JOBIM CARLOS draws Jay Bayron in an early duel of fancied bets while young Korean Kim Joo-hyung slugs it out with a fired-up tandem of Tony Lascuña and Clyde Mondilla at the start of the rich International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) Iloilo Golf Challenge at the Iloilo Golf and Country Club in Santa Barbara, Iloilo, on Wednesday.
Although the par-70, 6053-yard layout appears to be short by the men of the tour’s standards, it remains one challenging course ready to bring out the best or worst from the field, ensuring another tight start and a tighter finish in their battle for top honors in the 72-hole championship put up by ICTSI.
“The course is too short, but you need to be very careful. Playing the course is really tough because troubles are everywhere,” said Manila-based Dutch Guido van der Valk, still in search for a follow-up to his breakthrough win at the Philippine Golf Tour (PGT) Eagle Ridge last March.
He tees off at 8:05 a.m. with Kris Etter and Keanu Jahns on No. 10.
Carlos, the hottest player on the tour today with two victories, two runner-up finishes and two more top 6 efforts in the last six tournaments in the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc., remains the top favorite this week. His amazing surge since posting his first victory at PGT Asia Riviera last June has also put him on top of the Order of Merit (OOM) derby.
He missed nailing his third crown in two months with a playoff loss to Juvic Pagunsan in Negros last weekend.
“Actually I lost because of my mistakes. But I think it will make me a stronger, better player,” said Carlos.
But Bayron will provide the early challenge in their 7:35 a.m. encounter, along with amateur Jason Zaragosa, with the former, winner at PGTA Southwoods last June, also out to redeem himself from a joint 19th finish at Negros last week which he co-led in the first round.
“I just have to stay focused and be able to make the right decisions,” said Bayron.
Kim, 16, also seeks to atone for his final round foldup at Negros where he succumbed to pressure while playing alongside Carlos and Juvic Pagunsan in the final round, together with Mondilla, the reigning PGT OOM winner who finally hit his stride in Binitin with a strong joint fourth effort but faltered in Negros and struggled to finish tied for 30th.
Jhonnel Ababa and fellow Davaoeño Elmer Salvador face off with Peter Stojanovski of Macedonia, while Justin Quiban will have Rene Menor and Mars Pucay as rivals in what promises to be a frenetic start to the P3-million event serving as the third-to-last tournament on this year’s Philippine Golf Tour calendar.
Salvador underscored his readiness for a shot at the crown by ruling the pro-am tournament yesterday, teaming up with Peewee Aguirre, Piage Aguirre and Telius Ha to pool a 17-under 53, edging reigning Phl Masters champion Jerson Balasabas, along with Allan Celino, Degs Aldeguer and Tony Rosado by one.
Albin Engino, with Oskie Arenas, Dodo Chua and Kozono Takayuki, placed third with 55.
Quiban, who bucked the tight Binitin layout with precision driving to reign in Bacolod two weeks ago, hinted at taking a different approach this time, aware of the terrors waiting to pounce on every player’s miscue or lapses in decision.
“Premium will still be on precision and consistency. But you have to be very careful on each hole, you just can’t attack it the way I did in Binitin,” said Quiban.
Lascuña, seeking to snap a long title spell in the circuit he used to dominate, is wary of the layout’s unreceptive greens, stressing the need for his putting to click in all four days.
“You have to be very steady here. Every hole is a challenge. My long and short game are okay, but I need my putts to sink to get a crack at the championship,” said Lascuña, who has never tasted victory since winning at Forest Hills in June last year.