An early clash of the favorites highlights the start of the P1 million ICTSI Splendido Classic today with Tony Lascuna and Carl Santos-Ocampo drawing each other in a late tee-off at the backside of the Splendido Golf and Country Club in Tagaytay.
Lascuna, the reigning Order of Merit champion who is coming off a joint eighth place finish in Taiwan Masters last Sunday, and Santos-Ocampo, who beat Lascuna by six to dominate the ICTSI Tagaytay Midlands Challenge last August, will be joined by Randy Garalde in the 11:05 a.m. flight tipped to produce early fireworks this being a short 54-hole tournament.
“I think it will boil down to strategy, given the wind at Splendido, and putting since our length is pretty much the same,” said Lascuna in Filipino.
Lascuna is out to pad his OOM lead after routing the field at ICTSI Manila Southwoods last month and at the same time boost his confidence heading to his World Cup stint with Que in Australia next month.
Santos-Ocampo also seeks to complete a sweep of the Tagaytay stages of the ICTSI PGT after mastering the wind-raked Midlands layout with two 65s in the final round.
“My ball-striking has been superb lately so I’m very confident with my game,” said Santos-Ocampo. “But Splendido requires one to hit it straight. If my short game will be able to match up with how good my long game has been, that would be a recipe for another good finish.”
Miguel Tabuena, No. 2 in the OOM ranking and out to atone for his missed-cut stint in Taiwan, hopes to come out with a strong start at the back in the 7:15 a.m. group that includes Rufino Bayron and Jhonnel Ababa while Jay Bayron, winner at John Hay, sets out at 7:10 a.m. on No. 1 with Edward Reyes and Dutch Guido Van der Valk, who topped the ICTSI Q-School last March at Splendido.
Although Elmer Salvador and Angelo Que, Nos. 3 and 4, respectively, in the OOM derby, opted to skip this event to play in Korea, the field remains as talent-laden as ever with seven of the top 10 in the OOM in the hunt for the top P200,000 purse in the tournament organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Others tipped to contend for the crown are Palos Verdes leg winner Michael Bibat and title-hungry Mars Pucay, Cassius Casas, Ferdie Aunzo, Rufino Bayron, Jun Bernis, Marvin Dumandan, Anthony Fernando and Mhark Fernando.