The men of the tour face a wide range of tests – from the tricky, up-and-down layout, to the difficult putting surface and the wind – as they begin their chase for the top P650,000 purse in the rich ICTSI Manila Masters at the Eastridge Golf Club in Binangonan, Rizal today.
Rufino Bayron seeks to make it two-in-row after scoring a breakthrough win at ICTSI Orchard Golf Championship early this month but a host of others making up the cream of the crop are out to foil his bid and fuel their respective title drive in the four-day championship serving as the eighth leg of this year’s ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
“It will be tough,” said Bayron in Pilipino before teeing off in yesterday’s pro-am tournament organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. “The field is strong and the wind could be a big factor since it could blow from any side at any time, so club selection is key.”
On top of his form, Bayron also hopes to cash in on an early morning tee-off at 7 a.m. in the company of Carl Santos-Ocampo and Jhonnel Ababa at No. 10, the way Charles Hong expects after drawing a 6:50 a.m. start with Zanie Boy Gialon and Ferdie Aunzo.
“I’m ready for Eastridge. But a lot of pros are stepping up so it should be a good show,” said Hong, all primed up for a sweep of the first two P3.5 million events on the circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. after ruling the ICTSI Sherwood Hills Classic last April.
The presence of the tour’s big guns, including Asian Tour campaigners Tony Lascuna, Elmer Salvador, Angelo Que, Mars Pucay, Cassius Casas and Miguel Tabuena plus the veteran Frankie Minoza, makes the title chase even tighter with Marvin Dumandan, Jun Rates, Michael Bibat, Clyde Mondilla, Rey Pagunsan, Mhark Fernando, Jessie Balasabas, Robert Pactolerin, Micah Shin and Canadian Rick Gibson all raring to nail the coveted crown.
Aside from the wind factor, the elite field faces an assortment of challenges at the mountain-top layout which requires not just precise shot-making and solid iron play but also steady putting.
Focus will also be on the 11:10 a.m. flight featuring reigning back-to-back ICTSI PGT Order of Merit champion and current OOM leader Lascuna, The Country Club Invitational winner Casas and the young Tabuena going all-out to snap a long title spell in the circuit backed by Nike Golf, Pacsports, Srixon, FootJoy, It’s More Fun in the Philippines, Callaway, Mizuno, Custom Clubmakers, Titleist, Sharp and KZG.
“It’s a good threesome and I expect a strong start from Miguel and Cassius,” said Lascuna, also upbeat of his chances for a third leg win after topping the ICTSI Eagle Ridge and ICTSI Valley stages in emphatic fashions. “I feel good about my chances but everybody is here, so it’s anybody’s race.”
Que, out to atone for his 20th place finish at ICTSI Orchard, also expects to contend early as he drew a 7:20 a.m. start with Bibat and Mondilla while Salvador, winner at ICTSI Riviera last month, is paired with Minoza and Pagunsan in the 10:50 a.m. group.