Cassius Casas drew 2011 champion Robert Pactolerin and 2012 winner Zanie Boy Gialon while Tony Lascuña, Elmer Salvador and Orlan Sumcad slug it out in two of the featured groups in today’s start of the P1 million ICTSI Negros Occidental Classic at the Negros Occidental Golf and Country Club course in Bacolod.
Coming off a one-shot victory over Salvador in Iloilo last week, Casas is upbeat of his chances for a second straight win although he said he needs to come out strong for the momentum against a field raring to foil his back-to-back title bid in the event serving as the 10th leg of the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
“The key is to have a strong start and try to keep the pressure on them,” said Casas, who will start at 7:40 a.m. at No. 1 with Pactolerin, the local favorite who flashed vintage form to rule this event three years ago, and Gialon, who nipped Lascuña in a playoff to top the rain-shortened edition two years ago.
Just about the same time on No. 10, Lascuña and Salvador will try to outgun each other, not just for the title in this but for the top spot in the Order of Merit derby in the circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
Lascuña, winner of the ICTSI Eagle Ridge and Valley Golf legs, paces the OOM race with earnings of P1,529,065 with Salvador, who dominated a foreign field to rule the ICTSI Riviera Classic, just behind with P1,462,750, making this 72-hole championship a crucial one for two of the country’s top guns.
But Sumcad is out to spoil the Lascuña-Salvador duel with the long hitting Mt. Malarayat pro hoping to sustain the momentum of his impressive third place finish at ICTSI Iloilo Golf Challenge last week.
Casas’ recent victory also enables him to jump to No. 7 in the OOM race but the reigning The Country Club Invitational champion remains too far behind Lascuña and Salvador with P690,874.
“My ball striking is okay and I feel good about my chances. I hope to win two or three more before the season ends,” said Casas.
Salvador rued his putting in his defeat to Casas last week and the reticent Davaoeño shotmaker spent most of his time on the Marapara surface to get the feel of its speed although there are a lot to consider to score low at the tree-lined, hazard-laden layout.
“I can’t win again with this kind of putting,” said Salvador, who flubbed at least four putts inside four feet in Iloilo, in Pilipino.
Meanwhile, Anthony Fernando and partners Bobby Cuenca, Peter Kim and Ilha Choi pooled an 18-under 52 to beat Rolando Marabe and teammates Michael Bantug, Josephine Go and Lyn Lee Rizzo by two and rule yesterday’s pro-tournament organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Gialon, along with Dupert Locsin, Mark Cuaycong and Marlowe Cortez shot a 55 to finish third in the 18-hole tournament backed by Nike Golf, Pacsports, Srixon, FootJoy, It’s More Fun in the Philippines, Callaway, Mizuno, Custom Clubmakers, Titleist, Sharp and KZG.
Other players tipped to contend for the top P200,000 purse are Mhark Fernando, Jhonnel Ababa, Marvin Dumandan, Ferdie Aunzo, Michael Bibat, Rey Pagunsan, Jun Bernis, Gerald Rosales, Jessie Balasabas, Carl Santos-Ocampo and ICTSI Sherwood Hills leg winner Charles Hong.