THE Asian Tour is down to one final tournament and the top golfers battle it out for the Philippine Open title and spots in the Order of Merit to earn a full Asian Tour card for 2016.
Three Filipinos are inside the safety zone but Miguel Tabuena (44th), Angelo Que (52nd) and Tony Lascuña (56th) will also be going all-out not only to improve their respective ranking but regain the championship for the Filipinos as the tournament fires off on Thursday at the Luisita Golf and Country Club in Tarlac.
Among the players fighting to earn cards are Thai Chinnarat Phadungsil, young Phachara Khongwatmai, also of Thailand, Scott Barr of Australia, Japanese Akinori Tani, Sam Cyr of the US and Korean Giwhan Kim.
Que last won the Open, as an Asian Tour event, in 2008 at Wack Wack, while Elmer Salvador and Artemio Murakami ruling the next two editions when it was an all-Filipino affair and out of the Asian Tour calendar.
American Berry Henson nipped Jay Bayron to snare the 2011 crown, Singapore’s Mardan Mamat dominated the field the next year and Marcus Both winning by two last year. There was no Philippine Open in 2013.
Two Asian Tour money list winners, including Japan-based Filipino Juvic Pagunsan, and no fewer than 15 Tour winners will slug it out for top honors in the season-ending US$300,000 event, Asia’s oldest national Open which used to be the kickoff leg of the Asian Tour.
Six players in the Top 20 of the current Asian Tour money list are also in the 132-man elite field while Jeunghun Wang of Korea, who will represent Team Asia in next year’s EurAsia Cup, is also seeing action.
“I think this is our best chance to reclaim the crown. But we have to take advantage of our local knowledge of the layout with premium on putting since the local can match the foreign aces’ power,” added Lascuña, one of the pros seeing action in today’s pro-am tournament along with the amateurs and guest players from the event’s chief backers, including ICTSI, MVP Sports Foundation, Smart, PLDT, Metro Pacific, Amon Trading, Central Azucarera de Tarlac and Ayala Land, Inc.
The other former Asian Tour money list topnotcher seeing action in the 72-hole championship backed by hole sponsors San Miguel Corp., Suntrust Properties, Sta. Lucia is Thai Thaworn Wiratchant.
Other local bets tipped to contend for the crown are Jay Bayron, Elmer Salvador, Cassius Casas, Rufino Bayron and Charles Hong.