FORMER winners Miguel Tabuena and Angelo Que and multi-titled Tony Lascuña head the locals’ title bid against a slew of foreign aces led by defending champion Englishman Steve Lewton in the Centennial Solaire Philippine Open teeig off
With a record prize fund on a dreaded course, the country’s premier championship unwraps on Wednesday at The Country Club in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
The elite 132-player field, including six former champions, 30 mainstays of One Asia Tour, 45 other foreign players from Philippine Golf Tour Asia and the best of the local shotmakers battle for the top prize of US$108,000 (around P5.6 million) out of the $600,000 fund put up by Solaire Resort and Casino, and also for history, this being the 100th tournament of Asia’s oldest National Open.
“There’s no better way to win a premier golf championship than here in the Philippine Open where history awaits the winner,” said Tony Lascuña.
Former champions Mardan Mamat (2012) of Singapore and Aussie Marcus Both (2014) also seek to become the first repeat winner of the fabled event in the last decade along with local titlists Miguel Tabuena (2015), Angelo Que (2008) and legend Frankie Miñoza, the former Asia No. 1 who scored a Philippine Open breakthrough in 1998 and the last player to win the coveted crown twice, winning his second in 2007.
“I’m not getting any younger. But I’m always ready for the Philippine Open,” said the 58-year-old Miñoza, stressing the younger ones will have an edge over the long, demanding course that measures up to 7,300 yards.
But with the winds not whipping up this week based on the web forecast, a shootout looms among the best of the best in all four days although others note wind condition could change at any given day at the TCC.
Still, the Tom Weiskoph-designed layout, kept in championship form all year long, remains as tough as ever even without the gusts with its sheer length, bunkers, lakes, streams and planted native areas enough to bring out the best – or the worst – in every bidder in the event serving as the final leg of the inaugural eight-stage PGT Asia and co-sanctioned by One Asia.
Lascuña starts with Singapore’s Choo Tze Huang and Thai Namchok Tantipokhakul, while Que has been drawn to play with Malaysia’s Nicholas Fung and Rattanon Wannasrichan of Thailand in the tournament sponsored by ICTSI, Meralco, PLDT, Smart, Bulgari, Diamond Motor Corp., BDO, Central Azucarera de Tarlac, Amon Trading, Dynamic Sports and Custom Clubmakers.
Both is grouped with PGT top money earner Clyde Mondilla and Japan’s Toru Nakajima, while Lewton starts with Thailand’s Poosit Supupramai and Justin Quiban.
Mamat and Miñoza will be joined by Thammanoon Sriroj of Thailand, while Tabuena is teeing off with Thailand’s Prom Meesawat and Korea’s Taehoon Kim.
Micah Shin hopes to flash the form that netted him the TCC Invitational crown two weeks ago when he won the TCC Invitational by one over Tabuena. He starts the Philippine Open on the back nine with Jhonnel Ababa and Thailand’s Niron Sae Ueng.