Tabuena breaks through, seizes Philippine Open by 1 shot
TARLAC—With a scorching back-nine fightback, Miguel Tabuena broke through as an international champion yesterday and accomplished a personal mission.
The talented 21-year-old, who was given a golf club even before he could run on his own, closed out with a six-under-par 66 to complete a come-from-behind win in the 98th Philippine Open and seal his rise as an international star at soggy Luisita here.
Counting earlier rounds of 67 and 69, which he played after a bout with the flu, Tabuena tallied a 54-hole total of 202 to nip Aussie veteran Scott Barr by one for his first Asian Tour title.
“I’m really happy that my name will now be on this prestigious trophy alongside some of the legends of golf in Asia’s oldest national championship,” said Tabuena, who, as a two-year-old, made guest appearances on television to show how good he is with a club.
“I’m just glad that the Philippine Open is my first Asian Tour title.”
Canadian overnight leader Lindsay Renolds, who needed a win to stay on tour without going through Q School next year, signed for a 73 and finished five strokes out.
Chances sink in lagoon
Barr, who started the day just one shot off Renolds and led Tabuena by a shot with two holes to go, saw all his chances sink in the huge lagoon guarding the par-3 17th with a 4-iron off the tee. He finished with a 68 to nip India’s Himmat Rai and Thailand’s Chinarat Phadungsil, who scored 63 and 67, respectively, by a shot for runner-up honors.
Tabuena’s victory erased bitter memories of past international failures. He also came close to winning the Open in 2013 at Wack Wack, the Solaire Open at The Country Club the following year and one in Taipei this year.
Back in Filipino hands
It also put the Open back in the hands of a Filipino for the first time since 2008, when Angelo Que prevailed at Wack Wack East.
Tabuena drained five of his six birdies on his homeward nine, including three straight from the 12th, to win over the same layout for the second time this year since ruling a leg of the local ICTSI Tour with a 72-hole, 22-under total.
The event was reduced to 54 holes after the first round was scrapped due to bad weather.
Barr managed to wriggle out of a second-place tie with Rai and Phadungsil with a birdie on the closing hole.
“I thought I nailed it,” the mild-mannered Barr said of his error on the 17th.
The tournament, held at Luisita for the first time, was presented by ICTSI and backed by MVP Sports Foundation, Smart, PLDT, MPIC, Amon Trading, Central Azucarera de Tarlac and Ayala Land.
OPEN NOTES: Another PH Open home, Wack Wack East, also has a par-3 as its signature hole. Number 8 of the Mandaluyong layout has claimed the chances of many in the past, including those of former Filipino champions Frankie Miñoza and Cassius Casas. The 17th of Luisita, though not as tough as the East’s much shorter “Camel Back,” was also the graveyard of Aussie Scott Barr’s Open dreams when he found the water off the tee from 215 yards with a 4-iron yesterday. Barr scored routine pars on the same hole in the first two rounds, with champion Miguel Tabuena playing the 17th perfectly in nine strokes for three days for what turned out to be the difference in the championship.
The final scores (Filipino unless stated):
202—M. Tabuena 67-69-66; 203—S. Barr (AUS) 69-66-68; 204—H. Rai (IND) 71-70-63, C. Phadungsil (THA) 67-70-67; 206—S. Baek (KOR) 69-71-66, S. Griffiths (ENG) 70-68-68, Wang J.H. (KOR) 67-70-69, N. Turner (IRL) 69-68-69, K. Horne (RSA) 69-68-69; 207—Lu WC (TPE) 70-70-67, C. Wi (KOR) 70-69-68, K, Joshi (IND) 70-67-70, G. Bhullar (IND) 67-69-71, K. Samooja (FIN) 69-67-71, L. Renolds (CAN) 66-68-73; 208—C. Hong 71-68-69, M. Mamat (SIN) 68-71-69; 209—B. Munson (USA) 70-69-70, A. Groom (AUS) 70-69-70, J. Kaske (FIN) 71-68-70, T. Kaewsiribandit (THA) 68-70-71, A. Lascuña 72-72-65; 210—W. Murillo (VEN) 71-70-69, Kim T. (KOR) 70-71-69, N. Tantipokhakul (THA) 72-68-70, J. Pagunsan 68-71-71.