JHONNEL Ababa hopes to cash in on his top form as he seeks a second Philippine Golf Tour Asia crown at the Pradera Verde Golf and Country Club starting Wednesday (Jan. 24) against practically the same field he dominated at Eagle Ridge over the weekend.
Ababa banners the elite 87-player field in the $100,000 ICTSI Pradera Verde Classic, brimming with confidence after snapping a three-year title drought with a PGTA record seven-shot victory over Elmer Salvador in the ICTSI Eagle Ridge Invitational at the windy Aoki layout.
“I just hope this is just the start of something big for me,” said Ababa, referring to his victory in the sixth leg of the region’s newest circuit put up by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Still, the former amateur hotshot expects a fierce challenge from the stellar cast, including 29 foreign rivals led by Americans Nicolas Paez and John Michael O’Toole, Thais Pasavee Lertvilai and Tommy Mansuwat and Canadian Lindsey Renolds.
Others tipped to contend for the top $17,500 purse in the 72-hole championship are Singapore’s Choo Tze Huang, Aussies Rick Coleman, David Gleeson and Dane Mcardle, Indonesians Elki Kow and Clement Kurniawan, Macedonian Peter Stojanovski and Dutch Guido Van der Valk.
Meanwhile, torrid scoring is expected at the flat par-72 layout, which is hosting a tournament of this magnitude for the first time, although it could change in the presence of the wind.
“We do expect to score low but if the wind come into play in all four days, it could lead to a wild, unpredictable finish,” said PGTA Wack Wack leg winner Tony Lascuña, who is out to rebound from his joint fourth finish at Eagle Ridge.
Justin Quiban, who dominated the Tarlac stop of the PGTA in the CAT Open last December, is also raring to atone for his wobbly finish last week where he contended in the first two days but faded with closing 77 and 75.
Rene Menor, who outlasted aLertvilai in a PGTA record five-hole playoff at Splendido, likewise vowed to rebound from a missed cut stint at Eagle Ridge, together with Elmer Salvador, who lost steam in the final round that enabled Ababa to run away with the victory.
Meanwhile, a select number of pros test the Mike Singgaran-designed 27-hole layout in tomorrow’s (Tuesday) pro-am tournament where they will be paired with officials and guests of the event’s chief backers, including ICTSI, by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.