Cassius Casas opts to skip this week’s Asian Tour event in Macau and defend his crown at the ICTSI Canlubang Golf Invitational instead, hoping to nail a second victory and gain in the Order of Merit ranking with two legs left on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
Casas foiled Clyde Mondilla’s breakthrough bid on the second playoff hole last year with the seasoned Davaoñeo shotmaker facing another uphill battle against a crack field vying in the P1.5 million firing off on Tuesday at Cangolf’s North course in Laguna.
“With the level playing field and with everybody improving each tournament, one has to play solid in all four days to contend for the crown. So it’s going to be tough this week and I have to dish out my A-game to be in the mix,” said Casas.
The country’s former No. 1 player has had not much of a success on his return to the Asian circuit the last few legs but has been a force to reckon with on the local tour sponsored by ICTSI, reigning in The Country Club Invitational for the second time early this year and nipping Elmer Salvador by one at the ICTSI Iloilo Challenge in July.
He will again be the marked player in the upcoming event although he expects a tough challenge, especially from players who, like him, have honed their talent and skills at the Cangolf layout.
Jhonnel Ababa, Mhark Fernando, Jessie Balasabas, Jun Bernis, Marvin Dumandan, Dante Becierra, Zanie Boy Gialon and Rufino Bayron are but some of the players tipped to flaunt their local knowledge of the course, which could, however, vary in character in the presence of the wind.
But Casas will be ready to thwart them, not only to become the first player to defend a title but also to bolster his standing in the OOM derby with the four-day championship serving as the penultimate leg of the 16-stage circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Casas is currently at sixth with P997,894 in earnings after 14 legs, just behind No. 4 and Sherwood Hills leg winner Charles Hong (P1,304,850) and No. 5 Rufino Bayron (P1,036,608).
With the top three players Tony Lascuna, Miguel Tabuena and Elmer Salvador vying in the Macau Open, the chase for the top P270,000 purse is expected to be fierce not only among the next three but also from the rest of the field.
Meanwhile, Casas and the other leading pros test the North layout tomorrow (Monday) in the pro-am tournament where they will be paired with guests and amateur players of the event’s chief backers, including Nike Golf, Pacsports Phils. Inc., Srixon, Callaway, Mizuno, Empire Golf, Footjoy, Titleist, Custom Clubmakers, Sharp, KZG and Rudy Project.
The final leg will be held November 11 to 14 at the new Southlinks course in Alabang.