ELMER Salvador looks to finally finish on top after runner-up finishes in the last three legs as the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour goes to Cebu Country Club for the Aboitiz Invitational beginning Wednesday.
The Davaoeño shotmaker won last year’s event but other top local players and foreign bets are looking to steal the spotlight in the $65,000 event serving as the eighth leg of the Asian Development Tour, a feeder circuit to the Asian Tour.
“There are just too many talented players in the field but the key here will be driving and putting. You have to hit it straight and should be able to set up good birdie chances under preferred lies,” said Salvador during Tuesday’s pro-am where he shot five birdies against a bogey.
Rains the last few days have rendered the par-72 layout soggy, forcing the organizing Asian Development Tour to apply the winter rules.
“The nice thing about winter rules is that it would allow players to score low. It would be good if we see scores of 66s or 67s instead of 73s and 74s. Then if the weather improves in the last two days, then it will become doubly interesting,” said CCC golf manager Jeric Hechanova.
Salvador, who placed second at Rancho Palos Verdes, Del Monte and Pueblo de Oro the last three weeks, also said it could boil down to who could hit it straight on the narrow fairways and set up birdie opportunities, especially on reachable par-5s.
“The greens are receptive and I expect low scores at least in the first two days but I hope to finally strike this week after a series of second place finishes on the local circuit,” said Salvador.
The 2009 ICTSI PGT Order of Merit champion is set to tee off at 7:50 a.m. with former ADT leg champion Peter Richardson of England and Wolmer Murillo of Venezuela on No. 10.
Focus will also be on ADT two-leg winner James Bowen and Filipino aces Jay Bayron and Angelo Que at 12:05 p.m. on No. 1.
Bowen is coming off a two-stroke victory in last week’s Jakarta Masters, his second on the ADT after winning the Harvard Masters in Malaysia last February.
Also seeing action in the event sponsored by Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. and backed by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. are Mitsuhiko Hashizume of Japan, who topped the Langkawi Masters in Malaysia last April, Johor Masters champion Grant Jackson of England and former titlists Brian Locke of the US, Dutch Guido Van der Valk and Richardson.
Bayron is also raring to reclaim the crown he won back-to-back in 2010-11 while Que looks to display the form that netted him the Orchard Championship crown last May.
“I expect a run of under-par scores so it’s going to be interesting,” said Que, thrice a winner on the Asian Tour who is eyeing his first championship on the ADT.
Reigning PGT Order of Merit champion Tony Lascuna and fellow Asian Tour campaigners Mars Pucay and Miguel Tabuena, Marvin Dumandan, Rey Pagunsan, Cassius Casas, and young turks Carl Santos-Ocampo and local bet Charles Hong are the other favorites in the tournament also backed by Nike Golf, Srixon, Custom Clubmakers, Pacsports, Cleveland Golf, Callaway, Ping, Mizuno, Empire Golf and Sports Shop, FootJoy, Titleist, Sharp and BMW.
“This tournament is very special to me since I grew up here, I learned to play golf in this course and most probably, this will be the last time I will play in this course under its present conditions so I might make this opportunity,” said Hong.