PHILIPPINE Golf Tour money list leader Miguel Tabuena, Asian Tour veterans Angelo Que and Juvic Pagunsan, the comebacking Frankie Miñoza and red-hot Tony Lascuna head the cast in the Aboitiz Invitational firing off on Wednesday at Manila Southwoods’ Legends course.
Also vying for top honors and the lion’s share of the $100,000 pot are the top 10 players in the Asian Development Tour Order of Merit, and no fewer than 22 ADT winners and other top shotmakers from around the region.
No local event in recent past has put together a deep, talent-laden international cast, guaranteeing a highly charged duel for the top $17,500 purse and world ranking points in all four days of competition co-sanctioned by the ADT and the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
“Just looking at the roster makes one feel uncomfortable. It’s such a tough cast that one has to play his very best to at least contend,” said Lascuña, listed as one of the favorites not only due to his back-to-back victories at Apo and Mt. Malarayat but also because of his three-shot romp over Que in last year’s edition of the annual event, held at Riviera.
The long, bunker-laden Legends layout offers a different kind of challenge for the competing field particularly its last line of defense – the greens, which are expected to be at their meanest in the final round of the event put up by Aboitiz Equity Ventures and co-organized by ADT and Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
“I may be on some kind of a roll, winning the last two tournaments. But for sure, it will be anybody’s race,” said Lascuña.
Tabuena is coming in fresh from a vacation after a hectic campaign that netted him victories at Splendido and Rancho Palos Verdes and three runner-up finishes.
Three-time Asian Tour winner Que is back from a recent European Masters campaign and will look to add to his victories in the Manila Masters and Anvaya Cove Invitational.
Minoza also coming off a stint in Japan and has always been at sentimental favorite and contender on the local circuit this season, while Pagunsan is out to redeem himself from a mediocre joint 15th place finish in last week’s ICTSI Classic where he marked his return to local turf after a two-and-a-half year campaign on the Japan PGA.
Looking to steal the show from the top favorites are Elmer Salvador, Orlan Sumcad, Jay Bayron, Ferdie Aunzo, Charles Hong, Cassius Casas, Rufino Bayron, Marvin Dumandan and Mars Pucay.
ADT Order of Merit leader Hsieh Chi-hsien of Chinese Taipei, Casey O’Toole of the US, Malaysia’s Arie Irawan, Australia’s Jake Stirling and Jordan Sherbat, Taiwan’s Chan Shih-chang, Sean Riordan of New Zealand, Japan’s Masaru Takahashi, Davao-based American Micah Shin and Thai Itthipat Buranatanyarat are also seeing action.
Hsieh is tipped to contend owing to his good form this season where he nailed one victory and produced five top 10 finishes.
“My aim is to finish inside Top 10. That is the target that I set for myself in every ADT event,” said Hsieh, who finished sixth in the ADT Sherwood Hills Classic last April.
“It’s good to be leading in the OOM rankings but I won’t give myself any pressure to win or play exceptionally well. I will play with minimal expectations,” said the 24-year-old Hsieh.