New Delhi: Fresh from his first Asian Tour victory outside India, Order of Merit leader Anirban Lahiri will spearhead the country`s challenge in the star-studded cast gunning for glory at the USD 300,000 ICTSI Philippine Open from May 15 to 18 here.
The in-form Lahiri won his fourth Asian Tour title in Indonesia last week and he will take aim at cementing his position atop the summit with another victory at the challenging Wack Wack Golf and Country Club.
He will be joined by EurAsia Cup teammates Prayad Marksaeng of Thailand, an eight-time Asian Tour winner, Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh, Boonchu Ruangkit of Thailand and Nicholas Fung of Malaysia.
The home charge will be led by Angelo Que of the Philippines, who won his National Open in 2008, the talented Miguel Tabuena, Frankie Minoza, Casius Casas and Antonio Lascuna.
Lahiri is enjoying a hot streak after sensationally contributing two points in Team Asia`s draw with Team Europe in the inaugural EurAsia Cup in Malaysia in March.
His growing confidence spilled over to the Maybank Malaysian Open where he finished in 10th place, before going on to win the CIMB Niaga Indonesian Masters when he eagled the last hole.
"It feels great to be top on the Asian Tour Order of Merit right now. One of my goals at the beginning of this year was to contend for the Order of Merit. I am glad I got off to a good start. I just have to keep focusing on playing good golf and keep getting better as the year progresses," said Lahiri.
Ranked 67th on the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), the talented Indian will have a good opportunity to improve on his rankings if he wins or secures a good result at the ICTSI Philippine Open, which returns on the Asian Tour Schedule after a two-year hiatus.
Lahiri will need to finish inside the top-60 on the OWGR by the first week of June to qualify for the US Open which is the season`s second Major at Pinehurst from June 12-15.
Thai based Korean Baek Seuk-hyun will continue his hunt for a first Asian Tour victory after agonisingly losing to Lahiri in Indonesia. Ranked fifth on the Order of Merit, Baek is one of the most consistent players in the region where he has 14 top-10 results since 2010.
"I played well in Indonesia and I lost to Anirban who holed a very good eagle putt on the last," explained the 23-year-old Baek.
"I feel that my first win is coming. I`m getting there and my game is where I want it to be."
Chinese Taipei`s Lin Wen-tang, who won the Solaire Open at Wack Wack last year, was also in contention in Indonesia before going on to finish tied fifth. He is relishing a return to the Philippines where he won his sixth Asian Tour title in 2013 to end a three-year title drought.
"I learnt a good lesson in Indonesia. I got too carried away but I was pleased with my performances as I came into the week not in the best of form. I`m a rather patient player and that`s why I always play well at Wack Wack. I`m really looking forward to the week," said Lin.
It has been a very tough decision for me to make which is why I have given it so much thought since the World Cup.