The ICTSI Anvaya Cove Invitational reels off Wednesday at the Anvaya Cove Golf and Sports Club with the stellar field slugging it out on an unfamiliar terrain and under intense summer heat, ensuring a wide-open battle for the top P650,000 purse in Morong, Bataan.
Three foursomes featuring the tour’s big guns highlight the opening round of the P3.5 million championship with reigning three-time Order of Merit winner Tony Lascuña and Eastridge leg champion Angelo Que paired in an early clash of the favorites in the 7:30 a.m. flight that includes Anthony Fernando and former Philippine Open champion Gerald Rosales at the Seaside Nine, the backnine of the posh layout.
Miguel Tabuena, who ruled the kickoff leg of this year’s ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour at Splendido, clashes with three-time Asian Development Tour stage winner and former OOM champion Elmer Salvador, veteran Frankie Miñoza and comebacking pro Tonlits Asistio, also at 7:30 a.m. at the Mountain Nine.
Last year’s leg winners Cassius Casas and Mars Pucay, former OOM winner Jay Bayron and Jhonnel Ababa set out at 7:54 a.m., also at the frontside, all wary of their chances on a course which puts accent on shotmaking and iron play.
“We haven’t played this course but I guess I can still play well because my ball striking has been very good lately,” said Que, who rallied from out of nowhere to finish seventh in the Indonesian Masters of the Asian Tour last month.
But given the course condition and the field’s unfamiliarity with the layout, a host of unheralded but solid players could steal the show from the fancied bets in the fifth leg of this year’s circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
“It will be a question of shotmaking and club selection, especially if the wind come into play at the backnine,” said Casas, who won two titles last year but struggled to salvage joint 26th at Splendido and fought back to finish tied for eighth at Eastridge.
Ferdie Aunzo, seeking an end to a long title spell, served notice of his bid when he ruled Tuesday’s pro-am tournament with amateur partners Ikuko Kito and Eimee Hedeager with an 18-under 54.
Rey Pagunsan, with Renato Tamoro, Joseph Tiu and Andy Nocum, placed second with a 55, nipping Jun Bernis and teammates Danilo Abad, Kid Tinio and Justin Flores in the countback.
Also tipped to contend for the crown in the event sponsored by ICTSI are last year’s leg winners Rufino Bayron, Arnold Villacencio, Zanie Boy Gialon and Joenard Rates along with eight foreign bets, led by Japanese Toru Nakajima, who won the circuit’s closing stage at Wack Wack two years ago.
Lascuña, meanwhile, is putting accent on his putting that has hampered his bid in the early going of the circuit. Although he wound up joint fifth at Splendido and tied for sixth at Eastridge and shared third place at ADT Eagle Ridge, the ace Davaoeño shotmaker hobbled and ended up joint 28th in the Indonesian Masters.
“I’ve been struggling with my (putting) stroke lately but I hope to get the right feel this week. Anvaya’s greens are okay and the course is in tip condition,” said Lascuna.
Others vying in the event, backed by Nike Golf, Srixon, Callaway, Empire Golf, TaylorMade, Custom Clubmakers and Sharp, are Orlan Sumcad, Charles Hong, Jun Bernis, Marvin Dumandan, Dante Becierra, Jerson Balasabas, Elmer Saban, Michael Bibat and Anthony Fernando along with foreign bets Yuta Sudo of Japan, Koreans Anthony Kim, Thomas Kim and Gyuha Park, young Micah Shin of the US, South African Joshua Seale and Dutch Guido Van der Valk.