MANILA, Philippines - With two victories in the first five legs of the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour, Miguel Tabuena sets out as the player to beat when the star-studded ICTSI Manila Southwoods is fired off tomorrow at Southwoods’ Masters course in Carmona, Cavite.
But the 17-year-old whiz kid has opted to downplay his chances in the P2.5 million event, citing the strong field that features the cream of the country’s pro crop and his unfamiliarity with the hazard-laden layout that changes its character in every twirl of the wind.
“This is my first time to play the Masters, I never saw it till the practice round. The course is narrow and the greens are firm. Those are always challenging conditions plus the wind,” said Tabuena, who along with the leading pros will sample the par-72, hazard-laden layout in today’s pro-am tournament of the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
With Juvic Pagunsan, Frankie Miñoza, Angelo Que, Elmer Salvador, Mars Pucay, Jay Bayron and Tony Lascuna leading the 79-player roster, a wide-open battle for the top P450,000 purse is seen in the 72-hole championship, sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc. and one of the five four-day tournaments on the 16-leg ICTSI PGT calendar.
“The field is strong and I don’t want to get ahead of myself as far as my chances are concerned,” said Tabuena, who humbled the field to record his maiden pro win in tough condition at ICTSI Splendido last March. He also ruled the ICTSI Eastridge Classic early this month and is raring to add another this week to further boost his confidence as he primes up for a series of tournaments on the Asian Tour.
“Of course every tournament I play in, I want to win, that is the spirit of a competitor and athlete,” said Tabuena, out to atone for his final round meltdown in the recent Queens Cup in Thailand where he wound up joint 10th after co-sharing the lead in the first three rounds.
Also tipped to contend for the crown are Pagunsan, who rallied to finish joint second in the Queens Cup, Sherwood leg back-to-back winner Salvador, John Hay Invitational champion Marvin Dumandan and Lascuna, who snapped a four-year title drought with a runaway victory at ICTSI Eagle Ridge Invitational last month.
Minoza also hopes to flash vintage form the way he did in ruling the circuit’s final leg at Wack Wack last year while Que, a former three-time Asian Tour winner, the veteran Pucay and former Order of Merit winner Jay Bayron are also due for a big win on the local circuit.
Others fancied to spring a surprise are Jhonnel Ababa, a three-leg winner last year, Mhark Fernando, Jun Bernis, Ferdie Aunzo, Rufino Bayron, Elmer Saban, Carl Santos-Ocampo, Gerald Rosales or Artemio Murakami.
The other backers of the event are Sharp, Nike Golf, Callaway, Titleist, Srixon, Custom Clubmakers, Mizuno and Foot Joy with support from Event Captain, Inc., Omnisource Inti’l. TPGAP and media partners Balls, A Round of Golf, Inquirer Golf, Studio 23, Pinoygolfer.com and Impact.