Philippine Open champion Clyde Mondilla gets the rare chance to showcase his wares against idol and fellow Del Monte ace Frankie Miñoza in one of the key matches ushering in the 15th The Country Club Invitational today (Tuesday, April 23) at the dreaded TCC layout in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
Defending champion Korean-American Micah Shin slugs it out with local top guns Elmer Salvador and Jhonnel Ababa; reigning Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit titlist Jobim Carlos takes on multi-titled and former winner Tony Lascuña and American Lexus Keoninh; and former Asia’s No. 1 Juvic Pagunsan clashes with Dutch Guido Van der Valk and Albin Engino in the other featured face-offs in the first two days of the 72-hole championship kicking off the PGT’s milestone 10th season.
Redemption will be Pagunsan’s battle cry this week after the smooth-swinging shotmaker missed the cut in the Phl Open following a seven-shot romp at PGT Asia Riviera. He also seeks to bounce back from a joint 22nd place effort with Mondilla at Luisita.
Pagunsan and Angelo Que actually boast of three victories each here and the lure of becoming the first player to win a record fourth crown should also motivate the veteran campaigners in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Que launches his drive for that historic feat at 8:40 a.m. with young Korean Kim Joo Hyung and Macedonia’s Peter Stojanovski even as Phl Masters champion Jerson Balasabas tangles with Mhark Fernando and American Pete Vilairatana at 7:30 a.m. and veteran Jay Bayron mixes it up with Zanieboy Gialon and Anthony Fernando in the next group.
Only the top 30 players in the 2018 PGT OOM ranking are competing in the P5 million event, thus making it an elite championship that has long been ranked alongside the Phl Open for its prestige, prize money and stellar cast.
And the well-kept Tom Weiskoph-designed layout provides the fitting venue for these select players given its length, hazards, sleek putting surface and the unpredictable wind that could alter the character of each hole in an instant.
The field is toughened up by the presence of seven foreign aces, including Vilairatana, who took over the spot of Miguel Tabuena, the 2017 winner here but who has been out of tournament play with a back injury.
Mondilla, who reigned at TCC with a two-over total to snare the Solaire Phl Open crown three weeks ago, hopes to recall his fierce form and at the same time learn more from the veteran Miñoza with James Ryan Lam completing the group teeing off at 8 a.m.
Shin, who upended Tabuena by one last year to become the first non-Filipino winner of the event put up by ICTSI chairman Ricky Razon in 2003 to honor the memory of his father and ICTSI founder Don Pocholo, sees a tough start against Salvador and Ababa in their 8:50 a.m. duel, his confidence boosted by a joint third place finish in last week’s ICTSI Luisita Championship, the first leg of the PGT Asia third season.
Carlos, on the other hand, hopes to come out and play injury-free after hurting his hand in the Phl Open that forced him to withdraw after the opening round. He did play at Luisita but didn’t fare any better and missed the cut although he remains upbeat of his chances in his 8:30 a.m. showdown with Lascuña and Keoninh.
Completing the 10-flight sked are Aussie Tim Stewart, Arnold Villacencio and Reymon Jaraula at 8:10 a.m., Justin Quiban, Nilo Salahog and Rene Menor at 8:20 p.m., and Joenard Rates, Michael Bibat and Keanu Jahns at 9 a.m.