Jay Bayron exudes confidence as he sets out for the closing leg of this year’s ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour, armed not only with the best record in the elite field in the last five legs of the circuit but also the honor of winning at Wack Wack just last month.
Bayron hit a clutch birdie on No. 15 to beat Malaysian Gavin Green by two and capture the Aboitiz Invitational crown six weeks ago. That sparked a sort of run for the veteran campaigner, who also won the next leg at ICTSI Riviera, finished third at ICTSI Classic at Mt. Malarayat, placed runner-up at Splendido Classic and ended up fifth at the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Open at Luisita over the weekend.
That should make him the marked player in the ICTSI Tournament Players Championship firing off tomorrow (Wednesday, Sept. 24) at the fabled East layout, notwithstanding Micah Shin’s two-shot win at CAT Open, and Tony Lascuña and Clyde Mondilla’s expected surge in their spirited duel for the Order of Merit title.
“It’s still anybody’s race but I hope to keep my form and try to build some momentum with a strong start,” said the soft-spoken Bayron, wary of the talent-laden field chasing for the top P650,000 purse in the 72-hole championship sponsored by ICTSI.
That includes Frankie Miñoza, who also won at Wack Wack in 2007 for his second Philippine Open triumph. The veteran campaigner stunned young ace Miguel Tabuena in a record five-hole playoff to snatch the ICTSI Negros Occidental Classic last July and is expected to figure in the title race in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
The rest of the starting 92-player cast, including sponsor invitees Nick Sherwood and John Michael O’Toole of the US and Aussie Peter Stojanovski, have also primed up for this week’s championship, all seeking to close out the season on a winning note.
Meanwhile, Bayron, Lascuña, Shin and Mondilla, along with other leading pros test the challenging par-72 layout in today’s (Tuesday) pro-am tournament where they will be paired with guests and officials of the event’s top backers, including Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp, Champion, Ping and Yamaha.
Others tipped to contend are Splendido leg winner Elmer Salvador, Cassius Casas, also a former Phl Open winner at Wack Wack, Jhonnel Ababa, Michael Bibat, Jobim Carlos, Marvin Dumandan, Mhark Fernando, Zanieboy Gialon, Charles Hong, Mars Pucay, Orlan Sumcad and Justin Quiban.
Japanese Toru Nakajima, who nipped Bayron in a playoff to snare the Wack Wack Championship in 2013 for his first PGT title, is also expected to make a charge along with fellow foreign bets Charlie Chang, Kim Chang Yeon, Tomas Kim, Kwon Hyuk Jin, Park Chan Jung, Park Jun Song and Hong Soon Hyup of Korea, Aussies Frederick Park, Ben Ratcliffe and Kevin Marques, Japanese Ryoma Miki, Yuta Sudo, Kei Takahashi and Shotaro Onuki, and Dutch regular campaigner Guido Van der Valk.