Jhonnel Ababa will all have the drive and motivation as he guns for a record third straight championship in the ICTSI Pradera Verde Classic, armed with a game he polished during the break and a good track record on the Philippine Golf Tour Asia.
The winningest on the fledgling circuit with four victories, including back-to-back romps at the sprawling Pradera Verde Golf and Country Club complex in Lubao, Pampanga, Ababa is aware of the pressure but confident of extending his win run against a stellar international field all aiming for a big finish in the $100,000 event which gets underway tomorrow (Tuesday, Jan. 21.)
They include Aussie Damien Jordan, Peter Stojanovski of Macedonia, Americans Josh Salah, Lexus Keoninh and Charles Lee, Koreans Myung Chal Hwang, Sangun Lee and Jun Sung Park along with Spain’s Salvador Paya Vila, Thai Pachara Sakulyong, Singapore’s Gabriel Cheok, Finland’s Sean Avellan, and Japan’s Yuta Sudo and Toru Nakajima, among others.
“I’m ready and in top condition,” said Ababa, who also won at Eagle Ridge at Forest Hills in 2018 before going into some kind of slump after keeping his Pradera crown last year. He ended up tied for 25th in the Luisita Championship, shared 19th place at Southwoods, tied for eighth at Aboitiz, wound up joint 10th at the CAT Open before finishing fifth at Summit Point.
But he hopes to flash his old magic this week although he remains wary of the opposition, particularly the other local aces who are all coming into the 72-hole championship raring to foil his bid for a record run in the third season (2019-20) of the circuit put up by ICTSI.
Frontrunner Tony Lascuña, for one, is also out to press his bid for the Order of Merit crown while Clyde Mondilla is likewise priming up for his defense of the Philippine Open crown.
PGT OOM 2018 winner Jobim Carlos also vows to come out strong in a bid to end a string of so-so finishes following a dip in form last year, along with veterans Jay Bayron, Elmer Salvador, Jerson Balasabas, Michael Bibat, Rufino Bayron and Gerald Rosales.
The young guns are also tipped to crowd the fancied bets in all four days of the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by PLDT Enterprise, Meralco, BDO and PGT Asia official apparel Pin High with Ira Alido due for a big win after a string of impressive finishes last year.
Others expected to contend are Reymon Jaraula, Keanu Jahns, James Ryan Lam, Justin Quiban, Nilo Salahog, Sean Talmadge, Rupert Zaragosa, and former amateur hotshot Lloyd Go.