An elite international field, including some of the Asian Tour and Asian Development Tour’s leading players and the country’s top shotmakers, will vie for supremacy in the rich Solaire Philippine Open in March where the new-look The Country Club course will once again pose a daunting challenge.
The last time the TCC hosted an Asian Tour event in 2014 for the $300,000 Solaire Open, Angelo Que and Miguel Tabuena fell apart in severe condition in the final round after taking the 1-2 posts in 54 holes with the former limping with an 82 and the latter hobbling with a 76. That enabled Canadian Richard Lee to snare the crown from Thai Chawalit Plaphol by one.
And there is no better course to hold Asia’s oldest National Open than the exclusive par-72 layout, now longer and tougher after undergoing a major facelift the last two years. It can play to a maximum yardage of 8,000 yards from the back tees when it hosts the country’s premier championship on March 2 to 5.
“With the increase in yardage also came a significant change in individual hole strategies to take better advantage of the wind as well as the old and new bunkers, lakes, streams and planted native areas,” said TCC general manager Colo Ventosa.
While no hole was left untouched, some underwent either a more dramatic strategic or appearance change than others, meaning all holes are now more competitive than before, according to Ventosa.
“One thing is certain, the recently refreshed and enhanced course will be a more competitive layout than the last time it hosted The Country Club Invitational and Solaire Open,” added Ventosa.
That should guarantee four days of great theater of golf and a wild finish with the title chase also tipped to boil down to living with the subtle terrors lurking on its sleek putting surface, unsettling hazards and the unpredictable wind that could alter the character of the holes in an instant.
Although the $350,000 event, which used to be the kickoff leg of the Asian Tour, won’t be a part of the region’s premier circuit, the organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. has guaranteed an elite cast of 120-130 international players to clash for top honors in the blue-ribbon event.
The foreign bets dominated three of the last four PH Opens with American Berry Henson winning in 2011 and Singapore’s Mardan Mamat reigning in 2012 and Marcus Both of Australia topping the event in 2014, all at Wack Wack.
There was no Phl Open in 2013 while Miguel Tabuena nailed his first Open romp in a rain-shortened edition in 2015 at Luisita.
The upcoming event also serves as a prelude to a grand Centennial PH Open staging next year with Solaire Resort and Casino as the event’s title sponsor after the National Golf Association of the Philippines, the governing body of golf in the country, gave the PGTI the rights to hold the 99th and 100th Philippine Open in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
“This is the first time that Solaire is working with the NGAP (National Golf Association of the Philippines) and we hope to build up on this leading to the Centennial staging of the Phl Open in 2018,” said Solaire Resort and Casino president and chief operating officer Thomas Arasi.