Elmer Salvador sets out for a rare three-peat against a crack international field out to foil his record bid on the Asian Development Tour, ensuring a slam-bang action right in the opener of the $100,000 Aboitiz Invitational on Wednesday at the Riviera Golf and Country’s Club’s Couples in Silang, Cavite.
The overnight downpour has made the par-72 layout longer and a lot tougher and the forecast of rain in the next three days could bring out the best or worst in the 130-player field that includes the country’s aces and a slew of ADT campaigners seeking to boost their respective rankings in the Order of Merit for a crack at berths in next year’s Asian Tour.
The first player on the ADT to successfully defend a title at the Cebu Country Club, Salvador will be the marked man in the 72-hole championship sponsored by Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. with the reticent Davaoeño shotmaker hoping to flash the form that netted him back-to-back victories in Cebu here at Riviera.
“It’s really nice to score a three-peat but that’s the least of my worries. I just want to focus on my game and give myself a chance in the final round,” said Salvador in Pilipino.
He gets an early test of will and character as he drew a 7:20 a.m. start on No. 10 with Canadian Lindsay Renolds and Englishman Peter Richardson, two of the fancied foreign players in the event backed by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
James Byrne of Scotland, fresh from his three-shot romp in the Jakarta leg of the ADT last Sunday, is also tipped to figure early in the title race, getting the 7:30 a.m. draw with Japan’s Mitsuhiko Hashizume and Thai veteran Wisut Artjanawat, also on No. 10.
While the local aces, headed by reigning back-to-back ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour OOM champion Tony Lascuña, three-time Asian Tour winner Angelo Que and former Asian Tour No. 1 Francie Minoza, remain wary of the talent-laden foreign challenge, they also took notice of the course condition which now measures to 7,038 yards.
“I was really surprised to find out that the course has become longer than usual. Mukhang sinagad nila sa back tees. Worse, the overnight rain made it a lot longer,” said Lascuña, who hinted at using his woods more often in all four days.
“I actually used my 5-wood four times for my second shots in the pro-am. So, emphasis should be on driving, I have to put my drives in good position all the time,” added Lascuña, winner of three legs on this year’s ICTSI PGT.
Agreeing with Lascuña’s observation, Minoza said it will be a matter of making the right adjustments with the veteran ace shotmaker looking to relive his glory days here where he won his first Philippine Open in 1998.
“Yes, it’s long, so we have to adjust. But as always, I will always be there fighting,” said Minoza.
Lascuña drew a late tee-time at 11:40 a.m. with Thai Suppakorn Uthaipat and Myanmar Zaw Moe on No. 1, before Que, priming up for the Omega European Masters in Switzerland next week, opens his bid with Indonesian Rory Hie and Englishman Grant Jackson at 11:50 a.m.
Minoza, in one his rare stints on the ADT, is grouped with Dutch Guido Van der Valk and Thai Thammanoon Sriroj at 12:10 p.m. on No. 1; young gun Miguel Tabuena will start at 7:40 a.m. on No. 10 with Thai Poosit supupramai and Singapore Lam Zhiquin, while Jay Bayron, also seeing a record-tying four-leg victory on the ADT, tees off at 7:10 a.m. on No. 10 with Swede Malcolm Kokocinski and Sattaya supupramai of Thailand.