MANILA, Philippines -- A mad scramble for early control looms as The Country Club Invitational fires off at the TCC in Santa Rosa, Laguna.
Four aces are seeking strong starts to fuel their respective drives for a second crown, while 26 others all have a chance at the most coveted championship on the Philippine Golf Tour calendar.
Dan Cruz took the last spot in the elite cast after three-time champion Juvic Pagunsan failed to show up in yesterday’s pro-am tournament and withdrew from the P6 million championship. Pagunsan's absence leaves the title chase wide open among defending champion Guido Van der Valk, 2004 winner Tony Lascuna and Frankie Miñoza and Micah Shin, who reigned in 2013 and 2018, respectively.
The rest of the field is as power-packed as ever, with Clyde Montilla, Michael Bibat and Zanieboy Gialon raring to get going along with multi-titled Jhonnel Ababa and Jay Bayron.
Van der Valk, Mondilla and Bibat get to test each other’s strength in the 8:20 a.m. flight on No. 1 with Lascuña, Miñoza and Ira Alido anchoring the 10 three-man grouping at 8:30 a.m.
Lloyd Go spearheads the charge of the young guns, with the 28-year-old shotmaker due to a big finish after a near-breakthrough at PGT Eagle Ridge last year. The Cebuano ace drew Shin and Cruz in the 8:10 a.m. group behind the threesome of Gialon, Ababa and Sean Ramos.
Also eager to join the elite circle of winners in the event are Rupert Zaragosa, Enrico Gallardo, Reymon Jaraula, Joenard Rates, Rico Depilo, Orlan Sumcad, Jerson Balasabas, Gerald Rosales, Dino Villanueva, Anthony Fernando, Marvin Dumandan, Fidel Concepcion, Albin Engino, Richard Sinfuego, Art Arbole, Mars Pucay, Paul Echavez and Bayron.
One-shot victories have marked the last three editions of the TCC.
Tom Kim, who is now campaigning in the PGA Tour, edged Keanu Jahns in 2019, while Shin thwarted Miguel Tabuena in 2018.
Tabuena outlasted Pagunsan in a wild finish in 2017 and a similar conclusion is expected in this week's event, which offers a record P2-M purse.