Wild start looms as PGT Riviera unfolds

Wild start looms as PGT Riviera unfolds

SILANG, Cavite – An early jostle for position takes shape as the Philippine Golf Tour resumes Tuesday with the ICTSI Riviera Championship in a four-day duel not just of power and shotmaking but also of will and character at one of the country’s tough championship courses.

Measuring up to more than 7,000 yards, Riviera’s Langer course has been a boon for a few but a bane for a lot of others. But it’s not just a question of length but of strategies, including course management since a slight miscue could lead to a big score given the limited options for recovery at the tight, hazard-laden layout.

“If the wind blows, then it’s going to be real tough,” said Guido Van der Valk after Monday’s pro-am of the PGT held side by side with the Ladies PGT.

But the Manila-based Dutchman, who pulled off a stirring playoff win over Miguel Tabuena at Splendido Taal last May, faces a real challenge right in the first round of the P2 million championship put up by ICTSI as he drew Juvic Pagunsan and Angelo Que with Joenard Rates completing one of the featured flights at 9:40 a.m. on No. 1.

Pagunsan, who ruled this event in stormy conditions in 2019 to cap a record four-tournament run, and Que are both coming off the Japan Golf Tour, making them A-ready for the grueling battle with Rates also raring to upstage the troika with his own brand of play.

Pagunsan and Que actually marked their PGT return with a joint fourth place finish at Eagle Ridge-Aoki last July ruled by absentee Michael Bibat and both are eager to get going, along with the rest of the competing field that also includes former Philippine Open Clyde Mondilla, multi-titled Tony Lascuña, Caliraya Springs leg champion Zanieboy Gialon, Jhonnel Ababa, Jay Bayron, Jobim Carlos and young guns Ivan Monsalve and Sean Ramos.

Mondilla, who finished second in the first two legs at Luisita and Caliraya Springs and placed third at Splendido Taal before shifting his campaign abroad, slugs it out with Lascuna, Ababa and Mars Pucay at 9:50 a.m., also on the first hole, to be followed by the group of Monsalve, Ramos, Eric Superal and Albin Engino.

Focus will also be on Ira Alido, whose dominant nine-stroke victory in bubble setup here in 2020 put him in the elite circle of PGT winners with the former amateur hotshot sharpening his skills in the Asian Tour and the Asian Development Tour the last few months.

But Alido will be as much as tested as the rest of the field as he mixes it up with Jay Bayron, fellow ADT campaigner Fidel Concepcion and legend Frankie Miñoza at 10 a.m., also on No. 1.

Gialon, meanwhile, expressed high hopes for another crack at the championship with emphasis on short game and the ability to tame the terrors lurking on Langer’s unpredictable surface.

“We all know that this course is tight, so it’s a question of who’s going to come up with solid short game, including putting,” said Gialon, confident of re-displaying the form he flaunted in besting the cream of the crop at Caliraya Springs.


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