The men of the Philippine Golf Tour set out today for what looms to be a wild start in the P2.5 million ICTSI Riviera Classic at the Langer course in Silang, Cavite, all hungry and eager to slug it out coming off a long break.
The circuit took a six-week lull after Juvic Pagunsan swept the last three legs of the four-stage Visayan swing last June to give way for the PGT Asia stop at Manila Southwoods which Angelo Que ruled last month and the Ladies PGT, making the pros keen on putting up a strong start in the P2.5 million championship serving as the sixth leg of the 10th season of the PGT.
But what lies ahead could be four days of uncertainty and unpredictability given the par-71 layout’s repute as one of the toughest with rain the past few days softening up the course, thus making it longer, more daunting and challenging.
In fact, no player has won here twice the last four years with Jay Bayron nipping Clyde Mondilla in sudden death when Riviera last played host to a PGT event in 2016.
Mondilla bounced back from that setback by winning in 2017 as Riviera hosted one of the five stops of the inaugural PGT Asia then Jobim Carlos reigned in 2018 before Pagunsan dominated the field last March.
Now back as a PGT leg, a new name could emerge on top on Saturday with Que looming large following his emphatic victory at Southwoods where he beat Aussie Tim Stewart in a power duel and won by five.
But at Riviera, it’s not just a question of length but of strategies, including course management since a slight miscue could lead to a big score given the limited options for recovery at the hazard-laden layout.
Still, the elite field is more than ready to take on the challenge with Pagunsan seeking to make it four-in-row, Carlos eyeing a big rebound from a string of poor finishes, Mondilla raring to re-display his form and Bayron out to snap a long title spell in the circuit put up by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Boosting the cast and eager to get a crack at the top P450,000 purse are Jhonnel Ababa, James Ryan Lam, Rufino Bayron, Mhark Fernando, Ira Alido, Marvin Dumandan, Nilo Salahog, Jerson Balasabas, Albin Engino, Keanu Jahns, Justin Quiban Mars Pucay and Elmer Salvador.
Meanwhile, Korean-American Micah Shin, a former PGT leg champion at Luisita and the first non-Filipino winner of The Country Club Invitational, heads the foreign challenge that includes Japanese Kei Matsuoka and Ryo Nishimura, Thais Kammalas Namuangruk and Tawan Phongpun, and Manila-based Guido Van der Valk, who is gunning for a second PGT crown this year after winning the Cebu leg of the circuit backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc. last June.