LAUREL, Batangas—Miguel Tabuena sets out for another title run on an exacting course where he has reigned twice, leading a stellar 60-player field in the ICTSI Splendido Taal Championship which reels off today (Tuesday) here.
Tabuena hopes to come out strong coming off a long break after edging Clyde Mondilla in sudden death to snare the ICTSI Luisita Championship last March. He vied in Thailand then skipped the next Philippine Golf Tour stop at Caliraya to campaign abroad but a travel snafu to Korea left him out of competitive play the last few weeks.
But he remains one of the fancied players in the P2 million championship given his talent and skills that have marked his rise to elite status since he nailed his first pro career victory here in 2012.
He repeated the feat in 2015 with the two-time Philippine Open winner racking up eight more victories, including the Queen’s Cup of the Asian Tour in 2018 and the Idaho Open for his first title in the US last year.
“The game is there but I just have to be more patient because I’ve not been playing as many tournaments as I want to,” said Tabuena during yesterday’s pro-am. “I’m excited to be playing again here. This is where I won my first pro event, so this (course) is very close to me. It’s just nice to be back here.”
Also back in the hunt is Zanieboy Gialon, whose emphatic four-stroke victory over Clyde Mondilla in last month’s Caliraya Springs Championship has put him back in the conversation after a long dry spell.
“Coming off a win certainly is a big boost to one’s confidence and I like my chances again this week,” said Gialon, who however is putting premium on putting as key to another title drive in the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Others tipped to contend in the 72-hole championship are Jhonnel Ababa, Ira Alido, Michael Bibat, Lloyd Go, Reymon Jaraula, Tony Lascuna, Joenard Rates, Rupert Zaragosa and Mondilla.
Rains the past few days have softened the Greg Norman-designed course, rendering the hilly, challenging layout longer and more daunting, especially in the presence of the wind.
“Wet or dry, the key to scoring at Splendido is to be patient and they must play the course as is it is designed,” said Splendido Taal Golf Club general manager Bobby Chico.
Side by side with the PGT is the Ladies PGT with Chihiro Ikeda eyeing a second straight title after also snapping a long title drought with a three-stroke victory over Chanelle Avaricio at Mount Malarayat two weeks ago.
But the Manila Southwoods and AsiaGlobal Technologies-backed ace has expressed guarded optimism over her chances as she tries to buck a wrist injury that has hampered her campaign since edging Pauline del Rosario at Midlands in 2019.
“I’m still bothered by this injury, but let’s see what happens,” said Ikeda, on the eve of the 54-hole tournament.
Avaricio, meanwhile, is out to regain her winning ways after being denied of a third straight crown following victories at Hallow Ridge and at Caliraya while Harmie Constantino also sets out to end a long slump after a remarkable pro debut last year where she nailed two leg victories on her way to clinching the Order of Merit title.
Focus will also be on Cagayan de Oro’s Pamela Mariano, who crowded Ikeda and Avaricio majority of the way at Mount Malarayat before losing steam in the stretch to end up tied for fourth while brand-new pros Martina Miñoza and Lesley Icoy seek to post stronger finishes after placing seventh and 12th, respectively, at Malarayat.
Top amateur Mafy Singson, member of the national team that snatched a bronze medal in the just-concluded SEA Games in Hanoi, is also in the fold while fellow amateurs Carl Corpus, Perry Bucay, Marc Lu, Ivan Monsalve and Masaichi Otake try to spring a surprise or two in the men’s side of the circuit put up by ICTSI.