Michael Bibat and Elmer Saban slug it out in an early clash of leg winners with former club pro Marvin Dumandan joining one of the featured flights in the kickoff the P2.5 million ICTSI Riviera Classic today at Riviera’s Langer course in Silang, Cavite.
Bibat, whose game somewhat took a downswing after scoring a breakthrough win at ICTSI Palos Verdes last June, and Saban, who posted his maiden win just last week at ICTSI Splendido Classic, hope to come out with a strong start and set their respective title bids in motion in the 72-hole championship.
Dumandan, on the other hand, is raring to use his familiarity with the par-71 course to launch his drive for an end to a two-year long slump on the circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc.
Bibat, Saban and Dumandan tee off at 9:30 a.m. at the back of the ravine-laced course made longer and tougher by yesterday’s rains that marred the pro-am tournament of the seventh P2.5 million event on this year’s ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour calendar.
“I’ve been trying to put it all together the last few tournaments—ball striking, short game and putting. I just need a good start for confidence-boost and will take it from there,” said Bibat, the former Asian Games bronze medalist.
Unlike Bibat, Saban is oozing with confidence following his victory at Splendido where he nipped veteran Cassius Casas to end a seven-year long title drought. With a practically lean but mean field to contend this week, the soft-spoken Davaoeno shotmaker is upbeat of his chances to duplicate Frankie Minoza’s back-to-back wins at ICTSI Del Monte and ICTSI Pueblo de Oro in July.
Casas, meanwhile, drew James Ryan Lam and Chris delos Santos in the 8 a.m. flight at No. 1 with the veteran campaigner vowing to better his runner-up finish at Splendido and nail the win that continued to elude him since he snatched the ICTSI Del Monte crown in 2010.
“Despite losing last week, I think I’m back in the groove and ready to contend again,” said Casas, the country’s former No. 1 who went on a slump for a long time due to injuries and personal woes.
Mhark Fernando, who won at Riviera as an amateur in 2009, is also expected to figure in the hunt for the top P450,000 purse along with Gerald Rosales, who won the Philippine Open here in 2000, and former amateur hotshot Clyde Mondilla, his flightmates in the 7:30 a.m. group at No. 1.
Dante Becierra, who placed third last week, is also tipped to join the title chase along with Rufino Bayron, Jun Rates, Anthony Fernando, Rey Pagunsan, Richard Sinfuego, Jun Bernis, Edward Reyes, Jesse Balasabas, Charles Hong, Orlan Sumcad, Benjie Magada, Japanese Tomo Yoshinaga and Korean expats Park Jun Song, Oh Seung Rok, Kim Chang Hoi and Nam Ji Soo.