Young Miguel Tabuena leaned on an early backside binge to regain control then came through with clutch par putts in the closing holes to foil the rallying Angelo Que and snared the ICTSI Splendido Classic crown by one on a one-under 71 at the Splendido Taal Golf Club in Tagaytay Saturday.
Tabuena, 19, fired three birdies in the first four holes at the back to regain control then drilled in pressure-packed putts the rest of the way to cushion the impact of Que’s scorching finish and clinch the victory and the top P360,000 purse on a 13-under 275 aggregate, his fifth win in a young pro career.
The win is also a big morale-boost for Tabuena heading to next week’s Manila Masters at Eastridge where he is the defending champion.
Que, one behind Tabuena at the start of the final round, grabbed a one-stroke lead on a two-shot swing on No. 3 but yielded it with a bogey on the eighth before falling behind by three as Tabuena rattled off birdies on Nos. 10, 11 and 13.
But the three-time Asian Tour champion made a late charge but ran out of holes, his two birdies in the last three holes proving not enough for a playoff crack. He settled for a 71 for a 276 worth P250,000 and remained winless since ruling the Selangor Masters of the Asian Tour in Aug. 2010.
Elmer Salvador, the third man in the championship flight, got to within two after Tabuena fumbled with early bogeys but the Asian Development Tour –Riviera leg winner last year failed to cash in, matching Tabuena and Que’s closing 71s for solo third at 280 worth P140,000.
Jay Bayron, who came back from nine strokes down to edge brother Rufino by one and snatch the crown last year, charged home again with a five-under 67 although it was only enough for a fourth place finish at 281. He received P115,000.
Rufino, who led in the first round with a 67, ended up with a 72, the same output turned in by reigning three-time Order of Merit winner Tony Lascuna as they shared fifth place at 283. Each got P83,500.
Clyde Mondilla, who scored a breakthrough win at Canlubang Invitational last year, stumbled with a 74 and dropped to share of seventh with Japanese Toru Nakajima, who fired a 70, at 286 worth P61,500 each, while Ferdie Aunzo shot a 71 to tie Jhonnel Ababa, who arded a 74,at ninth at 288. Each received P47,500.
For a while, Que appeared headed to finally snapping a long title spell despite an opening hole bogey as he birdied No. 3 and watched Tabuena drop shots on two of the first three holes to wrest a one-stroke lead.
But the early setback only brought out the best from Tabuena, who negated his third bogey on No. 7 with a birdie on the ninth and forced a tie with Que, who slowed down with bogeys on Nos. 6 and 8 against a birdie on No. 9. Bracing for a backside shootout, Tabuena unloaded the first shot — a birdie on the 10th then surged ahead by two as Que holed out with a bogey on the par-4 hole. Both traded birdies on the 11th and par on the next but Tabuena knocked down another birdie on No. 13th and went three-up with five holes to go.
And just as he planned, Tabuena didn’t force the issue, settling for routine pars the rest of the way and let Que make his make-or-break bid that produced two late birdies and another failed title bid.