THE battle for the top spot on Order of Merit intensifies as the Philippine Golf Tour holds its penultimate tournament, the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Open starting on Wednesday at Luisita Golf and Country Club.
Tony Lascuña drew with Clyde Mondilla in an early showdown of title contenders, while Jay Bayron starts with young pro Jobim Carlos and Jhonnel Ababa.
“It’s going to be an early duel but it’s a good draw. At least we’ll be able to gauge our respective Order of Merit chances early,” said Lascuña, top earner for three seasons from 2012.
With P2,725,948 in earnings on the strength of four tournament wins, Lascuña leads by P292,920 from Bayron and P328,694 up on Mondilla. This week’s P2 million tournament offers a top prize of P450,000.
“This serves as a make-or-break tournament for our respective bids,” said Lascuña, who also hopes to duplicate his victory here last April when he bested Korean Park Jun Hyeok by four in the ICTSI Luisita Championship.
Joining Lascuña and Mondilla in the early flight on No. 10 is John Michael O’Toole of the US, one of the five Asian Development Tour campaigners invited to the 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Bayron starts on No. 1 looking to score his third win of the season.
Orlan Sumcad, winless but is running fifth on the money list with earnings of P976,058 and Dutchman Guido Van der Valk at P873,822 are looking to move up the table.
Also playing are Josh Salah and Nick Sherwood of the US along with Peter Stojanovski of Australia, and Toru Nakajima of Japan.
Sumcad starts on the back nine with Gerald Rosales and Efren Robles Jr., while Van der Valk is grouped with Salvador and Australia’s Frederick Park.
Gialon has been grouped with Paul Echavez and Ramil Bisera for the start of the tournament backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp, Champion, Ping and Yamaha.
The season ends with the ICTSI Tournament Players Championship set Sept. 21 to 24 at Wack Wack.