MANILA, Philippines - Tony Lascuña will be the marked man but a slew of others will be in hot pursuit of the richest purse staked on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour, guaranteeing a shootout right in today’s start of the P2.5 million ICTSI Wack Wack Championship at Wack Wack’s east course.
Lascuña is all fired-up to wrap up the Order of Merit crown after zooming to the top of the ranking with two victories and two runner-up finishes on the local circuit midway through the season before moving to the Asian Tour, where he had not as much success.
Still, his joint fifth place finish in last Sunday’s Iskandar Johor Open in Malaysia has put him in good stead heading to the 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. which offers a top purse of P450,000.
“I feel good and confident of my chances at Wack Wack. But the field remains strong and anybody can win,” said Lascuña in Filipino.
But he will be up against an elite field also raring to close out the season on a winning note, including Juvic Pagunsan, Angelo Que, Elmer Salvador, Miguel Tabuena, Jay Bayron and Frankie Miñoza, who overhauled a seven-stroke deficit in the final round to snatch the ICTSI Wack Wack crown last year.
Lascuña drew Miñoza and Tabuena in the featured flight at 11:30 a.m. on No. 1 in an early clash of the fancied bets while Pagunsan will start at 7:40 a.m. on No. 10 with Michael Bibat and amateur Jobim Carlos.
Salvador is paired with Rufino Bayron and Richard Sinfuego at 7:30 a.m., also at the backside, while Que and Jay Bayron will slug it out early with Randy Garalde in the 7:40 a.m. flight on No. 1.
Miñoza, the two-time Philippine Open champion, will also be hard pressed to defend the title with the expected charge from the rest of the starting 81-field that includes the past, current and future stars of Philippine golf.
Pagunsan, for one, is on a mission with the outgoing Asian Tour No. 1 seeking his first title on the local circuit after dominating the tour with four victories last year en route to winning the OOM championship.
But he campaigned on the lucrative Japan PGA Tour this year, his reward for being Asian Tour’s top player where he had two-second place efforts and three fourth-place finishes.
Carl Santos-Ocampo, winner at ICTSI Palos Verdes, primed up for the event as he towed his team of Jaime Dichavez, James Dichavez and Rodel Mangulabnan to victory with a 57 in the pro-am tournament yesterday.
Rey Pagunsan pooled a 58 with teammates Alex Revilla, Allen Macasaet and Winston Mapua for second, nipping the team of Garalde and Ray Jacinto, Richard Lim and Oliver Gan in the countback.
Like Pagunsan, Que is also looking for a first-ever victory on the ICTSI-sponsored circuit in a long, long while and his joint fifth place finish with Lascuña in Malaysia last week also made him a chief contender for the crown.
Salvador, the 2009 OOM winner, is also going flat out to reclaim the crown although he needs no less than a victory and hope that Lascuña won’t finish higher than No. 5.
But the winner on Saturday could also come from the lesser-fancied group with young turks and leg winners Charles Hong and Santos-Ocampo, Rufino Bayron, Mhark Fernando and Jhonnel Ababa out to spring a surprise or two and turn the title chase wide open.
Other backers of the event 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.