and Micah Shin shot 70s and Carl Santos-Ocampo, amateur Yuto Katsuragawa of Japan, Rufino Bayron and Elmer Saban carded 71s as the tree-lined layout yielded just 10 subpar rounds for the day.
Charles Hong, the champion at Sherwood Hills two weeks ago, and Marvin Dumandan struggled with 75s while the fancied Miguel Tabuena stumbled with eight bogeys in a 78 that left the 19-year-old prodigy 10 strokes off the pace.
Casas, who won The Country Club Invitational last February, missed the opening green and then the 16th for his two bogeys. Still, his cluster of birdies sealed his finest start in months.
Casas, who missed the cut in three straight Asian Tour events after winning more than P1.5 million in Laguna, birdied the first three par-5s in a display of his length off the tees.
“It would have been a better round had I managed to make a fourth (birdie in a par-5) on the 17th,” said Casas in Filipino.
Jun Rates, the champion at Camp John Hay in Baguio, was in an eight-man pack that shot 74s, including the struggling former Philippine team spearhead Ferdie Aunzo, Mark Fernando and Jessie Balasabas.
Shin, who finished second to Hong in Cavite, was steady in a 35-35 card, while Echavez needed a big windup—a back side 33—to gain a place in the top 10.
Former PH Open titlist Rick Gibson of Canada skied to a 79 like Jay Bayron and seven others.
The event is being backed by Nike Golf, KZG, Titleist, Cleveland, Pacsports, Srixon, Callaway, Sharp, FootJoy and Custom Clubmakers.