The ICTSI Philippine Masters gets under way today with the elite field all geared up for a fierce battle for what used to be an esteemed title on the pro circuit and on a course so tricky it could deceive even the veterans in the fold.
The Villamor layout measures up to 7,000 yards and though it is expected to yield low scores given the current form of the competing field, it could still pose a challenge with its tight fairways, thick roughs and unpredictable putting surface.
“You just can’t take Villamor for granted. It could yield low scores but it could also punish those who commit even the slightest mistake,” said Robert Pactolerin, an old hand at the military layout with a number of titles tucked under his belt, including this one which used to rank high in the local golf circuit.
But Clyde Mondilla, who beat Miguel Tabuena and Tony Lascuña by one to win the ICTSI Manila Southwoods Championship, is eyeing to match or better his impressive 22-under 266 feat last week on a course whose make-up is so similar to where he honed his talent and skills.
“Villamor is like Del Monte, the fairways, the grass and the surface. So I feel like I’m playing right at home,” said Mondilla during yesterday’s pro-am of the P2 million event sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
The event actually marks the return of what used to be one of the country’s version of four majors with Cassius Casas topping the last Masters in 2000, nipping Pactolerin in sudden death.
Long-hitting Orlan Sumcad, meanwhile, proved that power is key to winning at Villamor as he ruled the pro-am with amateur partners Benjie Castañeda, Bong Sacro and Angelo David with a 17-under 55 total, edging Edward Reyes, with Nestor Sevilla, Domeng de Leon and Derek Ramsay, by one.
Lascuña, another pre-tournament favorite, placed third with a 57 with Ben Gorospe, Michael Montero and Richard Querido.
“The course is also tough. One errant drive will put you in tough spot under the trees where it would be impossible to go for a birdie,” said Lascuña, winner of five tournaments last year who also won the Manila Masters at Eastridge last month.
Mondilla joins Pactolerin and former Philippine Open champion Gerald Rosales in the 7:30 a.m. flight on No. 10, which used to be the first hole as organizers switched the nines for the tournament while Lascuña drew Rufino Bayron and Benjie Magada at 10:50 a.m. on No. 1.
Others tipped to contend for the P360,000 top purse are Jay Bayron, Elmer Salvador, Jhonnel Ababa, Ferdie Aunzo, Zanieboy Gialon, Joenard Rates, Jun Bernis, Mhark Fernando, Marvin Dumandan, Charles Hong and Rey Pagunsan.
The event also drew a slew of foreign aces, including Americans Nicolas Paez, Keoninh Leonen and Paul Harris, Peter Stojanovski of Macedonia, Dutch Guido Van der Valk, Japanese Joichiro Kawada, Korean Park Jun Sung and Aussies Nathan Park, Jason Dawes and David Gleeson. But old hands at Villamor see a challenging week for these campaigners owing to their unfamiliarity with the layout.