The P1-million ICTSI Tagaytay Midlands Challenge gets going today with six of the country’s leading pros raring to nail a second victory and a slew of others seeking their first win at Tagaytay Midlands here.
No player has won twice after nine legs of the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour, underscoring the level-playing field but any from the six previous leg winners could finally score another victory this week given their form and desire to repeat as champion.
No less than a strong start is expected from the elite 72-player field with Order of Merit leader Miguel Tabuena, who ruled the circuit’s kickoff leg at Sherwood and finished second at John Hay, drawing an 8:30 a.m. tee-off on No. 1 with Edward Reyes and veteran Cassius Casas.
Tony Lascuña, the runaway winner at Calatagan who moved to No. 2 with a runner-up finish at ICTSI Classic two weeks ago, kicks off his bid against Charles Hong and former Philippine Open champion Gerald Rosales at 7:30 a.m. on No. 10.
Angelo Que, who marked his return to the local circuit with an emphatic victory at ICTSI Orchard and turned in a runner-up and third place finishes in the last two legs to take the No. 3 spot in the OOM derby, will also launch his title drive at the backside of the up-and-down layout in the company of Rufino Bayron and Rey Pagunsan.
Elmer Salvador, who dominated the Aboitiz Invitational in Cebu for the second straight year to rank No. 4, will also start at 7:30 a.m. on No. 1 with fellow Asian Tour campaigner Mars Pucay and title-hungry Ferdie Aunzo, while Jay Bayron, who came from behind to foil Tabuena’s back-to-back title bid at John Hay, is paired with Clyde Mondilla and Michael Bibat, whose game took a downswing after scoring a breakthrough victory at ICTSI Rancho Palos Verdes in June.
But the likes of Rufino Bayron, Aunzo, Casas, Pucay, Reyes, Hong, Pagunsan, Mondilla and Rosales are also tipped to contend for the crown, each seeking an end to a long title drought in the circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services Inc. and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc.
With weather improving and with the pros in top form coming off a series of tournaments, a low scoring first round is expected although the tough par-72 layout will provide different kind of challenge especially in the presence of the dreaded wind in the afternoon.
Also out to foil the fancied bets’ bid and due for victory are Jessie Balasabas, James Ryan Lam, Jhonnel Ababa, Mhark Fernando, Jun Bernis, Benjie Magada, Randy Garalde, Zanie Boy Gialon, Marvin Dumandan, Artemio Murakami, Dante Becierra and Anthony Fernando.
Rufino Bayron primed himself up for a maiden pro win as he led his team composed of Windy Imperial, Ruel de Castro and Young Jun Oh to victory on Monday’s pro-am tournament with a 15-under 57. Que, with Ariel Rivera, Jenz Tecson and Joey Solis, placed second with a 58 while Jay Bayron, alng with Greg Young, Sonny Bitong and Peter Unlay, pooled a 59 for third.