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Pagunsan triumphs in wild finish, edges Lascuna in playoff

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SILANG, Cavite – 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 here 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.

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