TONY Lascuna, the season’s top money earner on the Philippine Golf Tour, and Asian Development Tour Order of Merit leader Pavit Tangkamolprasert of Thailand head the cast in the Aboitiz Invitational starting on Wednesday at Wack Wack Golf and Country Club.
Elmer Salvador, twice winner of the tournament when Cebu Country Club was host, and Jay Bayron, 2010 winner in Cebu, are also among the top home bets.
Although relatively flat, the par-72, 7053-yard Wack Wack East Course remains as tough as ever with its tight fairways.
It will also be a battle of wits with several holes requiring conservative play and patience, including the signature par-3 188-yard No. 8 with a green more than five meters high with six bunkers, long considered as the “make-or-break” hole even for seasoned pros.
“We have been taking care of the East over the past months and have maintained its tough conditions up to this day,” said Sen. JV Ejercito, Wack Wack president.
“At least four holes would require conservative play,” he added, referring to No. 8 and the last three holes.
“The usual long carry is needed but the fairways are tight, the roughs are in medium cut and the greens are difficult but fair.”
Nine of the Top 10 players in ADT Order of Merit are seeing action in the $100,000 event put up by Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc.
Some of the leading players tested the course in Monday’s pro-am while the rest will take their turn on Tuesday.
“It’s going to be tough but the Filipinos have the edge here, given our local knowledge of the course,” said Lascuna, leading the local charge in the absence of Rio Olympics-bound Miguel Tabuena, three-time Asian Tour winner Angelo Que and last year’s Aboitiz champion Juvic Pagunsan.
Also vying for top honors and the $17,500 champion’s prize are ADT Order of Merit No. 2 Johannes Veerman of the US, No. 3 Gavin Green of Australia, No. 4 Itthipat Buranatanyarat and No. 5 Poom Saksansin, both of Thailand.
The Filipinos have ruled the first five editions of the annual event backed by ICTSI and co-organized by ADT and Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Green is eyeing a second winning the ICTSI Manila Southwoods Championship, while Sweden’s Oscar Zetterwall, No. 7 in ADT money list, looks to add to his victory in the ICTSI Sherwood Hills Classic.
Others tipped to contend in the tournament supported by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp and Champion are American Nick Sherwood, Thai Panuwat Muenlek, George Gandranata of Indonesia, John Michael O’Toole and Josh Salah of the US, Chanat Sakulpolphaisan, Rattanon Wanasrichan and Wisut Artjanawat of Thailand, American Blake Snyder and Scot James Byrne.
Also looking to keep the crown at home is veteran Frankie Miñoza, who topped the Negros Occidental Classic and winner at Wack Wack in the Philippine Open 2007.