Three former champions, 30 mainstays of One Asia Tour and 45 others from PGT Asia and invited players make up the bulk of the foreign contingent gearing up for the grand Centennial Solaire Philippine Open beginning tomorrow (Wednesday, Feb. 28) at The Country Club.
Singapore’s Mardan Mamat and Marcus Both of Australia, who ruled the 2012 and 2014 editions, respectively, at Wack Wack, seek to become the first repeat winner since 2007 along with Englishman Steve Lewton, who nipped American Johannes Veerman in the playoff to capture the crown last year at TCC.
Back at the dreaded Tom Weiskoph-designed layout and with a field teeming with talent, the same finish is seen on Saturday with a slew of players all primed up for a crack at the top $108,000 purse in the country’s premier championship sponsored by Solaire Resort and Casino.
Also at stake in the 72-hole event offering a record purse of $600,000 is the record tag as Centennial champion of Asia’s oldest National Open.
One Asia cam-paigners Sam Burrell, Ryan Carter, Oskar Arvidsson and Michael Choi of Australia, Malaysians Nicolas Fung, Kim Kwang and Keegan He Sen, Jazz Janewattananond, Thammanoon Sriroj and Natipong Srithong of Thailand, and Americans Matthew Negri, John Kelly and Blake Snyder of One Asia are also raring to slug it out with the best of the rest in the event, the first co-sanctioned tournament of One Asia.
Others tipped to contend in the tournament co-organized by the National Golf Association of the Philippines and Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. are PGT Asia mainstays Guido Van der Valk of the Netherlands, American Nicolas Paez, Japanese Toru Nakajima, Macedonian Peter Stojanovski and Australian Nathan Park.
Eighteen countries, including one from Andorra, Macedonia, Sweden, Myanmar, Colombia, Great Britain and the Netherlands, are vying in the blue-ribbon event sponsored by ICTSI, Meralco, PLDT, Smart, Bulgari, Diamond Motor Corp., BDO, Central Azucarera de Tarlac, Amon Trading, Dynamic Sports and Custom Clubmakers.
But while the locals hope to cash in on whatever local knowledge they have on the TCC, focus will still be on young Korean-American Micah Shin, who humbled the cream of the local pro crop and three other foreign aces to rule the TCC Invitational on a five-under 285 aggregate two weeks ago.
The 21-year-old Davao-based rising star bucked the wind in all four days, the tough pin placements in the last two rounds and the final round charge of Miguel Tabuena to become the first non-Filipino winner of the P5 million event.
The leading players in the 132-player field, meanwhile, test the long TCC layout one last time in today’s (Tuesday) tradition pro-am where they will be paired with the amateurs and guests from the event’s chief backers.