MIGUEL Tabuena pulled off a memorable victory in the 100th Solaire Philippine Open, edging Thai Prom Meesawat in sudden death on Saturday at The Country Club in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
The 23-year-old Tabuena recovered from a demoralizing third-round blunder that cost him two strokes, hitting clutch birdies late in regulation to force a playoff at 289 with a 71 then outdueling Meesawat, who closed out with a 72, on the first playoff hole.
The Filipino ace hit a solid drive on their return trip to TCC’s treacherous No. 18, barely missed the green then putted to within tap-in distance for par. In contrast, Meesawat drove into the fairway bunker near the big lake, hacked another shot into the greenside bunker and unlike Tabuena, he failed to get out in three off a bad lie. Making it in four, he conceded the hole, the match and the championship.
When it was over, Tabuena, the 2015 champion in the rain-shortened Philippine Open at Luisita, stood tall and proud, having erased the stigma of that third-round miscue with a kind of resolve rarely seen in young players.
“I’ve never been mad going to the final round. I was thinking, it would’ve been different without the two-stroke penalty. It turned out it (infraction) wasn’t enough,” said Tabuena.
“But that’s finished and I’m very happy to be on top,” added the 23-year-old star, who banked US$108,000 (P5.4 million).
“I thank God and I’m really happy to put my name not only once but twice on this trophy, especially this being the Open’s 100th tournament,” said Tabuena.
“It will surely boost my confidence for next week in the European Tour in india.”
Meesawat settled for $66,000 out of the record $600,000 total fund in the event presented by Solaire Resort and Casino and which served as the final leg of the inaugural Philippine Golf Tour Asia.
“Prom played his heart out and it was really good fight, it was good for us and good for the fans,” Tabuena added.
In the end, it boiled down to heart and grit, which Tabuena flaunted to the hilt.
Slipping behind Meesawat after that rule infraction, Tabuena kept pressing in the last 18 holes but instead found himself trailing even more as the Thai held sway, birdying No. 4 to go two strokes up.
Still, Tabuena didn’t lose hope. In fact, he pulled within one again with birdie on No. 8 and after the duo bogeyed the next and birdied the 10th, the local star pulled even with a crucial birdie on the 12th.
That set the stage for a nerve-wracking finish.
The victory likewise avenged Tabuena’s playoff loss to the Hua Hin native, a former European Tour campaigner, four years ago in the Yeangder Players Championship in Taiwan.
Guido Van der Valk, just two behind Meesawat after 54 holes, fell farther behind with bogeys in the first two holes. He did bounce back with back-to-back birdies from No. 3 but went on an up-and-down ride with two birdies against three bogeys and a run of pars to finish with a 74 for a 293 for third worth $37,800.
Australia’s Michael Choi carded a 73 to place fourth at 295 followed by last year’s champion Steve Lewton of England, who matched par 72 to tie Nicolas Paez (75), the man who raised the rule infraction that cost Tabuena two strokes, at 296.
Joenard Rates emerged as the second best placed local in the event, shooting a 72 and sharing seventh spot with Malaysian Nicolas Fung, who fumbled with a 76, at 297 while Englishman Matt Killen carded a 73 to finish ninth at 298.
Justin Quiban, winner of the PGT Asia leg at Luisita, turned in a 73 and tied Thai Piya Swangarunporn, who carded a 76, at 10th at 299 in the tournament organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., sponsored by ICTSI, Meralco, PLDT, Smart, Bulgari, Diamond Motors Corp., BDO, Central Azucarera de Tarlac, Amon Trading, Dynamic Sports and Custom Clubmakers.