MANILA, Philippines - The P1 million ICTSI Cangolf Invitational gets going today with Artemio Murakami going for a repeat at Cangolf’s north course and Frankie Miñoza and Jay Bayron seeking a follow-up to their recent victories abroad.
With leg winners Mhark Fernando, Carl Santos-Ocampo, Charles Hong, Zanie Boy Gialon and Marvin Dumandan also going all out for another crown, the battle for top honors is expected to be fierce in the 54-hole event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Murakami shot a record 64 in the first round then went on to post an eight-shot romp last year but the former national champion and Asian Tour campaigner went on a slump this season, falling to as low as 50th in the Order of Merit ranking with so-so finishes.
Heading to the penultimate leg of the 15-stage circuit sponsored by ICTSI, however, Murakami is upbeat of his chances, confident of re-displaying the form that netted him a runaway triumph last year.
But he will be facing a field raring to fuel their respective title bids with Miñoza coming off a big win in the Japan Seniors Open and Bayron topping the PGM-Eastwood Valley Masters in Malaysia two weeks ago, his second on the Asian Development Tour this year that gave him the ADT OOM lead and a card in next year’s Asian Tour.
Focus will also be on the young turks with Santos-Ocampo, winner at Palos Verdes, Hong, who ruled the Pueblo de Oro leg, and Gialon, who beat Tony Lascuña in the playoff in Negros Occidental, tipped to figure prominently in the battle for the top P200,000 purse.
Miñoza, meanwhile, draws long-time rival Robert Pactolerin in the 10:50 a.m. flight on No. 1 with Jesse Saragoza while Bayron is bunched with Michael Bibat and last year’s three-leg winner and ICTSI PGT top player Jhonnel Ababa in the next group.
An early shootout is also expected in the 7:30 a.m. flight on No. 10 among Fernando, Dumandan and the long-hitting Rey Pagunsan while Murakami is paired with James Lam and Gary Sales in the 10:40 a.m. flight on No. 10.
Wack Wack will be the final leg for the second straight year on Dec.19-22 with a total prize pot of P2.5 million up for grabs.
The other backers of the circuit are Empire Golf, Titleist, Footjoy, Callaway, TaylorMade, Mizuno, Srixon, Nike Golf, Custom Clubmakers and Sharp with Balls, Studio 23, Pinoygolfer.com and Inquirer Golf as media partners.