Reigning three-time Order of Merit winner Cyna Rodriguez signed up at the last minute, boosting the compact field vying in the P1 million ICTSI Royal Northwoods Ladies Challenge starting today at Royal Northwoods Golf Club in San Rafael, Bulacan.
After dominating the first three years of the country’s first-ever ladies circuit, Rodriguez campaigned on the LPGA Tour and played only in half of the first eight legs of this year’s Ladies Philippine Golf Tour, ending up tied for sixth at Sherwood and finishing third at Eastridge last month, both ruled by Princess Superal.
But with Superal failing to make it on time for a crack at a third straight pro crown, Rodriguez loomed as the player to beat in the 54-hole championship sponsored by ICTSI which has raised the total pot money to P1 million for the first time with the winner now set to receive P250,000.
But Rodriguez remains wary of her chances and the field reinforced by three Thai campaigners and an Indonesian first-timer plus a bunch of local players raring to score a repeat or get a shot at the crown.
Rodriguez braces for a tough start at 7:50 a.m. as she drew Anya Tanpinco and Thai Supakchaya Pattaranakrueang, who hopes to finally hit paydirt in her second year on the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Sharp, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Champion, TaylorMade, Ping, Yamaha and Pacsports.
Pattaranakrueang has vied in at least six tournaments here but has not seriously contended for the crown, finishing sixth in her last stint at the LPGT Eagle Ridge Invitational won by Fil-Japanese amateur Yuka Saso last May.
Chihiro Ikeda also launches her bid for a second title after scoring a breakthrough at Orchard last June, slugging it out with Lovelyn Guioguio and Jaruporn Palakawongnaayuttawa at 7:30 a.m.
Jessica Lydia, meanwhile, hopes to come out strong in her 8 a.m. flight with Eva Miñoza and Lucy Landicho with the Indonesia national team mainstay confident of her chances in her first foray on the LPGT.
Former leg winners Jayvie Agojo and Fil-Am Cristina Corpus, meanwhile, kick off their drive at 8:10 a.m. with Lina de Guzman while Sarah Ababa, winner at Sherwood last year, tests the mettle of the other Thai bet, Sarauttaya Ngam-usawan in the 8:20 a.m. group that includes Korean teener Hwang Min-jeong, who stunned Superal and Rodriguez to win at Mt. Malarayat last year.