Miguel Tabuena and Charles Hong confirmed their participation in the rich ICTSI Pilipinas Invitational beginning on Wednesday at Manila Southwoods’ Legends course in Carmona, Cavite, each gunning for a second victory in the third of four P3.5 million events lined up on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
Tabuena ruled the ICTSI Manila Masters at Eastridge in June, besting a star-studded cast to win by three over Elmer Salvador despite a closing 74, while Hong closed out with a 65 and a 68 to edge young Micah Shin by one at the ICTSI Sherwood Hills Classic in April.
With another whopping P650,000 up for grabs in the 72-hole championship, Tabuena and Hong hope to re-display the form they showed in winning two of the four richest tournaments on the local circuit and get another shot at the juicy pot and at the same time boost their respective bids in the Order of Merit.
“I’m playing well and feeling confident with my game,” said Tabuena, in third behind Tony Lascuña and Salvador in the current OOM race. He tied for eighth with Jhonnel Ababa in last week’s Aboitiz Invitational at Riviera’s Couples layout.
Hong, fourth in the OOM standings, didn’t see action last week as he resumed his campaign in the Japan Tour qualifier where he shot an even par in the final day to finish two-under for the tournament.
“I wound up 35th to get me a spot in the third stage. But it’s hard yet, you still have so far to go to get there,” said Hong, who opted to downplay his chances at ICTSI Pilipinas Invitational, which used to be the ICTSI Manila Southwoods Championship.
“I actually have no expectations at Southwoods but other than that, I will give it the same dedication and focus as I did in Japan,” said Hong.
Tabuena and Hong, meanwhile, join the other leading pros in today’s (Tuesday) pro-am tournament which also features the amateur players and guests of the event’s chief backers, including Nike Golf, Pacsports Phils. Inc., Srixon, Callaway, Mizuno, Empire Golf, Footjoy, Titleist, Custom Clubmakers, Sharp and KZG, the Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. with ABS-CBN Sports & Action, Balls and Inquirer Golf as media partners.
Elmer Salvador, winner of the ICTSI Riviera Classic at Langer in May, is also out to atone for his poor joint 45th place finish at Aboitiz which he ruled back-to-back from 2012 while fellow leg winners Jay Bayron, Jun Rates and Rufino Bayron gun for a follow-up to their victories at ICTSI Splendido, ICTSI John Hay and ICTSI Orchard Golf Championship, respectively.
Others tipped to contend for the crown are Cassius Casas, Benjie Magada, Ababa, Carl Santos-Ocampo, Michael Bibat and Mhark Fernando plus a number of foreign bets, including Dutch Guido Van der Valk and a slew of Korean shotmakers.
Frankie Minoza has also signed up for the event with the former Philippine Open champion also out for a big rebound after missing the cut at the Aboitiz Invitational.