By Rey Bancod
BACOLOD CITY – Unbeaten in the last three years, Manila Southwoods sets out as a prohibitive favourite when the 71st Philippine Airlines Interclub golf team championships get going today in two courses.
Southwoods set an all-time, single day record of 155 points at Rancho Palos Verdes in Davao last year on its way to a 44-point win over Canlubang.
The core of that team is back and Southwoods added a few additions for good measure.
Japanese Yuto Katsuragawa, who shot a tournament-best 42 points at Palos, returns for another tour of duty and brought a classmate in Taisei Shimizu for additional firepower.
Southwoods also recalled Bacolod-based Chepe Dulay whose familiarity with both courses should give the defending champion a big edge.
“We prepared long and hard for this so there won’t be an excuse for us,” Southwoods non-playing captain Thirdy Escano.
Despite Southwoods’ huge edge on paper, Escano is still keeping a close watch on chief rival Canlubang whose last title came in 2010.
“They’re still the chief threats,” said Escano, admitting that Canlubang has gotten stronger after the shellacking its received in Davao. “It’s going to be a tough four days, but I am confident because like what I said, we left no stones unturned in preparing for this tournament.”
Rupert Zaragosa has delayed its plans to turn pro to lead a youth-laden Canlubang squad.
Del Monte, the 2004 champion, is the only other team in the championship division which will play Marapara on the first day.
Southwoods, Canlubang and Del Monte will play the next two rounds at Binitin before they swing back to Marapara for the final round.
Close to a hundred teams divided into five divisions are seeing action in the four-day event that ends on Sunday.
Each team is allowed to field five players each round, but only the top four scorers would count as the team score.
Under the PAL scoring system, a regulation score is worth 36 points.
This year’s Interclub’s Platinum sponsors this year are RMN and Manila Times, while major sponsors are Mastercard, The Philippine Manila Standard, Rolls Royce, Bombardier, TV5, Primax, BusinessWorld, Crossover and Fox.
Other sponsors include Boeing, PAGCOR, Belmonte Hotel, Eton Properties and Asia Brewery, Inc.