FILIPINO Miguel Tabuena picked up the biggest check of his career with a joint runner-up finish at the inaugural Maybank Championship Malaysia on Sunday then turned his focus on the coming Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The 21-year-old signed off with a solid three-under-par 68 to finish two shots behind winner Marcus Fraser of Australia at the Royal Selangor Golf Club, picking up a cool US$260,565 and shooting up to second place on the latest Asian Tour Order of Merit.
A bout of food poisoning at the start of the week had threatened to derail Tabuena’s hopes this week but he battled on to feature on the leaderboard throughout a thrilling week of golf.
“I can’t complain with the way I played. Not being 100 percent, no complaints at all. It kind of helped that I wasn’t in the final group today, it took some pressure off. Unfortunately, I bogeyed 17 but came back to birdie 18,” Tabuena told asiantour.com.
“I was told it almost went in for an eagle. I won’t say this is my biggest achievement but this is certainly my biggest pay check so far. I’m really happy with the way I played and I can’t wait for next week (ISPS Handa Perth International).”
After earning a career breakthrough at home last December, Tabuena has produced some glorious golf, finishing fourth at the Singapore Open last month as well.
“It’s all about coming through in big tournaments like this. It’s all about experience and I’m knocking on the door again. Hopefully I’ll get another win soon,” said the Filipino.
“I’ve been on tour for five years now although I’m 21. Being young, it gives me the aggression as I have five years on tour. I’m more mature and I can’t wait for the rest of the year. It will certainly help my world ranking.”
Tabuena, ranked 176th in the world this week, should move up to just outside the top-100 when the rankings are released on Monday. It will also enhance his hopes of qualifying for the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro later this year.
“The big goal is to get into the Olympics and I think this will help. As of now, I’m already in. If I can keep my momentum, I should do it,” he said.
He is also eyeing spots in the multi-million dollar events in Malaysia and China later this season and will also keep an eye on the Merit race, now led by Fraser who earned US$500,000 from today’s triumph.
“Those are the events I really want to play in as the best players will be there. I think my game is ready. Juvic (Pagunsan) has won the Order of Merit, a fellow country man and my close friend Anirban Lahiri won it last year and he’s now on the PGA Tour,” said Tabuena.
“Winning the Order of Merit is obviously the next big thing as it can open so many doors. Of course, there are the Majors too. I’m headed towards the right direction.”