Premium will be on precision and shotmaking as the men of the Philippine Golf Tour Asia tackle the tight, challenging Luisita Golf and Country Club in pursuit of the crown in the $100,000 Central Azucarera de Tarlac Open which gets going today (Wednesday, Oct. 16) in Tarlac.
Streaking Tony Lascuña shoots for a fourth straight championship, James Ryan Lam seeks to defend his maiden crown he won in emphatic fashion last year and the rest of the 129-player strong cast are all-geared up for a crack at the championship in this sixth leg of the third season of the region’s emerging circuit put up by ICTSI.
They include 36 Taiwanese of the PGA of Taiwan making their first foray on the local turf, all eyeing no less than a victory and redemption after absorbing a beating from Lascuña in the last PGTA event in Taiwan last month.
“It’s going to be tough. It’s a different field and the course is tough,” said Lascuña, who rode on that inspiring Taiwan victory and swept the next two PGT events in Apo and South Pacific, both in Davao the last two weeks.
“So, it will be anybody’s game,” he added.
It sure will with the quaint layout to provide a true test of golf given its rugged terrains and rolling fairways that put severe options on accuracy, and unsettling hazards that guard 11 of its greens.
“I don’t really know how I could defend it (crown) but for sure, I’ll do my best. Unlike last year, I’m going to play a conservative game, especially in the first two rounds,” said Lam, who played aggressive in the first two days but changed tactics in the third round to put himself in the mix then closed out with a 67 to beat American Josh Salah by four and end a nine-year wait for a championship.
But the Robert Trent Jones, Sr.-designed layout could also yield low scores to the long hitters provided they complement their power with superb iron play and putting needed on a course where the wind could alter the character of the holes in an instant.
Most, if not all, in the stellar international field, however, are coming in brimming with confidence and in top form following a series of tournaments with Jhonnel Ababa hoping to stretch his record win in the PGTA to five and the likes of reigning Philippine Open champion Clyde Mondilla and former PGTA leg winners Jay Bayron, Joenard Rates and reigning PGT Order of Merit titlist Jobim Carlos out to check and end their respective slumps.
Aussies David Gleeson and Damien Jordan, also both former PGTA leg winners, are also in the fold along with other foreign aces, including recent Aboitiz Invitianal champion Tarik Can of the US, and regular PGT and PGTA campaigners Lexus Keoninh, Brett Munson, George Twyman, Micah Shin, Greg Gonzalez and Charles Lee of the US, Aussie Tim Stewart, and Thais Pachara Sakulyong, Ratchapol Jantavara, Donlaphatchai Niyomchoi and Tawan Phongphun, Dutch Guido Van der Valk and Salah.
Other locals tipped to contend for the $17,500 prize are Ira Alido, Michael Bibat, Keany Jahns, Reymon Jaraula and Justin Quiban, winner of this event in 2017.