MANILA, Philippines - Top Filipino pros have personal missions to redeem themselves and reclaim the ICTSI Philippine Open crown last won by Angelo Que in 2008 as the $300,000 event fires off today at Wack Wack’s fabled East Course in Mandaluyong City.
Among the local aces fancied to figure prominently in this sixth leg of the Asian Tour are Tony Lascuña, who placed third here in 2012 and the hottest player on the local circuit, 2007 champion and former Asian Tour No. 1 Frankie Minoza, veteran campaigners Elmer Salvador and 2011 runner-up Jay Bayron and Que.
Also high on the list of contenders in the 72-hole championship sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. and presented by the MVP Sports Foundation and PLDT is Miguel Tabuena.
The 19-year-old Tabuena was hitting balls at varied distances at high noon yesterday, trying to find his rhythm heading to today’s opening round.
“I’m working on my tempo. I hope it pays off,” he told The STAR during a quick break.
Tabuena works hard on and off the course. He had to skip lunch as well as the press conference so he could spend more time at Wack Wack’s driving range.
In 2012, everything almost paid off for Tabuena when he entered the final round of the Philippine Open, also at Wack Wack, just a stroke behind the seasoned Mardan Mamat of Singapore.
But he came out flat and finished tied for 11th. At the Solaire Open last March, he had another clear shot at the title but again lost his grip on the final day.
“I really want to redeem myself,” he said.
And it won’t be easy because there’s a big group of players with even chances to win it all, including Mamat, here to retain the crown he won in 2012.
“I’m hoping to put all the things in place,” said Mamat, who hopes to break par in each round at the dreaded East course.
“I’m always pleased with myself if I play under par every round,” said Mamat, who was joined at the head table by American Berry Henson, Indian Anirban Lahiri and Que.
“The course is in good shape but you have to be patient. And you need to respect some holes,” added the veteran of the Asian Tour.
Henson, winner of the 2011 ICTSI Philippine Open, described the course as “the Augusta of the Philippines” and said patience will be important.
Others worth watching in the four-day championship sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. are Prayad Marksaeng, Arnond Vongvanij and Jazz Janetwattananond of Thailand, Lin Wen-tang of Chinese-Taipei, S.S.P. Chowrasia of India and Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh.
Que said he played the course twice over the last two days but couldn’t say much about his chances of winning the title he bagged in 2008.
“Hindi ko din alam eh (I don’t know either),” he said when asked to evaluate his chances.
At the Solaire Open two months ago, he was one up on the field with one round to play. Then disaster struck when he hit a horrendous 12 on the second hole.
It’s water under the bridge now.
“I’ve won here before. As Mardan said everything needs to come into place. You just need to be patient and hope for the best,” said Que.
The Filipino ace said he’s been losing sleep lately following the birth of his second child.
“I need more practice because I’m a bit out of synch. We have a new baby so there’s the lack in sleep.
But hopefully this week the kids won’t give us a hard time,” he said.
Que said the terrible summer heat could be a factor if you’re not used to it.
“I’m pretty much used to it. Humidity will be a factor if you don’t hydrate,” he said.
Lahiri enters the tournament as a marked man. He is the current leader of the Asian Tour Order of Merit, and winning at Wack Wack is not a far-fetched idea.
“I’ve been on a great run. My confidence level is at the highest. Obviously, my game is going the right direction,” he said.
Lahiri will get married on the 29th of this month.
“It also helps when your personal life if going well,” he said.