Tony Lascuña needs only to churn out at least a fourth place finish to secure this year’s Order of Merit title but the four-leg winner has vowed to shoot for no less than the crown in the ICTSI Tournament Players Championship unfolding today at Wack Wack East.
“Why settle for fourth when I can go for the win?” said Lascuña on the eve of the P3.5 championship serving as the final leg of this year’s 16-stage ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
With four leg wins, including three straight at Eagle Ridge, Forest Hills and Bacolod, and a number of Top 5 finishes, Lascuña has racked up earnings of P3,045,948 to stay on top of the OOM rankings, P488,694 ahead of second running and three-leg champion Clyde Mondilla.
A fourth place finish this week will net Lascuña P195,000, enough to thwart Mondilla even if the Del Monte ace wins the P650,000 top prize. But the ace Davaoeno shotmaker, also a former three-time OOM winner, wants to reclaim the coveted individual crown in style with a victory in the closing leg of the circuit sponsored by ICTSI.
Lascuña actually skipped yesterday’s pro-am to polish his short game and putting stroke, which he said will be key at the demanding par-72 layout kept in championship form to provide a true test of golf for the elite 94-player field through all four days of what promises to be a battle for survival.
“I hope my putting clicks this week. I struggled a bit with my stroke last week and fell short against Micah (Shin) at Luisita. But I feel good and confident of my chances at Wack Wack,” said Lascuña, who braces for an explosive opener with Jay Bayron and Frankie Miñoza in the featured 7:25 a.m. flight on No. 10.
Bayron, winner of two legs this year, including the ADT Aboitiz Invitational at Wack Wack last month, hopes to ride on the momentum of that two-stroke victory over Malaysian Gavin Green while also eyeing a shot at the OOM title with a win coupled with Lascuña’s poor finish.
Meanwhile, Mhark Fernando teamed up with Justin Limjap, Manny Salgado and Alex Honrado to pool an 18-under 54 and edge Arnold Villacencio, with partners Zeus Mangubat, Ted Valenton and Olan Bool, by one in yesterday’s pro-am. Rico Depilo, with Sunny Donato, Bryan Donato and Jeremy Maravilla, placed third with a 56.
With winnings of P2,543,028, Bayron is in third in the OOM standings with Shin, who beat Lascuña by two at Central Azucarera de Tarlac Open last week, leapfrogging from No. 13 to No. 4 with P1,035,987, also making him a top contender for this week’s diadem in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp, Champion, Ping and Yamaha.
Miñoza, meanwhile, has missed a lot of tournaments this year but made one big impact when he nipped young ace Miguel Tabuena in a record five-hole playoff to capture the ICTSI Negros Occidental Classic title last July. The veteran campaigner is also going all-out to score a repeat win at Wack Wack after ruling the Philippine Open in 2007.
Mondilla, on the other hand, drew Shin and Rufino Bayron in the 7:10 a.m. group on No. 1 with the 23-year-old winner of Eastridge, Calatagan and ICTSI Classic legs also seeking no less than a victory this week.
“I really need to win again, this being the final leg of this year’s circuit. Whatever I’ll earn here will be for my family for the upcoming holidays and at the same time support my training for next year’s tour,” said Mondilla. “I’ll really give it my best shot.”
So do the rest of the field, including Splendido Taal leg winner Elmer Salvador, Jobim Carlos, Mars Pucay, Cassius Casas, Charles Hong, Justin Quiban, Marvin Dumandan, Mhark Fernando, Orlan Sumcad, Michael Bibat, Jerson Balasabas, Zanieboy Gialon, Jun Bernis and Ferdie Aunzo.
The foreign challenge also remains formidable with Dutch Guido Van der Valk and Japanese Toru Nakajima spearheading the field that also includes sponsor invitees Nick Sherwood and John Michael O’Toole of the US and Aussie Peter Stojanovski along with Charlie Chang, Kim Chang Yeon, Tomas Kim, Kwon Hyuk Jin, Park Chan Jung, Park Jun Song and Hong Soon Hyup of Korea, Aussies Frederick Park, Ben Ratcliffe and Kevin Marques, Japanese Ryoma Miki, Yuta Sudo, Kei Takahashi and Shotaro Onuki.