Tony Lascuña drew with Clyde Mondilla in an early clash of Order of Merit contenders while Jay Bayron steps up his own OOM drive against Jobim Carlos and Jhonnel Ababa in what promises to be an explosive start in the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Open at the Luisita Golf and Country Club in Tarlac today.
“It’s going to be an early duel but it’s a good draw. At least we’ll be able to gauge our respective OOM chances early,” said Lascuña, seeking to reclaim the coveted individual crown he had held for three straight years from 2012-14 until Miguel Tabuena turned in a breakout season to snare the crown last year.
With P2,725,948 in earnings, on the strength of four leg victories this year, Lascuña leads the OOM derby but just P292,920 ahead of Bayron and P328,694 up on Mondilla with this week’s P2 million tournament sponsored by ICTSI and Central Azucarera de Tarlac offering a top purse of P450,000.
“This serves as a make-or-break tournament for our respective OOM bids,” said Lascuña, who also hopes to duplicate his victory here last April when he bested Korean Park Jun Hyeok by four in the ICTSI Luisita Championship.
The tight, hazard-laden par-72 layout, which hosted last year’s Philippine Open, has been kept in top form all-year and is expected to provide a true test of golf for the elite field, especially if the wind come into play.
Joining Lascuña and Mondilla in the 8:30 a.m. flight on No. 10 is American John Michael O’Toole, one of the five Asian Development Tour campaigners invited to the 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Bayron, meanwhile, tees off at 7:15 a.m. on No. 1 with the two-leg winner upbeat his chances for another crack at the crown and a shot at the OOM title following a runner-up finish at ICTSI Splendido Classic topped by Elmer Salvador two weeks ago.
But a host of others will also be going all-out to contend for the crown, particularly those seeking to hit paydirt with two legs left in this year’s circuit backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp, Champion, Ping and Yamaha.
They include Orlan Sumcad, No. 5 in the OOM ranking with earnings of P976,058 but who remains winless, Dutch Guido Van der Valk, who has pooled P873,822 in winnings and also due for a big win, along with Salvador, Ababa, Zanieboy Gialon and Carlos, who make up the OOM Top 10.
O’Toole is also expected to sneak into the title picture along with fellow Americans Josh Salah and Nick Sherwood, all winners of a leg in this year’s ADT, along with Paul Harris, Peter Stojanovski of Australia, and Toru Nakajima of Japan.
Sumcad, who has contended and even led in a number of tournaments but would falter each time in the closing stages, hopes to finally put together four big rounds as he starts at 7:50 a.m. at the back with Gerald Rosales and Efren Robles Jr. while Van der Valk is paired with Salvador and Aussie Frederick Park in the 7:40 a.m. group, also on No. 10.
Gialon, a consistent Top 10 finisher but remains winless in two years, drew Paul Echavez and Ramil Bisera in the 8:35 a.m. flight on No. 1 while Carlos hopes to finally score a breakthrough in his rookie season as he sets out Bayron and Ababa at 7:15 a.m., also on the first hole.
Meanwhile, the final leg of this year’s circuit will be held Sept. 21-24 at Wack Wack for the ICTSI Tournament Players Championship.