Former champs chase 2nd Solaire PH Open plum

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Veteran Asian Tour campaigners Mardan Mamat and Marcus Both seek to become the first repeat winner in the Solaire Philippine Open in the last decade when the 99th staging of the fabled event is held on March 2 to 5 at The Country Club in Laguna.

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No player has ruled the country’s premier championship and Asia’s oldest National Open twice since 1988 winner Frankie Miñoza nailed his second Philippine Open crown in 2007. But with their experience and talent needed in tough, challenging courses as the TCC, Singapore’s Mamat and Both of Australia hope to figure prominently right in Day One of the $350,000 event.

Mamat, 49, took the crown at Wack Wack in 2012, beating South Korean Mo Joong Kyung by five while Both, 37, ruled the 2014 edition of the event, also at the Mandaluyong layout, via a two-stroke victory over Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh.

Although the duo turned in mediocre finishes in the last Philippine Open won by Miguel Tabuena in late 2015 at Luisita, Mamat, who tied for 16th, and Both, who wound up joint 37th, are raring to bounce back in the upcoming blue-ribbon event sponsored by Solaire Resort and Casino.

But they are but two of a slew of foreign entries in the field teeming with Asian Tour and Asian Development Tour stars. Along with the country’s leading players, the elite cast guarantees four days of top-notch action on a demanding course hosting the Open for the very first time.

The TCC actually staged an Asian Tour event in 2014 with Canadian Richard Lee pouncing on Tabuena and fellow local ace Angelo Que’s final round meltdown in the wind to win the Solaire Open. But the exclusive par-72 layout underwent a two-year renovation to conform to PGA standard, making it a lot tougher and a true test of golf.

“This couldn’t get any better – assembling a stellar international cast on a world-class course,” said Solaire Resort and Casino president and chief operating officer Thomas Arasi. “The TCC has a lot to offer with its length and set-up all the way to the greens.”

Meanwhile, Tabuena and Que, who won in 2008, are the two local players also gunning for a second Philippine Open crown with Miñoza eyeing a third jewel in the event which also serves as a preview of the Solaire Philippine Open’s grand centennial staging in 2018.

Joining Mamat and Both in the foreign roster are Pachara Khongwatmai, Jazz Janewattananon, Panuphol Pittayarat and Rattanon Wannasrichan of Thailand, Brazilian Adilson Da Silva and Siddikur, who among the Top 25 in the early Asian Tour Order of Merit ranking, and ADT leading players Brett Munson of the US, Panuwat Muenlek of Thailand, Malaysian Arie Irawan and American John Catlin.

Also in the fold are Sam Chien of the US, Nicolas Fung and Gavin Green of Malaysia, Himmat Rai of India, Scott Barr, Unho Park and Scott Hend of Australia, Michael Tran of Vietnam, and Thais Thaworn Wiratchant, Thammanoon Sriroj, Chawalit Plaphol and Poom Saksansin.

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