Former champion Angelo Que and reigning Order of Merit winner Tony Lascuña clash in an early duel of the fancied bets in the ICTSI Manila Masters unfolding today at the Eastridge Golf Club in Binangonan, Rizal.
Que and Lascuña drew rookie pro Ira Alido in the featured 7:20 a.m. flight on No. 10, both hoping for a strong start needed in the P3 million championship which features the cream of the local crop and a slew of international players out to break the locals’ domination of the Philippine Golf Tour.
But while Que brims with confidence following a nine-shot romp at Anvaya Cove Invitational last February, Lascuña hopes to shake off a mediocre start in the season after a dominating five-win feat to reclaim the OOM title last season.
“My condition is quite good. I had a good rest during the break but my chances for the crown is going to be a challenge since there are a lot of good players around,” said Que, a former three-time Asian Tour champion who ruled this event in 2015.
He, however, skipped yesterday’s pro-am to prepare for the event, which also serves as his final tune-up for the grueling Japan PGA Tour campaign, which starts next week.
“It’s going to be an interesting start with Angel but I also like my chances coming off a long rest,” said Lascuña, who tied for 11th in the Solaire Philippine Open, shared eighth place at Anvaya and finished behind Que at fifth in The Country Club Invitational.
But a host of others are also out to seize control early on the up-and-down hazard-laden layout with rock formations and powder-white sand traps, guaranteeing a fierce battle among the huge 120-player field vying for the top 40-plus spots in the final two rounds of the event, sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., offering a top purse of P550,000.
They include Clyde Mondilla, who nipped Jobim Carlos in a playoff to snare last year’s crown, Frankie Miñoza, Elmer Salvador, Jay Bayron, Cassius Casas, Zanieboy Gialon, Michael Bibat, Mars Pucay, Ferdie Aunzo, Marvin Dumandan, Jhonnel Ababa and Mhark Fernando.
Mondilla tees off after the Que-Lascuña group with Japanese Shota Fukuhara and Randy Garalde while Miñoza, who nipped absentee Miguel Tabuena in Bacolod last year, is paired with Bayron and Koji Oonishi of Japan at 7:10 a.m. on No. 10.
Salvador, who snapped a long title spell with a one-stroke victory over Bayron at Splendido last year, will start at 11:30 a.m. on No. 1 with Dutch Guido Van der Valk and American John Jackson.
Japanese Toru Nakajima, a former PGT winner who placed second to Que at Anvaya, heads a crack foreign field that includes Americans Nicolas Paez, Josh Salah, Paul Harris, Elliot Hume and John Michael O’Toole, all upbeat of their chances in the event backed by BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT.
Young Korean-American Micah Shin, who humbled the field at Luisita late last year, is also in the fold along with Dutch Guido Van der Valk, Swede Daniel Ekegren, Japanese Yuta Sudo and Australian Shaun Malone.