DAVAO – Miguel Tabuena put on a dazzling show of shotmaking and impeccable iron game and putting and stormed ahead by three with a bogey-free eight-under 64 as two-day leader Michael Bibat bombed out with a 75 in the third round of the ICTSI Rancho Palos Verdes Classic here Friday.
Staying within striking distance with back-to-back 66s, Tabuena finally took the lead with a torrid start capped by a stirring five-birdie string linking both nines before slowing down with pars in the last six holes for a 31-33 card.
With a whopping 20-under 196 aggregate, the 21-year-old Tabuena seized a three-shot lead over Elmer Salvador and moved 18 holes away from nailing his second win on this year’s ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour and getting past absentee Angelo Que in their spirited battle for the Order of Merit crown.
“I’ve gained some kind of momentum playing five weeks in row. So, I’ve been hitting it really well,” said Tabuena, who won the kickoff leg at ICTSI Splendido and finished runner-up or tied for second in three tournaments after seven legs of the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Salvador, also in top form following his repeat win at ICTSI Riviera last week, nearly matched Tabuena’s hot round but bogeyed the final hole and settled for a 32-34 and 66. His 199 aggregate, however, kept him three shots behind the young but solid Tabuena, who had 19 birdies and an eagle against just one bogey after 54 holes of the P1.5 milion event sponsored by ICTSI.
He could’ve actually churned out a lower output but turned a bit impatient in the last six holes and missed at least two birdie opportunities.
“I tried too hard to get birdies from Nos. 13 to 18 and missed pin-length chances on Nos. 14 and 16. I should’ve let it just happen,” said Tabuena, who birdied the first three odd number holes to wrest control then pulled away with a five-birdie string from No. 8.
Tony Lascuña also fired a 66 in another low scoring day at Rancho Palos Verdes but the reigning three-time OOM champion, winner of five legs last year but still winless this year, stood too far behind at 205, nine strokes behind Tabuena, in a tie with Clyde Mondilla, who carded a second 68.
Bibat, whose impressive 64-67 start kept him on top of the stellar field, cracked when ranged against Tabuena and Salvador, making two bogeys against a birdie at the front and blowing it all with three bogeys in the last seven holes after birdying the par-5 12th for the third straight day.
His three-over 75 pulled him down to fifth at 206, 10 strokes adrift, while Ferdie Aunzo continued to struggle after an opening 65, matching par 72 for a 208, and Anthony Fernando and Randy Garalde shot identical 68s and Orlan Sumcad turned in a 70 for identical 210s.
Korean Gyuha Park missed moving to solo seventh with two bogeys in the last four holes, finishing with a 72 and tumbling to 10th with a 211.
With Bibat out of the way, Tabuena and Salvador slugged it out shot-for-shot and putt-for-putt from No. 3 with Tabuena gaining the upper hand as they made the turn with a 31 against Salvador’s 32.
The young gun pulled away by drilling three more birdies to start his backside run but Salvador pounced on his rival’s slowdown with his own birdies on Nos. 12, 15 and 17 but missed closing in further when he missed the 18th green and failed to return a six-footer for par.