Jay Bayron will be the marked man when the third leg of the Philippine Golf Tour – the P1 million ICTSI-Riviera Classic – is fired off beginning Wednesday, May 19 at the Couples course of the Riviera Golf and Country Club in Silang, Cavite.
Three runner-up finishes on the Mercedes Benz Tour, also known as the Asean PGA Tour, in the last two months make Bayron the player to beat in the 54-hole tournament organized by the Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. although the Davaoeno shotmaker has opted to downplay his chances for the top P200,000 purse.
“With all the big names in the list, no one should be a favorite here. It will still be anybody’s game,” said Bayron, who finished second at the Manila Southwoods, in Pattaya, Thailand and Indonesia legs of the Asean PGA Tour.
He also actually finished tied for second with unheralded but long-hitting Orlan Sumcad in the ICTSI Sherwood Hills Classic last March ruled by Marvin Dumandan, thus making him the prohibitive favorite in this third leg of the circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
Bayron’s wiill be tested right in the first round as he is paired with Juvic Pagunsan and Jett Plete in the 11:20 a.m. flight on No. 10. Other featured groups are Angelo Que, Tony Lascuna and Jong Laput at 7:30 a.m. on No. 10; Dumandan, Mars Pucay and Richard Abaring at 11:20 a.m. on No. 1; and Elmer Salvador, Artemio Murakami and Christopher delos Santos at 7:30 a.m. on No. 1.
But with a big number of talents also raring to get a crack at the championship and Order of Merit points, Bayron will have to dig deeper into his arsenal of shots and come up with steady putting to end a string of bridesmaid finishes.
Dumandan is tipped to lead the list of challengers along with first leg winner and reigning Philippine Open champion Elmer Salvador, who won the ICTSI Classic at Mt. Malarayat.
The regular campaigners on the Asian Tour and the Asean circuit are also expected to contend for the crown, including Juvic Pagunsan, Angelo Que, Artemio Murakami, Tony Lascuna, Mars Pucay, Ferdie Aunzo, Danny Zarate, Rey Pagunsan and Tonton Asistio.
The fight for this week’s crown is also expected to be doubly interesting as the pros try to build momentum for next week’s ICTSI Forest Hills Championship, the fourth leg of the circuit backed by MJ Carr Golf Management, Jaguar, Land Rover, Studio 23, Balls TV, Srixon/Cleveland Golf, Callaway Golf and Golf Punk.
Torrid scoring is also seen in the next three days as the organizers decided to stage the event at the Couples course instead of the tougher Riviera layout, which hosted last year’s edition of the tour ruled by amateur Mhark Fernando in rainy condition.
Sixteen amateurs are also seeing action in the event, led by members of the ICTSI-The Country Club team composed of Dante Becierra, Brent Sumampong, Peter Villaber, Erwin Madrileno and Alexes Nallos and the likes of Miggy Yee, Ar Ramos and Bino dela Paz.