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Top bets to vary gambits in ICTSI Match Play 

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While all look to rousing head-to-head duels, two of the leading contenders in the women’s side of the ICTSI Villamor Match Play Invitational will opt for different approaches when the novel event is fired off Tuesday (Nov. 15) at the Villamor Golf Club in Pasay.

“Unlike in regular tournaments, my mindset for the match play will be more on attack and attack to net more birdies,” said Chihiro Ikeda, the Order of Merit winner in the just-concluded Ladies Philippine Golf Tour with victories at Mount Malarayat and Eagle Ridge-Aoki.

But she elects to downplay her chances in such kind of an unpredictable setup, saying: “No expectations, no pressure. But I would just like to enjoy the game since it will surely be an exciting match play.”

It surely will. With 16 of the top finishers after 11 legs of this LPGT all driven to emerge on top on Nov. 18 in a format so distinct in medal play, no one indeed holds an edge over the other in the upcoming event also spread over four days.

“I’ve always enjoyed this format since anything can happen,” said Sunshine Baraquiel, who scored a career breakthrough in wicked conditions at Highlands last year but whose game somewhat took a downswing in the season about to end.

“My performance this year wasn’t great,” she added. “Golf is really a long game and each players journey is different. There are improvements from last year but the results aren’t there yet.”

The lady pilot, however, hopes to end it in triumphant fashion.

“What’s great about match play is you get to re-start on each hole. Strategies will change depending on my opponent and the way I’m hitting the ball for the day,” said Baraquiel. “The approach is different just because the total score doesn’t count. The decision to play conservatively will really depend on match standing and opponent shots.”

Joining Ikeda and Baraquiel in the hunt for top honors worth P280,000 are Harmie Constantino, Sarah Ababa, Pamela Mariano, Gretchen Villacencio, Marvi Monsalve, Lovelyn Guioguio, Apple Fudolin, Eva Miñoza, Lucy Landicho, Kristine Fleetwood, Florence Bisera, Martina Miñoza and Sheryl Villasencio.

Three-leg winner Chanelle Avaricio, who placed third behind Ikeda and Constantino in the money race, won’t be around to spice up the title chase as she left for the US the other day to resume her bid in the LPGA Q-School Stage II set next week in Florida with No. 17 Majorie Pulumbarit expected to complete the select roster.

The event, put up by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., will be held simultaneously with the men’s championship with two-leg PGT winner Guido Van der Valk and three-leg runner Tony Lascuña bannering the 32-player field, also vying for the top P280,000 purse.

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