Mhark Fernando goes up against the very same field he dominated at ICTSI Riviera Classic last month, shooting for another crown in the P1 million ICTSI Canlubang Golf Invitational which gets going on Wednesday at Cangolf’s North Course in Laguna.
Fernando wore down Jessie Balasabas in a backside duel to win by three at the rich Riviera Classic, ending a two-year title drought for the former national champion who moved up to No. 8 in the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit ranking after pocketing a whopping P450,000 purse.
He hopes to move up a rung or two more with another victory this week as Fernando tries to gain more confidence and build momentum for the ICTSI-sponsored circuit’s closing leg in the P2.5 million ICTSI Wack Wack Championship two weeks from now.
But out to foil Fernando’s bid to duplicate Frankie Miñoza’s back-to-back title romp at ICTSI Del Monte and ICTSI Pueblo de Oro is a slew of players raring to nail their first win on the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., led by his former Cangolf buddies who honed their talent and skills on the long, challenging layout.
Jhonnel Ababa, for one, is out to snap out of a two-year drought after racking up three victories in 2011 season. With two runner-up finishes and one third-place effort this year, Ababa is confident of finally pulling it off on a course he calls home.
Balasabas is also due for a big win after falling short of his title bid at Riviera, along with Jun Bernis, Rufino Bayron, Ferdie Aunzo, Dante Becierra, Anthony Fernando, Charles Hong, Rey Pagunsan, Cassius Casas, Richard Sinfuego, Gerald Rosales, Elmer Saban and last year’s winner Zanie Boy Gialon.
With the top five in the ICTSI PGT OOM derby opting to continue their campaign on the Asian Tour in the Indian Open, also slated this week, the battle for the top P200,000 purse is expected to be fierce with No. 6 Carl Santos-Ocampo likewise tipped to figure prominently following a stint in the recent US PGA Qualifying School.
Mars Pucay has also re-joined the local tour and is fancied to crowd the favorites for the elusive crown along with 2011 runaway winner Artemio Murakami, Edward Reyes, Orlan Sumcad, Arnold Villacencio, Clyde Mondilla, Japanese Toru Nakajima and Dutch Guido Van der Valk.
Meanwhile, the leading pros see action in today’s pro-am tournament where they will team up with the amateurs from the event’s sponsors and chief backers, including Nike Golf, Srixon, Custom Clubmakers, Pacsports, Cleveland Golf, Callaway, Ping, Mizuno, Empire Golf and Sports Shop, FootJoy, Titleist, Sharp, BMW and Gergia Energy Foods.