The $100,000 CAT (Central Azucarera de Tarlac) Open reels off at the Luisita Golf and Country Club today with the elite field setting out with varying game plans on a challenging, demanding course in pursuit of the crown in Tarlac.
Tony Lascuña, coming off a come-from-behind victory at Wack Wack two weeks ago, puts premium on putting, Clyde Mondilla and Jobim Carlos will lean on their long game while Zanieboy Gialon would opt for conservative play.
With the par-72 championship layout in great shape, expect a thriller of a battle in all four days from among the 94-player starting field from 17 countries chasing the top $17,500 purse in the event serving as the fifth leg of the inaugural Philippine Golf Tour Asia.
“The course is in great shape, especially the greens. I think it will all boil down to putting. There are fast greens and those that bite, so you really have to be very careful with each shot,” said Lascuña, who ended a string of mediocre finishes in the region’s newest circuit put up by ICTSI by winning the Wack Wack Championship in come-from-behind fashion.
The power-hitting Mondilla, who withdrew at Wack Wack due to foot blisters, is all set for a big rebound in search of a second PGTA title after winning the Riviera Classic last September, saying the course fits his style of play.
“It’s anybody’s game but I think my chances are good in his course even against the foreign aces. I can hit my drive without hesitation,” said Mondilla, who with Carlos had also hinted at the wind as a big factor to one’s title bid in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
“The wind blows from all directions and this is the first time that I encounter this condition here. But if you can play with it and through the hazards, you’ll have a big chance,” said Carlos, also due for a big win after a string of near-misses.
Gialon, who routed the field at PGT Calatagan but cracked under pressure in the final round at Wack Wack, also expressed confidence of his chances for a breakthrough PGTA win but stressed the need for accuracy and putting against a field teeming with talent.
“With so many hazards, you have to hit it safe from the mound and then attack on safe holes,” said Gialon.
Thai Pasavee Lertvilai, who topped the PGTA Q-School here, last August, also liked his chances for another crack at the crown after losing in a playoff to Rene Menor at PGTA Splendido and losing steam at Wack Wack, also in the final day.
“Everybody has a chance but I’m hoping I can finally get the trophy. The course is in top shape and much better than the last time I topped the Q-School,” said the Thai ace.
Meanwhile, Lascuña drew Frankie Miñoza and Thia Natchanon Varapornkittirat in the 7 a.m. flight on No. 1, Mondilla and Gialon will be with American Jacob Fleck in the 7:25 a.m. group at No. 10, Carlos starts late at 11:25 a.m. on the first hole with Indonesian Ian Andrew and another local young gun Justin Quiban, while Lertvilai will tee off next to Lascuña’s group with Elmer Salvador and Ira Alido.
Others tipped to contend for the crown in the event, backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc., are Jay Bayron, Macedonian Peter Stojanovski, Ferdie Aunzo, Thai Wisut Artjanawat. Mars Pucay, Mhark Fernando, Aussie Andrew Campbell, Marvin Dumandan, Orlan Sumcad, Korean Park Jun Sung, Jhonnel Ababa, Spain’s Salvador Paya Vila, Keanu Jahns, Aussie Simon Vitakangas, Swede Andreas Gronkvist, Dutch Guido Van der Valk and Englishman Grant Jackson.