MIGUEL Tabuena bagged his fourth title to secure the top spot on the Order of Merit with one tournament to spare after ruling the Central Azucarera de Tarlac Open on Saturday at the Luisita Golf and Country Club.
The 21-year-old Tabuena capped his domination with another eagle-spiked, bogey-less 67 for a whopping nine-shot victory over Jhonnel Ababa.
After a dramatic come-from-behind win in the ICTSI Open last week at Wack Wack, Tabuena put an anti-climactic ending to what had started to be a tight title chase in the P2.5 million championship, firing a sizzling 64 on Friday that put him ahead of the elite field by eight.
He never slowed down despite bringing a huge margin into the final round as the young pro birdied No. 5 and pitched in for an eagle from just outside the green on the next par-5 hole at No. 9. He flubbed a birdie putt on No. 12 but birdied Nos. 15 and 16 for nines of 33-34.
Tabuena finished with an impressive 22-under 266 to bag the P450,000 prize, hiking his earnings P3,051,917.
With top rival Tony Lascuña finishing 12th at 287 for P48,000 and a total P2,382,960, Tabuena has built enough cushion to secure the coveted individual crown with one leg left, the ICTSI Tournament Players Championship at Sherwood next week.
Tabuena is skipping the Sherwood event to compete in an Asian Tour leg in Japan next week but with a P668,957 lead in the money race, he will remain on top of the order even if Lascuna prevails and wins the P650,000 prize.
“It’s a nice feeling to win again but I plan to concentrate more on the Asian Tour where I hope to play with this level of confidence against the best in the region,” said Tabuena, who also thanked his parents and Team Tabuena for support and inspiration.
Ababa actually put up a semblance of a fight at the back with a birdie-par-eagle start but the former amateur hotshot ran out of holes and finished with a 68 for a 275 worth P320,000 in the circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc., organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., and backed by Central Azucarera de Tarlac, were Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Callaway, Srixon, Mizuno, TaylorMade, Nike Golf, Sharp, Custom Clubmakers, Titleist, Rudy Project, Pacsports, Omnisource, Cleveland Golf, KZG, FootJoy, Silicon, Empire and Great Depot.