Juvic Pagunsan seeks to set another Philippine Golf Tour record as he shoots for a fifth victory against a field toughened up by a number of foreign aces when the P2.5 million ICTSI Del Monte Championship is fired off today (Wednesday) at Del Monte Golf Club in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon.
Pagunsan became the first player to rack up four straight wins by dominating the Bacolod, Negros, Iloilo and Riviera stops of the 10th season of the country’s premier circuit before returning to his base in Japan PGA Tour where he posted a runner-up finish and a ninth-place effort in Hokkaido and Fukuoka, respectively, last month.
That should make him the player to beat in the 72-hole championship sponsored by ICTSI with the smooth-swinging Asia’s former No. 1 looking for a record fifth crown against practically the same field he bested in the Visayan swing of the circuit and at Riviera in harsh conditions.
Tony Lascuña also won four legs to reign as PGT Order of Merit champion in 2016 but Pagunsan made it a record feat by winning four straight with another championship looming large given his form, confidence and skills that continued to be the envy of the other pros aiming to make it big someday.
They include Reymon Jaraula, who had looked forward to wearing the hunted tag after nipping the veteran Lascuña on the second playoff hole to nail his maiden victory at Pueblo de Oro last weekend until Pagunsan confirmed his entry into the seventh leg of the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Pagunsan is expected to come up with a strong start after drawing an early tee time with Elmer Salvador and Rufino Bayron at 7:20 a.m. on the first hole while Jaraula to start six flights behind at 8:30 a.m. in the company of Richard Sinfuego and Rene Menor.w
But a host of others are also raring to go and foil the fancied Negrense, including the homegrown bets ready to cash in on their familiarity with the tight, tree-lined mountaintop layout and fuel their respective title drive in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.
Proud Del Monte son Clyde Mondilla, for one, is out to redeem himself from a number of mediocre finishes after humbling a slew of foreign aces and the country’s top guns to snare the Philippine Open crown at The Country Club last April.
“I’m so excited to get going and Juvic’s presence adds up to the challenge,” said Mondilla, who vowed to use an attacking kind of game on a course he’s too familiar with. “I’ll attack even the tight par-4s since I know where to place my shots here.”
Focus will also be on the likes of Noel Langamin, Magno Arancon and Leonard Lofranco, former mainstays of the Del Monte squad in Interclub tournaments, along with other young guns seeking to score a tour breakthrough, led by Ira Alido, and tour veterans seeking redemption following a string of failed bids, including Jay Bayron, Michael Bibat, Jhonnel Ababa and Salvador.
Thai Kammalas Namuangruk, the lone foreign entry to finish in the Top 10 at Pueblo, is also back for a shot at the crown won by American Nicolas Paez last year with compatriots Tawan Phongpun and Pachara Sakulyong boosting the cast that also drew the likes of American Lexus Keoninh, Peter Stojanovski of Macedonia, South African Luke Trocada, American Sean Talmadge, Park Jun Sung of Korea and Dutch Guido Van der Valk, winner of this year’s PGT kickoff leg in Cebu.
James Ryan Lam, who ended a nine-year chase for a crown with a victory at PGT Asia at Luisita last year, won the pro-am tournament for the second straight week but unlike at Pueblo, where he missed the cut, he hopes not only to advance but contend for the crown this time.
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