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Friday, July 26, 2024

Chase on for Villamor PH Masters crown

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Guido van der Valk

The ICTSI Villamor Philippine Masters reels off today (Wednesday, May 24) with a promise of a wild start and a wilder finish on a deceiving course that puts premium on accuracy and precision off the mound more than length.

While the Villamor Golf Club layout does not feature the terrains, ravines or dog-leg fairways that normally make championship courses, it does offer a tough test given its tight fairways crammed with trees, thick roughs and unpredictable surface as the elite men of the Philippine Golf Tour brace for a fierce duel of ball control, iron play and putting.

“I did some good practice last week and I hope to show a better game than in Luisita,” said Guido van der Valk, the back-to-back The Country Club Invitational champion who posted a rare missed cut stint in the last PGT leg in Tarlac.

“I love the Villamor layout and can’t wait to play. As for the target, the goal is to be in contention to win during the final round,” added the Manila-based Dutchman who yielded to Jerson Balasabas in sudden death when the last PH Masters was held in 2018.

Rupert Zaragosa, the runaway winner in Iloilo last March but who also struggled at Luisita with a 34th place finish, can’t wait to launch his drive for a second PGT win, saying: “I think Villamor suits my game. My game plan is to focus more on my tee shots and hopefully my putting will click this week.”

While the absence of some of the Tour big guns, who are competing overseas, practically opens up the title chase in the P2.5 million championship put up by ICTSI, van der Valk said he doesn’t mind who is in or who isn’t, stressing: “If my game is good, I can win no matter who is in the field. As for if it boosts my title chances, there’s still a lot of good players left in the field so I will have to play my best.”

Truly, the make-up of the field remains as highly-charged as ever with Jhonnel Ababa, Michael Bibat, Reymon Jaraula, Marvin Dumandan, Ferdie Aunzo, Fidel Concepcion, Joenard Rates, Keanu Jahns and Balasabas all geared up for battle along with Jay Bayron, who underscored his readiness to end a long title spell by winning the pro-am tournament last Monday.

“Malaki ang chance dahil wala ang ibang pros, pero kailangan sa Villamor maganda ang driving at patient ka dapat,” said Ababa, who last won at Pradera Verde and Cebu in 2018.

Frankie Miñoza and Robert Pactolerin, who had figured in a number of PH Masters clashes during their prime, provide the vintage flavor to the blue-ribbon event although the former has proved he still got what it takes with strong performances in the first five legs of this year’s circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., including the TCC Invitational where he tied for eighth.

Meanwhile, van der Valk drew Concepcion and Gerald Rosales in the 6:30 a.m. flight on No. 1 with Minoza clashing with Balasabas and Bibat in the next group and Bayron and Zaragosa testing each other’s mettle in the next flight with Rico Depilo.

Jahns, who lost to absentee Tony Lascuña in the inaugural Villamor Match Play Invitational late last year, faces comebacking and former PGT leg winner Toru Nakajima of Japan and Anthony Fernando at 7:40 a.m. with focus also on the young guns eager to get into the scoring act and upstage the seasoned campaigners, including Korean Rho Hyun Ho, Gabriel Manotoc, Jonas Magcalayo, Josh Jorge, Russell Bautista and Elee Bisera.

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