THE P1 million ICTSI Cangolf Invitational gets going Wednesday with Artemio Murakami going for a repeat at Canlubang's north course, and Frankie Miñoza and Jay Bayron seeking a follow-up to their recent victories abroad.
With leg winners Mhark Fernando, Carl Santos-Ocampo, Charles Hong, Zanie Boy Gialon, and Marvin Dumandan also going all out for another crown, the battle for top honors is expected to be fierce in the 54-hole event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Murakami shot a record 64 in the first round then went on to post an eight-shot romp last year, but the former national champion and Asian Tour campaigner went on a slump this season, falling to as low as 50th in the Order of Merit ranking with so-so finishes.
Heading to the penultimate leg of the 15-stage circuit sponsored by ICTSI, however, Murakami is upbeat about his chances, confident of re-displaying the form that netted him a runaway triumph last year.
But he will be facing a field raring to fuel their respective title bids, with Miñoza coming off a big win in the Japan Seniors Open and Bayron topping the PGM-Eastwood Valley Masters in Malaysia two weeks ago, his second on the Asian Development Tour this year that gave him the Order of Merit lead.
Focus will also be on younger players with Palos Verdes winner Santos-Ocampo, Pueblo de Oro leg champion Hong, and Negros Occidental winner Gialon tipped to figure prominently in the battle for the top prize of P200,000.
Miñoza has been drawn to play with long-time rival Robert Pactolerin on No. 1 and Jesse Saragoza, while Bayron is teeing off with Michael Bibat and last year’s three-leg winner and ICTSI PGT top player Jhonnel Ababa.
An early shootout is also expected in the early morning flight featuring Fernando, Dumandan and the long-hitting Rey Pagunsan, while Murakami is grouped with James Lam and Gary Sales.
Wack Wack will host the final leg for the second straight year with a total prize pot of P2.5 million up for grabs in the event set Dec.19-22.