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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Windy battle looms at Pradera Verde

The men and ladies of the Philippine Golf Tour face a daunting test when the circuit returns to Pradera Verde next week with a stiff breeze expected to blow from start to finish, adding up to the tricks and traps already in place at the long, challenging championship layout.

Wind conditions at the well-kept championship course at this time of the year are at their toughest with Pradera to test the players’ ability to adapt and their readiness for change that will require them to dish out a full array of shots while facing penalty for the slightest miscue.

Juvic Pagunsan, who edged Tony Lascuña in sudden death to snatch the ICTSI Riviera Championship crown in a wild finish at Langer two weeks ago, won’t be around for the final leg of this year’s PGT, which fires off Oct. 25, to honor a previous commitment to play in the Japan Golf Tour, his base the past decade. But the Pradera Verde field remains as deep as ever with Michael Bibat back in the hunt after skipping the Riviera leg following a victory at Eagle Ridge-Aoki last July.

“The long hitters have the edge at Pradera but with the wind conditions, everybody has a chance with premium on club selections and the ability to hit low shots while driving through or against the wind,” said the multi-titled Lascuna, who also tied for second with Reymon Jaraula at Eagle Ridge.

Bibat is also upbeat of his chances for a second championship but has stressed the need to toughen up and sharpen his iron game more to earn another title crack in the event sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

“I’m good but still has to work on so many things. But I’m confident,” said Bibat.

Pradera Verde measures up to 7,315 yards from the black tees and could play longer depending on the direction of the wind which varies from hole to hole.

The Ladies PGT also heads to a scrambling finish with Chihiro Ikeda, Harmie Constantino, Sarah Ababa, Sunshine Baraquiel, Gretchen Villacencio and Marvi Monsalve tipped to dispute the championship in their side of the championship set over 54 holes.

Ikeda, for one, is going all out for a win, not just for a third championship following her victories at Mt. Malarayat and Eagle Ridge but also for a second Order of Merit trophy. The 2016 top player leads the race with P756,750 in total earnings with three-leg winner Chanelle Avaricio slipping to second with P605,000 after missing the LPGT’s last few tournaments to step up her campaign in the US, including a shot at an LPGA Tour card.

Constantino is in third with P579,000.

Others expected to spice the title chase in the PGT are Caliraya Springs leg runaway winner Zanieboy Gialon, Splendido winner Guido Van der Valk, Orlan Sumcad, Rico Depilo, Ira Alido, Marvin Dumandan, Fidel Concepcion, and former Philippine Open champion Clyde Mondilla, who won at Pradera in a hotly-contested finale of the PGT Asia where five players tied for first at the end of the 72-hole championship in January 2020 before the circuit went on a hiatus due to pandemic.

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