Fiery duel looms as Masters unwraps

The local top guns and a slew of foreign aces slugged it out beginning Wednesday, May 23, all primed up for a hot start and the momentum in what promises to be an explosive launch to the rich ICTSI Villamor Philippine Masters at the Villamor Golf Club.

Reigning Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit champion Clyde Mondilla sees another wild finish the way it was last year when he charged back from four down to nip Tony Lascuña, Jhonnel Ababa and American Nicholas Paez by one and rule the revival of what used to be one of local version’s golfing majors.

Though Mondilla is coming off a slump with poor finishes in the early going of the PGT season, he remains upbeat of his chances at Villamor, which he likens to Del Monte where he honed his talent and skills.

“Had a bad start in the season but I feel like playing at home here at Villamor…the fairways, grass and the surface are like those at Del Monte,” said Mondilla during yesterday’s pro-am of the P3 million event put up by ICTSI and hosted by VGC.

His rivals are also pretty much the same but more determined to foil his drive for back-to-back feat and eager to test not only each other’s shotmaking and putting skills but also the tight, tree-lined layout in pursuit of one of the fabled championships in Philippine golf.

The Villamor layout measures up to 7,000 yards and though it is expected to yield low scores given the current form of the competing field and the good weather condition, it could still pose a challenge with its narrow fairways, thick roughs and unpredictable putting surface.

“Nobody is a sure bet here as Villamor remains a tough course. It is so tricky that a slight mistake off the mound could spell trouble since the fairways are narrow hard,” said Lascuña, a multi-titled winner seeking his first victory this year in the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. “I think a 10-under card will win.”

Miguel Tabuena and Angelo Que, two of the country’s leading pros, won’t be around to honor previous commitments abroad but the depth of the field remains as tough as ever and the chase for the P550,000 purse is expected to go down to the last shot or putt.

“Everybody has a chance in winning here but for me, I need to hit the fairways and greens and the rest will be OK. The course is gorgeous but hard,” said Guido Van der Valk, the Manila-based Dutch ace who snapped a long title spell with a victory in the kickoff leg of this year’s PGT at Eagle Ridge last March.

Unlike last year when heavy rains made the course tougher and longer, weather forecast this week ranges from partly sunny to very warm with thunderstorm in spots on Thursday and Friday.

“One will not consider to relax. The course is really hard. It was different last year with rains but now its warm, and the field is level to everybody,” said Macedonian Peter Stojanovski, seeking a breakthrough on the circuit backed by BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT.

The rest also look forward to a successful weekend.

“My ball striking is good and if my putting clicks, I think I have a great chance here,” said Jhonnel Ababa, raring to flash the form that netted him back-to-back PGT Asia crowns at Eagle Ridge and Pradera last January.

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