THE Aboitiz Invitational 2017 starts on Tuesday with the elite international field bracing for a shootout at Manila Southwoods’ Legends course, the first of seven US$100,000 (around P5 million) tournaments in the new pro series PGT Asia Tour.
The eighth and final leg off the tournament is a US$300,000 event.
Philippine Golf Tour Order money leader Tony Lascuña, No. 2 Clyde Mondilla, 2015 order of Merit winner Miguel Tabuena, Japan PGA Tour player Angelo Que and defending champion Jay Bayron head the cast that also features PGT Asia qualifying tournament topnotcher Thai Pasavee Lertvilai, No. 2 Seungjae Maeng and John Michael O’Toole of the US, Korean-American Micah Shin and Indonesians Joshua Wirawan and Elki Kow.
The last time Southwoods hosted the Aboitiz Invitational in 2015, Juvic Pagunsan posted a 20-under 264 total to win by eight.
“Historically, scores are low at Legends and we expect the same again this week,” said Southwoods golf director and former pro Jerome Delariarte. “The course condition is good, so summer rules for now. We hope for the rain to stay away this week.”
Que downplayed his form and chances, saying: “I wouldn’t know since I had a two-week break and haven’t touched my clubs.”
The former three-time Asian Tour winner, including the Philippine Open, also came off a long break then posted a record 12-stroke victory at the ICTSI Classic at Mt. Malarayat last month.
“It’s tough to assess one’s chances given the depth of the competing field. I just hope my putting will click in all four days and try to put myself in contention in the final round,” said Lascuña, winner of two events in this year’s PGT circuit.
Other foreign players tipped to contend in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc., are Swedes Andreas Gronkvist and Fredrik From, Aussies David Gleeson and Simon Vitakangas, Englishman Grant Jackson, Canadian Lee Sang Gyun, Cory Oride of the US, Korean You Joo Hwan and Singapore’s Choo Tze Huang.
The other local shotmakers expected to figure in the title hunt are Jhonnel Ababa, Zanieboy Gialon, Elmer Salvador, James Ryan Lam, Ferdie Aunzo, Mhark Fernando, Rufino Bayron and Jerson Balasabas.
The field is composed of the top 34 players on the PGT Order of Merit, the 61 qualifiers from the qualifying event and 25 sponsors’ invitees including amateurs Ryan and Ivan Monsalve.
The Central Azucarera de Tarlac Open at Luisita is the second leg, set Sept. 6 to 9 followed by the ICTSI Riviera Championship set Sept. 13 to 16 in Silang, Cavite.
Action swings to the fabled Wack Wack in Mandaluyong City from Nov. 15 to 18, then Splendido Taal in Laurel, Batangas on Nov. 29 Dec. 2. Still to be determined are the venues for the seventh leg set Dec. 6 to 9 and the eighth leg scheduled early next year.