MICAH Shin hit clutch birdies to build a three-shot cushion and held on for victory as Miguel Tabuena’s charge fell short on Saturday in The Country Club Invitational in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
The Korean-American had a one-under 71 for a five-under 283 total at the TCC course, while Tabuena had a 70, missing a pin-length birdie putt on No. 18 that would have sent it to extra holes.
The final round lived up to the hype as Tabuena fought back from four down to threaten within one with seven holes to go.
Shin banged in back-to-back birdies from No. 13 then made gutsy pars in the next three to nail the victory.
Not even a final-hole bogey off a pulled approach shot into the greenside bunker could stop Shin, 21, from becoming the first non-Filipino and youngest winner of the event put up by ICTSI president and chairman Ricky Razon in 2003.
The win, worth P1.5 million, was Shin’s third in his career. The Davao-based shotmaker scored a breakthrough in the CAT Open at Luisita in 2016 then banked P9 million in a playoff victory in an Asian Tour event at Southwoods last year.
“I’m very happy. I thank God for giving me a chance to win this,” said Shin, who considered his third round 67 as the turning point then banked on his long game to neutralize Tabuena in the final round.
Shin celebrated his big triumph sans the traditional fist-pump but pointed to the hole after a tap-in bogey following Tabuena’s miss.
“Actually, I wasn’t putting that well today. But I still kept on playing consistently with my driver. That was my plan – to hit my driver steady and keep the ball on the fairway,” added Shin, who thanked caddie-friend Owen Hong, whom he considers a brother.
Tabuena, last year’s winner, earlier flubbed a birdie bid from close range on No. 14 but moved within two with a birdie on the next. He, however, failed to add at least one in the last three, including that heartbreaker of a miss on the final hole.
He bagged P700,000.
“I played well. I knew from the start that if there’s one competitor that would actually challenge me, it would be Micah. He’s a good player and has the experience because he won an Asian Tour event last year,” said Tabuena, who also rued his shaky putting, particularly his birdie putt on No. 14 that lipped out.
Despite wicked conditions at the country’s toughest course where bogeys became a norm, Shin and Tabuena still turned in under-par rounds throughout the pressure-packed final 18 holes. While the rest succumbed in another windy day at the Tom Weiskoph-designed layout made more daunting by difficult pin placements, the duo slugged it out shot-for-shot and putt-for-putt and made the turn with even 36s.
But after he bogeyed the par-3 No. 11 that enabled Tabuena to close in within one, Shin came through with solid shots and produced decisive birdies on Nos. 13 and 14.
Dutchman Guido Van der Valk took third place at 300 despite a 77 to bag P450,000, while 2013 champion Frankie Miñoza carded a 73 to share fourth at 302 with 2004 winner Tony Lascuña, who limped with a 75. Each received P290,000.
Jobim Carlos shot a 74 to finish sixth at 304, while Japanese Toru Nakajima also made a 74 to tie Jhonnel Ababa, who hobbled with a 76, at seventh at 305.
Three-time champion Angelo Que fired a 75 and shared ninth at 307 with Jay Bayron, who carded a 77.