Pagunsan favored, Davao’s Salvador out to re-assert mastery

Despite his failed bid in the Queens Cup in Thailand, Juvic Pagunsan remains the top pick in a field teeming with talents when the ICTSI Mt. Malarayat Championship is fired off beginning Wednesday, June 23 at the Mt. Malarayat Golf & Country Club in Lipa City, Batangas.
For one, Pagunsan is also coming off a runaway victory in the Mercedes-Benz Masters Thailand three weeks ago and could’ve wrapped another one on the Asian Tour last Sunday if not for a shaky start in the Queens Cup which he co-led in the third round.
But the smooth-swinging ace Filipino shotmaker will be ranged against a talent-laden international field, headed by a crack Thai delegation that includes Wisut Artjanawat, winner of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz Masters Philippines, and Namchok Tantipokhakul, the reigning Mercedes-Benz Tour Order of Merit champion, Pariya Junhasavasdikul  and Chawalit Plaphol.
The local bets are likewise expected to crowd the favorites in the $50,000 tournament serving as the fifth leg of the Mercedes-Benz Tour with Elmer Salvador of Davao City out to re-assert his mastery over the challenging wind-raked layout where he ruled the Philippine Open last year.
Salvador also racked up a victory at Mt. Malarayat last February where he bested the local field to rule the kickoff leg of the ICTSI-Philippine Golf Tour although the reticent Davaoeno shotmaker’s form somewhat dipped in the next three legs of the local circuit before he came up with a runner-up finish at the ICTSI-Forest Hills Invitational last month.
Jay Bayron, another Dabawenyo, is another player to watch in the four-day championship with the current leader of the Mercedes-Benz Tour Order of Merit out to end a string of runner-up finishes on the lucrative circuit.
Although winless after four legs of the Mercedes-Benz Tour, Bayron has moved up to No. 1 in the OOM race with earnings of $14,674, owing to his runner-up finishes at M-Benz Masters Philippines, in the Singha Pattaya Open and the Kariza Indonesia Championship.
Artemio Murakami is also raring to annex another title on the tour after essaying a stirring come-from-behind victory over Bayron at Southwoods while Mars Pucay, who ended a long title drought with a victory at Forest Hills, also hopes to sustain his fine form in a bid to duplicate his feat in 2007 where he ruled at Mt. Malarayat.
Also in the fold are Gerald Rosales, Tony Lascuna, Davao’s Felix Casas and Marvin Dumandan and the other leading players on the ICTSI-PGT circuit.
Nicholas Fung, the 19 year old Malaysian rookie who finished joint sixth at Southwoods, and Vietnam’s leading player Tran Le Duy Nhat are also joining the hunt for fame and fortune in the event sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.(pr)
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