Big-hitting Damien Jordan returns in pursuit of a second Philippine Golf Tour Asia (PGTA) championship, seeking to become only the second player to score back-to-back victories in the ninth Aboitiz Invitational firing off tomorrow at Wack Wack’s East Course in Mandaluyong City.
Jordan set some sort of a record by becoming the first foreign player to rule the annual event organized by Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc. in wire-to-wire fashion, beating Thai Namchok Tantipokhakul by four to likewise nail his first PGTA crown at Orchard’s Palmer course last year.
But with the event back at one of the country’s toughest courses, Jordan will need more than his power to confront the challenges lurking at every corner of Wack Wack’s fabled layout, whose narrow fairways puts premier on accuracy more than length, especially in the presence of the wind.
That could set the stage for four days of battle of wits among a crack roster of 108 bidders from at least 18 nations in the $100,000 event serving as fourth leg of the third season of the region’s emerging circuit put up by ICTSI.
Tantipokhakul and Wisut Artjanawat swept the first two PGTA legs at Luisita and Taiwan, respectively, with absentee Angelo Que prevailing at Southwoods last July with the Thai duo, like Jordan, all fired up in their respective title drive in the 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc.
Jay Bayron, meanwhile, spearheads the local challenge with the veteran Davaoeño campaigner targeting two feats this week — reclaiming the crown he won when the event was first held at Wack Wack in 2016 and seeking a record third Aboitiz Invitational title.
Bayron topped the inaugural event in its home base in Cebu in 2011 with fellow Davaoeño Elmer Salvador posting the first back-to-back wins, also in Cebu, in 2012 and 2013 although the latter’s game took a downswing in the last few years.
Tony Lascuña beat Que by three at Riviera in 2014, and Japan-based Pagunsan, in one of his then rare appearances on the local circuit, dominated the field at Manila Southwoods in 2015 then Miguel Tabuena edged Que by one in 2017.
Meanwhile, a select group of pros will test the East layout one last time in the traditional pro-am tournament today where they will be paired with officials and guests of the event’s chief backers, including ICTSI, PLDT Enterprise, Meralco, BDO and PGT Asia official apparel Pin High.
Firming up this year’s cast are Ratchapol Jantavara and Tawan Phongphun, also from Thailand, who finished 1-2 in this year’s PGTA Qualifying Tournament at Luisita, and compatriots Pasavee Lertvilai, Chonlatit Chuenboonngam, Kammalas Namuangruk, Donlapatchai Niyomchon, Natthapong Niyomchon, Tawit Polthai, Puk Pradittan, Varanyu Rattanaphiboonkij, Nirun Sae-Ueng and Pachara Sakulyong.
Other foreign bets ready to slug it out with the best for the top $17,500 purse are Tarik Can, Sam Gillis, Lexus Keoninh, Charles Lee, Matt Lutz, Brett Munson, Joshua Salah and Sean Talmadge of the US, Aussies Tim Stewart, David Gleeson, Sam Gervinas, Fidel Concepcion and Jerram Chudleigh, Japanese Issei Mori, Keita Sudo, Nayoa Takahashi and Seiji Yanagisawa, and Shin Seung Woo, Park Jun Sung, Moon Seung Ryul, Lee Sang Min, Lee Hyun Jun, Jung Chae Won and Hwang Myung Chal of Korea.