Title holder Both eyes special week at Philippine Open

Tarlac, Philippines: Marcus Both of Australia seeks another magical week when he defends his title at the weather-shortened Philippine Open presented by ICTSI which starts on Friday.

The three-time Asian Tour winner needs to fire on all cylinders against an elite field which includes talented Filipino Miguel Tabuena, Paul Peterson of the United States, who is the highest ranked player this week, and multiple winner Gaganjeet Bhullar of India.

The US$300,000 Asian Tour was shortened to 54-holes, with the opening round delayed to Friday due to persistent rain. The Luisita Golf and Country Club was closed in the last two days and most players will play enter the first day without playing a practice round.

“I played nine holes on Monday and another nine on Tuesday. I’ve seen the course but how much it is going to change with all the rain, we will know tomorrow. Everyone will be going out there like a practice round! Guys will figure out the course by the second round so you need to take advantage of the first day,” said Both.

The Australian dramatically won the Philippine Open last year after losing his Tour card. He is staring at a similar position again where he sits in 132nd position on the Order of Merit and will need a victory to retain full playing rights on the 2016 Asian Tour season.

“I’ve dug myself a pretty dig hole but I haven’t resigned myself to going back to Qualifying School. But if I have to, then I have to. That’s the reality of it. There’s only one result that works for me this week which is to win. It is not out of the equation but the odds are not overly high,” said Both.

“Anyone that makes the cut needs one amazing round to win. You could see some bizarre things happen on Sunday. If guys get hot they can potentially shoot seven, eight or nine under. It is 54 holes so after two rounds, you are one amazing day away from the win. If I can execute well then it can be a pretty special week,” he added.

The 21-year-old Tabuena, who is battling a cold and high fever, will take advantage of his course knowledge as he won at the Luisita course on the local circuit with a winning total of 22-under.

“I’m very lucky that the first day will be on Friday. If it was today, I might have pulled out of the tournament. I’m down with high fever and a cold. I played 14 holes on Monday but I had to go back because I wasn’t feeling well,” said Tabuena, who is searching for his first Asian Tour win.

“If this isn’t the Philippine Open, I would have packed my things. It is such a special event for me. I feel like I have a slight advantage because I feel comfortable on this course. I know most of the breaks on the greens. I’ve also played well in most 54-hole tournament on the Asian Tour!” added Tabuena.

Indian teenager Shubhankar Sharma will not hold back when he tees it off at the Philippine Open presented by ICTSI. Ranked 78th on the Order of Merit, the 19-year-old will have much to play for this week as he needs to break into the top-63 which will earn him a full Asian Tour card.

“It has become a three-day tournament and I have to become more aggressive because I need to keep my card. I think a top-three will do it this week so there’s no point holding back. I have to go out there and go for it,” said Shubhankar.