Pros brace for brutal test as rich Country Club tilt returns
Antonio Lascuña, the Philippine Golf Tour’s reigning match play champion and its Order of Merit (OOM) winner, usually talks with a lot of confidence heading into any local tournament.
He sounded far different as he prepares for the rich The Country Club (TCC) Invitational in Laguna, which will see its revival on Feb. 8, two years after being shuttered by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Six-over, eight-over—maybe more—will have a great chance of winning,” Lascuña told the Inquirer in Filipino on Friday as he, like a lot of other pros, have started preparing for the 72-hole championship to be held at TCC, the posh layout now regarded as the most demanding test in the country. “And I am not giving myself that much of a chance.
“The course is super long for me,” he explained. “With the winds at this time of the year, there are at least six par-4s that I cannot reach [in regulation] even with a 3-wood [for my approach].”
Jessie Balasabas, the last Philippine Masters champion at tree-lined Villamor, sees someone going “four-over total for four rounds” winning, “and that would be very, very impressive.
“There are no easy holes at TCC,” Balasabas said in a separate interview, also in Filipino. “There are holes there which I really cannot imagine scoring par on, so you would need to get those dropped shots back somewhere—and it’s hard to see where.”
The event, bankrolled by port magnate and golf patron Ricky Razon for the local pros, is easily the richest in the country and is limited to the top 30 players of the previous season’s OOM and its past champions.
There are no cuts in the event—guaranteeing everyone a hefty payday—but the field will have to endure a brutal test for four straight days where one par-3, the first one in the back nine, sometimes requires driver off the tee if the winds blow in the players’ faces.
Guido Van Der Valk, the Dutchman who calls the Philippines home, will be the defending champion. In 2020, the total pot was P5 million.
Aside from Juvic Pagunsan and Angelo Que winning the event three times, no other player has multiple wins, with Lascuña’s victory in 2004 coming way before Razon ordered a massive rise in difficulty of the layout a few years back.