MICHAEL Bibat faces an early test of will and poise as he starts out with Jay Bayron and Miguel Tabuena in a clash of leg winners in the P1 million ICTSI Del Monte Championship at Del Monte Golf Club on Wednesday in Bukidnon.
The featured threesome is set to tee off at 7:30 a.m. with Bibat looking to come up with a strong start to fuel his bid for back-to-back wins after humbling a stellar field to rule the ICTSI Rancho Palos Verdes Classic in Davao last week.
It was Bibat’s first-ever victory in a five-year pro career, holding off the tour’s big guns with a steady back nine.
His bearing will be put in a test early in the 54-hole tournament with Bayron and Tabuena expected to likewise press their respective drives early for a second leg win on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
Bayron, winner at John Hay in April, looked headed for a second win at Palos Verdes but the ace Davaoeno shotmaker failed to sustain a hot start of 33 and faltered with a closing 37 to settle for joint fourth.
Tabuena, who dominated the field to score a runaway victory in the circuit’s kickoff leg at Sherwood Hills last March, finished joint fifth in last week’s Templer Park Masters of the Asian Development Tour in Malaysia.
Also among the players to watch in the sixth leg of the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. is local hero Frankie Miñoza, who enjoys perhaps the proverbial home-court edge more than anybody in the 92-player field.
Mhark Fernando is also out to duplicate his victory in 2011, when the tour sponsored by ICTSI held its last tournament at Del Monte.
Fernando underscored his readiness for another title shot by leading his team composed of Titing Callo, Titoy Estenzo and Jun Balagot to the pro-am victory with a 56 output, nipping Marvin Dumandan and teammates Jun Mostrales, Ricky Baguio and Reynaldo Mutiangpili by one.
Tony Lascuna and partners Raul Leonen, Dennis Mijares and Leo Lagumbay finished third with a 58.
Minoza will tee off on the first hole at 11 a.m. in the company of Rey Pagunsan and Elmer Saban, while Fernando drew Ferdie Aunzo and 2010 winner Cassius Casas in the 7:10 a.m. flight, also on No. 1.
Richard Sinfuego, who blew what had appeared to be a won tournament when he got disqualified along with Elmer Salvador and Juvic Pagunsan on a final hole infraction in 2010, will have an early tee-off at 6:50 a.m. along with James Ryan Lam and Jun Bernis in the event backed by Nike Golf, Empire Golf and Sports Shop, Mizuno, Titleist, Srixon, Foot Joy, Callaway, Pacsports, Custom Clubmakers, Cleveland Golf and Sharp.
Lascuna drew a late tee-time of 10:30 a.m. in the group of Charles Hong and Clyde Mondilla, another local bet, while Salvador is grouped with Rufino Bayron and Dante Becierra at 10:40 a.m. on No. 10.