Sta. Rosa, Laguna—A power-packed cast headed by Asia’s former No. 1, a slew of aces from Thailand, Australia, the US and 10 other countries, and a crack local crew sets out for what promises to be a slam-bang start in the Solaire Philippine Open beginning tomorrow (Wednesday, April 3) at The Country Club here.
Juvic Pagunsan, who clinched the top ranking in the region with a sterling campaign in 2011, is brimming with confidence coming into the $500,000 event sponsored by Solaire Resort & Casino, his shot at the crown missing in his vast trophy cabinet boosted by his runaway victory in last week’s Philippine Golf Tour Asia’s ICTSI Riviera Challenge.
“I like my chances coming off a win in Riviera,” said Pagunsan, who drew an explosive pairing with Thai Poom Saksakin and Malaysian Nicholas Fung at 12:20 p.m. on No. 1 when weather and wind conditions are expected to get tougher.
Pagunsan actually reigned here three times in the TCC Invitational but didn’t see action in the Open in recent past owing to his campaign in the Japan PGA Tour.
But back in the hunt for the elusive crown, the smooth-swinging Filipino shotmaker is looking forward to emerging on top again on a course that could play longer than its 7735-yardage with the buffeting winds expected to blow from various directions in all four rounds.
Two local top guns also gun not only for a breakthrough Open victory but also for redemption after missing the cut at Riviera with reigning PGT Order of Merit champion Jobim Carlos slugging it out with PGT Asia Luisita Championship winner David Gleeson of Australia and Taiwanese Chiu Han-Ting in a flight ahead of Pagunsan and company.
Clyde Mondilla, the country’s top player in 2017 who also failed to advance in the penultimate leg of the PGTA 2018-19 second season, drew an earlier start at 8 a.m. but against a pair of tough rivals in Aussie Simon Vitakangas and Thai veteran Wisut Artjanawat.
The duel in the 7:20 a.m. flight is also expected to be fierce with three-time PGTA winner Jhonnel Ababa facing off with Aboitiz Invitational titlist Damien Jordan of Australia and Thai Prom Meesawat, who lost the Open crown to Miguel Tabuena in a playoff last year.
Tabuena, however, withdrew from defending the crown due to back injury he sustained during the pro-am of the Maybank Championship in Malaysia three weeks ago.
Despite his absence, the same wild finish is seen on Saturday with the likes of former champion Angelo Que, also a three-time winner at TCC Invitational, PGT leg winner Nicolas Paez, Sam Gillis and Brett Munson of the US, Thais Chawalit Plaphol and Puk Pradittan, Spain’s Marcos Pastor and Englishmen Grant Jackson and Joshua Grenville-Wood all primed up for the event sanctioned by the National Golf Association of the Philippines and backed by ICTSI, PLDT Enterprise, Meralco, BDO and PGT Asia official apparel Pin High.
Korean-American Micah Shin, who became the first non-Filipino to win the TCC Invitational last year, and compatriot and PGT leg winner Kim Joo Hyung are also expected to figure in the title race as spearheads of the young guns out to steal the thunder from the veterans in Asia’s oldest National Open organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.