Americans John Michael O’Toole, Josh Salah and Nick Sherwood, all leg winners in this year’s Asian Development Tour, head a crack five-player invitee group in the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Open, boosting the cast in the P2.5 event firing off tomorrow (Wednesday) at the Luisita Golf and Country Club in Tarlac.
O’Toole, who ruled the PGM Clearwater Masters in Malaysia and No. 8 in the current ADT Order of Merit ranking; Salah, who clinched the PGM Putra Championship crown, and Sherwood, who scored an ADT breakthrough at PGM Penang Championship last June, will be joined in by compatriot Paul Harris and Peter Stojanovski of Australia in the 72-hole championship serving as the penultimate leg of this year’s circuit sponsored by ICTSI.
The five actually saw action in the Aboitiz Invitational ruled by local ace Jay Bayron last August with Sherwood emerging the best finisher at 17th. But they are expected to figure prominently in this week’s title chase, coming off strong finishes in a couple of ADT events heading to the 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Miguel Tabuena won’t be around to defend the crown he won in runaway fashion – nine strokes over Ababa – last year but the local challenge remains formidable with Lascuña hoping to re-display the form that netted him a four-shot romp over Korean Park Jun Hyeok in the ICTSI Luisita Championship last April and Bayron out to bring his back-to-back winning act at Wack Wack and Riviera to this challenging layout which hosted last year’s Philippine Open.
Also tipped to contend are three-leg winner Clyde Mondilla and Elmer Salvador, who came from behind to snare the ICTSI Splendido Classic crown two weeks ago, along with Charles Hong, who also won at Luisita in 2014, Jobim Carlos, Marvin Dumandan, Mars Pucay and Cassius Casas.
The leading pros test the tight, hazard-laden layout in today’s (Tuesday) pro-am tournament where they will be paired with officials and guests of the event’s top backers, including Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp, Champion, Ping and Yamaha.
The event also serves as the highpoint of the OOM derby with Lascuña, Bayron and Mondilla firming up their respective bids for the coveted crown.
Lascuña leads Bayron by P292,920 in earnings while Mondilla is behind by P328,694, guaranteeing a fierce battle for the P450,000 purse.
Also in the cast are Orlan Sumcad, Jhonnel Ababa, Zanieboy Gialon, Michael Bibat, Rufino Bayron, Mhark Fernando and a host of other foreign bets, headed by Dutch Guido Van der Valk, American Micah Shin and Toru Nakajima of Japan.
Meanwhile, the final leg of this year’s circuit will be held Sept. 21-24 at Wack Wack for the ICTSI Tournament Players Championship.