Shootout looms as PGTA Riviera unwraps

The best of the old and new of local pro golf and a mix of foreign aces slug it out in what promises to be an explosive start to the Philippine Golf Tour Asia’s ICTSI Riviera Golf Challenge Wednesday at the exacting Langer course in Silang, Cavite.

Length and accuracy will be key to one’s title drive at the tight, hazard-laden par-71 layout with the foreign bidders also have to endure the heat and the wind expected to come into play in all four days of the $100,000 championship serving as the penultimate leg of the 2018-19 PGT Asia season.

A power-packed local cast, led by former Asia’s No. 1 Juvic Pagunsan and fellow Japan PGA Tour campaigner Angelo Que and reigning PGT Order of Merit titlist Jobim Carlos, braces for an early clash with an equally talented foreign crew out to stop the Filipinos, who have ruled the last three stops of the second season of the region’s newest circuit put up by ICTSI.

Pagunsan, who marked his return to the local tour with a playoff victory over Carlos in Bacolod last year, is out to flaunt his smooth-swinging ways and superb iron game suited in this kind of layout as he seeks to join the elite circle of PGT Asia winners.

Que, on the other hand, hopes to ride the momentum of his strong finish in last Sunday’s Maybank Championship where he shot a 66 to finish tied at 25th. Like Pagunsan, the three-time regional tour winner is eyeing his first crown in the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

Focus will also be on Carlos, whose victory here last year sparked his run of impressive finishes, including two more victories that netted him the OOM title at the end of the PGT season.

Jhonnel Ababa, the winningest player in the circuit with three victories, is likewise tipped to contend along with Clyde Mondilla, Jay Bayron and title-hungry Tony Lascuña along with Phl Masters champion Jerson Balasabas, PGTA CAT Open titlist James Ryan Lam and PGTA Summit Point victor Joenard Rates and young guns Ira Alido, Keanu Jahns and Justin Quiban.

They will be as much tested as the rest of the foreign entries, spearheaded by PGTA leg winners David Gleeson and Damien Jordan of Australia, PGT titlist Nicolas Paez of the US, Thai stalwarts Pasavee Lertvilai, Wisut Artjanawat and Nirun Sae-ueng, PGT winner Guido Van der Valk of the Netherlands, and Americans Brett Munson and Joshua Salah.

The 50 plus ties after 36 holes will advance to the last two rounds of the event, backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT, Empire Golf and Sports and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc., which offers a top purse of $17,500.

Boosting the cast are former Singapore amateur champ Choo Tze Huang and former national teammates Gregory Foo and Marc Ong, Thais Poom Saksansin, Kammalas Namuangruk and Tawan Phongpun, Canadian Lindsey Renolds, Ben Weir of the US, Taiwanese Wang Tsung Chieh, Yang Fei Hao and Lee Chao Hua, Teegan Moore and Dean Fourie of South Africa and Spain’s Pastor Marcos, who topped the recent PGT Q-School.