MIGUEL Tabuena birdied the tricky par-3 No. 17 from long range for a crucial two-shot swing that gave him a one-shot lead after two rounds of The Country Club Invitational at the TCC in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.
Looking to score back-to-back TCC titles, Tabuena overcame an early struggle worked his way up from three down with three birdies against two bogeys after 16 holes before rolling in a 20-footer for birdie on the 17th.
Tabuena finished with a two-under 70 for a 141 total, a stroke ahead of overnight leader Guido Van der Valk.
The Dutchman had a front-nine 38 before hitting birdie on two of the first three holes at the back and kept a one-stroke lead despite another bogey on No. 13.
But he pulled his tee-shot on the 161-yard No. 17 and flubbed a 15-foot par save bid, enabling Tabuena to seize control heading to the last 36 holes of the P5 million event sponsored by ICTSI president and chairman Ricky Razon.
After a superb 68, Van der Valk stumbled with a 74, his second round bid marred by poor putting. He pooled a 142 but fell just by one behind the defending champion, who emerged the lone player to submit back-to-back under par rounds on the tough course made even tougher by strong wind.
Wary of his wobbly driving in the early going, Tabuena headed straight to the range for a quick swing check with coach J3 Altea.
“Though I played pretty well, I feel there’s a need to fix something. I missed some fairways and it can’t be that way, especially when the strong winds come in,” said Tabuena, moving closer to scoring a repeat after nipping three-time winner Juvic Pagunsan by one last year.
Van der Valk made three-putt bogeys on Nos. 2 and 5. He also flubbed a 10-footer for birdie on the last hole and missed joining Tabuena at the helm.
“I didn’t get the right speed,” rued the 38-year-old Manila-based Dutchman. “I need to have a lot of good putts in the last two days to have a chance at the title.”
Keanu Jahns, who shot one of the only three under-par cards with a 70 on Wednesday, dropped two strokes on No. 17 and hobbled with a 75, slipping to fourth at 145 with young American Micah Shin wresting solo third at 145 after a 73.
The others dropped farther back with over-par cards, with 2004 champion Tony Lascuña limping with a 76 for fifth at 149 and Elmer Salvador submitting four-over card for sixth at 151.
Jhonnel Ababa, who scored back-to-back victories on the PGT Asia last month, had a 79 for joint seventh at 152 with Jerson Balasabas and Charles Hong, who carded 75s.
Frankie Miñoza recovered with a 74 after a 79 but at 153 stands 12 strokes off Tabuena.
Angelo Que, who has won this event three times, failed to recover from an opening 75, firing a horrible 81 for a 12-over 156, 15 strokes behind Tabuena.
A double-bogey mishap on the opening hole somehow hinted at the coming of a bleak day for the long-hitting Que, who bogeyed the next two and made two more double bogeys and a bogey against two birdies in a horrendous 43 start.
He birdied the par-5 10th but stumbled with four bogeys against one birdie in the last seven holes for a 38, winding up in joint 15th with Clyde Mondilla, who hobbled with another 78, Orlan Sumcad, who shot a 79, and and Rufino Bayron and Jobim Carlos, who shot 76s.