Premium will be on accuracy as the men of the tour tackle the short but tight Southlinks layout in what looms to be a battle of iron play in the P3.5 million ICTSI Tournament Players’ Championship which unwraps Tuesday in Las Piñas.
The fancied bets hint at keeping their drivers in their respective bags and make their irons busy through all four days of the championship at the 7,002-yard course, a relatively short layout by the pros’ standards but tipped to bring out the best – or the worst – from the 78-player starting field with its tight fairways and unpredictable putting surface, especially if the wind come into play.
“The course is short but has narrow fairways so we’ll be using just a 3-iron or 3-wood off the mound,” said Clyde Mondilla, chasing a second straight victory after beating Cassius Casas and three others for his breakthrough win in Canlubang last month.
Casas said emphasis will be on precision and course management while stressing the need to come up with a strong start for the momentum and confidence in what promises to be a wide-open battle for the top P650,000 purse in the final leg of the 16-stage circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
“It’s so risky to use the driver here but it requires accuracy off an iron tee-shot to be able to set up birdie opportunities,” said Casas, raring to redeem himself from his Cangolf setback and close out the season the way he opened it – with a win – after topping the rich The Country Club Invitational last February.
“This is an exciting tournament. The course, although shorter by our standard, remains tough with unreceptive greens,” said Zanie Boy Gialon, who snapped a two-year title spell with a victory in the rain-shortened ICTSI Royal Northwoods last September.
But while majority would go for irons and 5- or 3-wood off the tee, Arnold Villacencio said he’d still be relying on his trusted driver on some holes, especially on the par-5s, as he launches his bid for a second win in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
“The course is short but I’ll still use my driver when needed,” said Villacencio, exuding confidence of nailing a second win after nipping Miguel Tabuena in sudden death to reign at ICTSI Summit last October. “I like my chances here and it would be great if I win again as I would be spending the holidays in Davao and share my blessings with my family.”
Like Casas, Mondilla and Gialon also hope to get going early in the company of ICTSI John Hay leg winner Jun Rates in the 8 a.m. flight on No. 1 while Casas drew Mars Pucay and Jhonnel Ababa in the 8:05 a.m. group on No. 10.
Villacencio will tee off two flights later at 8:25 a.m., also at the back, with Gerald Rosales and the long-hitting Orlan Sumcad while Rufino Bayron, winner of the ADT ICTSI Orchard Championship last June, kicks off his bid at 8:20 a.m. on No. 1 with Benjie Magada and title-hungry Marvin Dumandan.
Also due for a big win in the event, backed by Nike Golf, Pacsports Phils. Inc., Srixon, Callaway, Mizuno, Empire Golf, Footjoy, Titleist, Custom Clubmakers, Sharp, KZG and Rudy Project, are Ferdie Aunzo, Jessie Balasabas, Dante Becierra, Michael Bibat, Mhark Fernando, Anthony Fernando, Micah Shin, Edward Reyes, Richard Sinfuego, Jun Bernis, Christopher delos Santos and Dutch Guido Van der Valk.