Juvic Pagunsan hopes to snap a two-tournament slump while Angelo Que tries to rebound from a missed cut abroad as they resume their chase for a record fourth crown in The Country Club Invitational which unwraps tomorrow (April 23, Tuesday) in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
The smooth-swinging Pagunsan lost momentum after dominating the PGT (Philippine Golf Tour) Asia Riviera leg last month, missing the cut in the Solaire Philippine Open the following week and ending up tied at 22nd in the ICTSI Luisita Championship last weekend.
The power-hitting Que, on the other hand, finished joint third in the Phl Open but failed to advance in the Token Homemate Cup of the Japan PGA Tour last Friday, his abbreviated stint giving him more time to figure out his game in time for the TCC Invitational also known as the Don Pocholo Razon Memorial Cup.
Pagunsan and Que share the most number of titles at three apiece in what has long been regarded as one of the country’s major championships for its prize fund (P5 million) and stellar cast (featuring the top 30 of the 2018 PGT Order of Merit ranking) with the demanding Tom Weiskoph-designed layout providing a fitting challenge for the best of the best.
But the rest are also coming into the event brimming with confidence and armed with games honed by stints in the last two big-time tournaments, guaranteeing four days of battle of shotmaking, iron play, short game, putting and wits at one of the country’s toughest courses.
Micah Shin, for one, sets out for a rare back-to-back feat after the young Korean-American stunned fancied and 2017 champion Miguel Tabuena in last year’s finale to become the first non-Filipino winner of the event put up by ICTSI chairman Ricky Razon to honor the memory of his father and ICTSI founder Don Pocholo.
Former champions Tony Lascuña and Frankie Miñoza are also in the fold with the former out to end a long title spell and duplicate his romp in 2004 and the latter hoping to re-display the vintage form he dished out in ruling the event in 2013.
Clyde Mondilla and Jobim Carlos also aim for a big finish in the 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. with the former seeking to make it two-in-row at TCC after topping the Phl Open and the latter hoping to bounce back from so-so stints due to hand injury.
Though Tabuena is out to heal a back injury, the field remains as talent-laden as ever with PGT leg winners Jhonnel Ababa, Korean Kim Joo Hyung, Dutch Guido Van der Valk, Jerson Balasabas, Jay Bayron, Aussie Tim Stewart, Justin Quiban, Joenard Rates, Elmer Salvador, James Ryan Lam and Albin Engino along with American Lexus Keoninh, Peter Stojanovski of Macedonia, Michael Bibat, Reymon Jaraula, Zanieboy Gialon, Arnold Villacencio, Nico Salahog, Rene Menor, Keanu Jahns, Mhark Fernando and Anthony Fernando.
Meanwhile, the select field tests the TCC layout one last time in today’s (Monday) novel pro-am where two pros team up with two officials and guests of the event’s chief backers.