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Top gun Miguel Tabuena gets an early test of will as he draws two-time Asian Tour winner Thaworn Wiratchant and reigning champion Lin Wen-tang of Taiwan while three-time Asian Tour titlist Angelo Que joins Aussie Scott Barr and Korean Mo Joong-kyung in a late flight at the start of the rich Solaire Open at The Country Club Thursday.

Reigning back-to-back ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit champion Tony Lascuña kicks off his bid against American David Lipsky and Thai ace Chawalit Plaphol while Cassius Casas, who reigned at the tough TCC layout last month, is paired with Thai veteran Prayad Marksaeng and Taiwanese Lu Wei-chih in the other featured flight of the event serving as the second leg of this year’s Asian Tour.

SOLAIRE PRESSCON
Solaire Resorts and Casino president and COO Thomas Arasi (left) poses with Asian Tour chair Kyi Hla Han (right) and the top players in the $300,000 Solaire Open during the launch of the $300,000 event at Solaire Resorts and Casino yesterday. They are (from second from left) Miguel Tabuena, Frankie Miñoza, defending champion Lin Wen-tang of Chinese Taipei, Berry Henson of the US and Angelo Que.

Tabuena, seeking to nail the big one in a young, promising career, hopes to come out strong against Wiratchant and Lin in the 7:20 a.m. flight on No. 10 while Que, Barr and Mo will tee off at No. 1 at 12:05 p.m. when condition is expected to get tougher and wilder.

The event, sponsored by Solaire Resorts and Casino and backed by DMCI Homes, BDO, PLDT and Meralco, was launched in elaborate rites at the Solaire Casino’s Eclipse yesterday with the leading players bracing for a four-day battle of wits and character at the wind-raked par-70 layout which could favor the long-hitters.

“It won’t be an easy week because the top players from Asia are here. The course is very challenging as well so I will do my best. Hopefully my putts drop and that will give me a chance to be in contention,” said the 19-year-old Tabuena.

“You always have pressure when you are playing at home. You are expected to do well so I hope a Filipino will come out on top,” he added.

“I’m feeling a bit scared and happy because I’m defending my title. In the last month or so, I’ve been practicing on hitting low ball flights. Every day I hit about a 1,000 golf balls so that’s why I think I have a bit of a chance this week,” said Lin.

“I didn’t expect it to be so windy here. It is very windy in my country so a young golfer wanted to learn how to hit low ball flights. I taught him how and now I will have to use it to my advantage,” he added.

“There are a lot of top players this week so anybody can win. I’m a straight hitter so I prefer narrow courses. This golf course is quite wide open so it will be a challenge for me to compete against the long hitters,” said the 39-year-old Lin.

A confident and determined Que will seek a fourth Asian Tour title, his first since 2010, at a venue where he has won three local titles. The bubbly Filipino is one of the hot favorites to lift the title this week and the trophy will be the perfect gift for his second child, who is due in May.

“I’ve been working with my coach for the past month and I really want this. Hopefully the golfing gods will give it to me. I’ve worked hard for this week so hopefully everything will come my way,” said Que, who posted a career best 13th on the 2013 Order of Merit.

“I’m actually playing better compared to when I won on the Asian Tour. I’m more consistent now. The Asian Tour is getting stronger and the players are getting better. The old guys are still good and the young ones are hungry. All I need is a little bit more luck to win,” he said.

Henson, who will be targeting for a second Asian Tour victory in the Philippines, believes that the long hitters will have an extra advantage this week.

“The course is a bombers’ paradise so it fits my game. It will be very windy and the greens are tricky. Whoever bombs it the furthest and holes the most putts will win this week. I feel that I have a chance,” said Henson.

Lascuña, meanwhile, will put his local knowledge at The Country Club to good use as he continues the hunt for a first Asian Tour title after enjoying some measure of success on the region’s premier Tour since 2007.

“It is a nice golf course. I like this course a lot. It can be very challenging here if the wind picks up but I’m feeling confident. I’m going to take it easy and hopefully I will be in contention on Sunday,” said Lascuña.

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