Premium will be on accuracy as the compact 65-player field tackles the rolling par-72 Royal Northwoods layout in pursuit of glory sans the big guns in the P1.5 million-ICTSI Royal Northwoods Championship which gets going today in San Rafael, Bulacan.
Four-leg winner and current ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit leader Tony Lascuña, No. 2 Elmer Salvador and No. 3 Miguel Tabuena are busy campaigning on the Asian Tour along with Angelo Que, Jay Bayron and Cassius Casas, leaving the fight for the top P270,000 purse in the four-day championship wide open.
“This is going to be tight battle and we are always excited to slug it out every time the big guns are out competing abroad,” said Dumandan, who also stressed the need to play consistently in all four days to contend for the crown.
The long hitters will still have the edge, particularly on the par-5s, but the field will have to work their way around the bunkers that littered the fairways and the greens of the Graham Marsh-designed layout especially in the presence of the wind.
“One has to shoot under-par in all four days to get a crack at the crown since there are many strong players around coming off a series of tournaments,” added Dumandan, who Ferdie Aunzo and veteran Robert Pactolerin in the 8 a.m. flight on No. 1.
Benjie Magada, joint third at ICTSI Manila Masters, underscored his readiness to vie for the crown as he led his team composed of amateurs Nestor Sevilla, Nico Sevilla and Rodel Mangulabnan to victory in yesterday’s pro-am with a 14-under 130 total, beating Ababa, Alex Ryu, Min Ivan and Ahn Yass (133) by three.
Rey Pagunsan, along with partners Nel Madrid, Edgardo Santos and Elmer Magnate, also assembled a 133 but lost to Ababa’s team in the countback for runner-up honors in the 18-hole event backed by Nike Golf, Pacsports Phils. Inc., Srixon, Callaway, Mizuno, Empire Golf, Footjoy, Titleist, Custom Clubmakers, Sharp and KZG.
ICTSI Orchard leg champion Rufino Bayron and recent Asean PGA Tour winner Jhonnel Ababa are paired with unfancied Rolando Marabe in the 7:40 a.m. group, also on the first hole, while ICTSI Sherwood Hills Classic winner Charles Hong hopes to start out strong in the 7:30 a.m. flight with Mhark Fernando and the power-hitting Orlan Sumcad.
Jun Rates, who surprised a star-studded field to top the ICTSI John Hay leg of the circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc., drew Jun Bernis and Dante Becierra in the 8:10 a.m. group on No. 10 while Dutch Guido Van der Valk will tee off at 8:30 a.m. on No. 1 in the company of Micah Shin and Richard Abaring.
The event is making its return to the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. after a two-year absence with Aunzo and Dumandan hoping to recall the form that netted them the crowns in 2009 and 2010, respectively.