Wide open battle looms as ADT Sherwood begins

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John Michael O’Toole CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

John Michael O’Toole CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The Asian Development Tour winds up its two-week local swing in Trece Martirez, Cavite today with the $60,000 ICTSI Sherwood Hills Classic with the elite international field bracing for a punishing week given the Sherwood Hills Golf Club’s playing condition.

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“It’s a challenging course, very windy and long,” said John Michael O’Toole of the US during a break in yesterday’s pro-am of the event serving as the 11th leg of the ADT and fourth stage of the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.

O’Toole led in the third round in last week’s ADT leg at Manila Southwoods but faltered in the final round, enabling Malaysian Gavin Green to snare the win over Thai Donlaphatchai Niyomchon and Singapore’s Deng Shan Koh.

But the 23-year-old American vowed to make up for his final round foldup but admitted it would be doubly tough to score a victory at Sherwood with its length, hazards that come into play in most holes and the dreaded wind.

“Definitely, I will give it my best shot,” said O’Toole, seeking a second ADT triumph after ruling the PGM Clearwater Masters in Malaysia last month. He tees off at 7:50 a.m. on No. 10 with Mars Pucay and Thai Chanat Sakulpolphaisan.

Humbled at Southwoods with no one barging into the Top 10, the local aces also set out for a big finish this week with Tony Lascuña putting premium on shotmaking and Charles Hong upbeat of the Filipinos’ chances for the top $10,500 purse in the 72-hole championship sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.

“Sherwood is tough, a thinking course. But I think sa paluan at diskarte magkakatalo dito kasi mahaba at malakas ang hangin,” said Lascuna, the former three-time PGT Order of Merit champion seeking his first victory this year.

The veteran campaigner drew Scot James Byrne and American Blake Snyder in the 7:40 a.m. group on No. 10.

“I think we have some edge here. Mahihirapan sila (foreign bets) kasi di nila kabisado, di nila alam kung saan manggagaling ang hangin” said Hong, also out to snap a year-long spell in the local circuit backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Sharp, Summit, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade and Champion.

Hong will play alongside compatriot James Ryan Lam and American Dino Giacomazzi in the 11:25 a.m. flight on No. 1.

Focus will also be on rookie pro Jobim Carlos, who sparked hopes of a local victory at Southwoods when he grabbed the lead with three straight birdies to start the final round only to fumble and hobble with a closing 74. He wound up tied for 18th instead.

“At least I felt that kind of pressure early in my career so that I can learn from it right away,” said Carlos, who will tee off ahead of Lascuna and company with Marvin Dumandan and John Catlin of the US.

Meanwhile, Koh also hopes to sustain his good form in a bid to nail a breakthrough ADT win along with other foreign bets Paul Harris, Dillo Soldwisch, Nick Sherwood and Jarid Todd of the US, Japanese Yuki Shino, Toru Nakajima and Katsunari Takahashi and Thais Suradit Yongcharoenchai, Kevin Techakanokboon and Tawan Phongphun.

“I played well last week and it was definitely a confidence booster for me,” said Koh, 27, who is paired with local bets John Kier Abdon and Zanieboy Gialon at 11:35 a.m. on the first hole. “I just want to keep doing what I have been doing and hopefully, I can stay true to my form.”

As in Southwoods, the winner of this week’s event will also received six Official World Golf Ranking points, which will be key for players vying to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil this August.

Byrne primed up for the big event by winning the pro-am tournament with amateur partners Manny Salgado, Joey Crisostomo and Eric Virata as they pooled a 14-under 54 to beat Lascuna and teammates Harry Paltongan, Abe Avena and Rufino Bomasang by four.

Marvin Dumandan and partners Oca Patricio, Jerry Toroba and Roy Magno placed third with a 60.

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