From current Order of Merit leader Miguel Tabuena to comebacking Frankie Miñoza and Juvic Pagunsan to the in-form Tony Lascuña to a host of other local aces and rising stars, all are accounted for in the Aboitiz Invitational firing off on Wednesday at Manila Southwoods’ Legends course.
Count in the top 10 players in the Asian Development Tour OOM rankings, and no fewer than 22 ADT winners and other notable shotmakers from around the region, one gets an idea of what looms ahead when the first shot is hit and the last putt is made in the $100,000 event put up by Aboitiz Equity Ventures.
No local event in recent past has put together a deep, talent-laden international cast, guaranteeing a highly charged duel for the top $17,500 purse and world ranking points in all four days of competition co-sanctioned by the ADT and the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
“Just looking at the roster makes one feel uncomfortable. It’s such a tough cast that one has to play his very best to at least contend,” said Lascuña, listed as one of the favorites not only because of his back-to-back victories at ICTSI Apo and ICTSI Classic in recent weeks but also because of his three-shot romp over Que in last year’s edition of the annual event at Riviera’s Couples course for his first ADT win.
But the long, bunker-laden Legends layout offers a different kind of challenge for the competing field particularly its last line of defense — the greens, which are expected to be at their meanest in the final round of the blue-ribbon event co-organized by ADT and Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
“I may be on some kind of a roll, winning the last two tournaments. But for sure, it will be anybody’s race,” said Lascuña.
It sure will.
Tabuena, for one, is fresh after a hectic campaign that netted him victories at ICTSI Splendido and Rancho Palos Verdes and three runner-up finishes while Minoza is also coming off a stint in Japan and has always been a sentimental favorite and contender on the local circuit this season with a series of top six finishes.
Pagunsan, meanwhile, is out to redeem himself from a mediocre joint 15th place finish in last week’s ICTSI Classic where he marked his return on local turf after a two-and-a-half campaign on the Japan PGA.
Three-time Asian Tour winner Angelo Que, also a two-leg winner this year like Tabuena, is actually expected to join the title chase but only played in yesterday’s pro-am and confirmed he’s skipping the event to take a much-needed rest following a stint in the recent European Masters.
Still, the local field is teeming with talents, including Elmer Salvador, Orlan Sumcad, Jay Bayron, Ferdie Aunzo, Charles Hong, Cassius Casas, Rufino Bayron, Marvin Dumandan and Mars Pucay are also in the fold, all ready to slug it out not only with the cream of the local crop but also the best from the ADT field.
That includes OOM leader Hsieh Chi-hsien of Chinese Taipei, American Casey O’Toole, Malaysian Arie Irawan, Australian Jake Stirling, Taiwanese Chan Shih-chang, Sean Riordan of New Zealand, Japanese Masaru Takahashi, Jordan Sherbat of Australia, Davao-based American Micah Shin and Thai Itthipat Buranatanyarat.
Hsieh is tipped to contend owing to his good form this season where he nailed one victory and produced five top 10 finishes.
“My aim is to finish inside Top 10. That is the target that I set for myself in every ADT event,” said Hsieh, who finished sixth in the ADT Sherwood Hills Classic last April.
“It’s good to be leading in the OOM rankings but I won’t give myself any pressure to win or play exceptionally well. I will play with minimal expectations,” said Hsieh, 24.