Though Miguel Tabuena won’t be shooting for another Philippine Golf Tour crown, a scramble of a finish still looms when the crack international field slugs it out for the second straight week in the $60,000 ICTSI Orchard Golf Championship beginning Wednesday at the Orchard’s Player course in Dasmariñas, Cavite.
Tabuena rallied from seven strokes down in a wild final round with a solid 66 then nipped South African Mathiam Keyser in sudden death to snatch the ICTSI Luisita Championship diadem in Tarlac last Sunday. But the former Philippine Open champion and PGT Order of Merit winner has begged off this week to honor a previous commitment.
The depth of the field, however, remains as talent-laden with Keyser seeking to redeem himself along with a slew of foreign aces, who succumbed under pressure and extreme heat and faded in the spirited title chase at Luisita.
They include John Michael O’Toole, who led by two after three rounds but crumbled with a closing 76, and John Catlin, who co-led in the first round but failed to sustain his charge as the two Americans ended up tied at seventh with Aussie David Gleeson and Paul Harris, also of the US.
Micah Shin is also out for a rebound after the Korean-American fell off the leaderboard with a woeful 75 in the third round and wound up at joint 11th while Englishman Steve Lewton, who ruled the Solaire Philippine Open last March, hopes to figure prominently this week after a mediocre joint 21st place finish at Luisita.
That should make the battle for the top $10,500 purse doubly interesting with Nicolas Paez, Brett Munson of the US, Genki Okada and Shotaro Onuki of Japan, and Dutch Guido Van der Valk also itching to fuel their respective title drive in the event sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Keanu Jahns and Jhonnel Ababa also seek to better their strong Luisita finish with the former firing an eagle-spiked, bogey-free 65 to snare third place and the latter ending up tied for fourth with Tony Lascuña and Munson.
Next to Tabuena’s stirring comeback, Jahns produced the other surprise at Luisita with a career-best performance. He could’ve joined the playoff or snatched the crown if not for a couple of flubbed birdie chances in the last five holes.
But with Tabuena out, Lascuña is expected to lead the local challenge with the reigning PGT Order of Merit winner working extra hard to polish his putting stroke that has hampered his final round charge at Luisita.
Focus will also be on Rufino Bayron, who bested a tough international field to win the Orchard Championship in 2014. But the former amateur hotshot’s game took a downswing from there and remained in search of his form. He actually stayed in the hunt at Luisita with a 71-68 start but limped with an 80 in the third day and finished with a 79 and wound up at joint 45th.
Also fancied to crowd the favorites in the 72-hole championship, backed by BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT, are Jay Bayron, Frankie Miñoza, Jobim Carlos, Cassius Casas, Elmer Salvador, Michael Bibat, Orlan Sumcad, Albin Engino, Mhark Fernando, and Jerson Balasabas.
Meanwhile, Southwoods will host the third of a four-week PGT swing next week (May 17-20) for another $60,000 ICTSI Manila Southwoods Championship before the revival of the ICTSI Philippine Masters at the Villamor Golf Club on May 24-27.