BACOLOD – In an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation between the best of the old and new of Philippine golf, Frankie Miñoza didn’t blink and showed Miguel Tabuena the poise and grace needed to win championships in pressure-packed, down-to-the-wire finishes.
In a record five-hole playoff in the seven-year Philippine Golf Tour, Miñoza, 56, came through with a couple of spectacular bailout shots in the second and third sudden death holes to stay in the hunt then pulled off a superb wedge shot to within four feet on their fourth trip to the par-5 18th and banged in the putt to nip Tabuena and capture the ICTSI Negros Occidental Classic at the Negros Occidental Golf and Country Club here Saturday.
Tabuena, 21, hit his approach shot two pins away from the cup and missed.
“I feel good and got inspired by my solid games in the first three days,” said Minoza, whose third round 63 forced a three-way tie for the lead with Tabuena and Dutch Guido Van der Valk.
The reticent Del Monte shotmer also cited his improved putting courtesy of long-time buddy Artemio Murakami.
“My putting also clicked after I got some tips from Temyong (Artemio Murakami),” added Minoza, who pocked the top P270,000 purse. “But Miguel is good.”
And quick as Tabuena disappeared after the playoff, frustrated over his failed bid to annex a second crown after his Anvaya Invitational romp and to build up some momentum and confidence as he primes up for next month’s Olympic Games in Rio. He took home P185,000.
Miñoza, who blew a two-stroke lead in the closing holes in regulation, missed clinching it outright with a flubbed birdie bid from a putter’s length on the 72nd hole while Tabuena muffed his attempt from around 15 feet.
Tabuena fought back from two down with three holes to go as Minoza bogeyed the par-3 16th and the former birdied No. 17 from six feet to match the latter’s 67 and force a playoff at 15-under 265.
The big gallery that trailed the duo as they headed back-and-forth to the 18th four times and once to the par-4 No. 10 whooped it up as Miñoza wrapped up the grueling face-off between the country’s former star and the current toast in a record-setting sudden death that put a fitting ending to what had been billed as a classic finish after Miñoza, Tabuena and Van der Valk ended up tied after 54 holes and three others stood a stroke or two behind.
Van der Valk remained winless with a 69 and tied American Micah Shin, who shot a 68, for the second straight time. They shared second place at Binitin last week and finished tied for third this time at 267. They split the combined P190,000 purse.
Miñoza and Tabuena parred the 18th the first time out in the playoff then the former recovered from an errant drive to the left to salvage par and extend the match to a third hole.
With the pressure mounting and fatigue appearing to have crept in, Minoza hit a wayward second shot on their third stint on the 18th, the ball landing on the adjacent fairway. But the former Asia’s No. 1 came up with a brilliant recovery shot into the green and completed a two-putt par then watched Tabuena miss a title-clinching putt from eight feet.
After matching pars on the par-4 10th in the fourth playoff hole, the two headed back to 18th where Minoza hacked a solid drive, a superb second shot and a brilliant wedge shot to a putter’s length.
In the end, it was the young Tabuena who cracked under pressure, putting his third shot some 17 feet away off the cup.
It was Miñoza’s first victory since racking up three wins in 2013 and his latest triumph showed he could still perform at the highest level. The multiple winner on the Asian Tour and Japan PGA humbled the country’s current No. 1 with superb iron shots and steady putting that netted him five birdies, battling back from two shots down in the early going of the final round after forcing a three-way tie with a superb seven-under card Friday.
Tied with Tabuena and Van der Valk after 54 holes, Miñoza actually fell behind by two as Tabuena birdied No. 3 and he bogeyed the next. But the veteran shotmaker put on a fiery comeback of four birdies to close out his frontside stint with a 32.
Tabuena failed to match that scorching Minoza fightback, hitting just one more birdie on the fifth and making the turn at 33, enabling the latter to wrest control and go 2-up with another birdie on No. 12.
Van der Valk, who vowed to correct the mistakes he did when he lost control in the closing holes and lost to Tony Lascuña in a playoff at Binitin last weekend, sputtered again in the championship flight, fumbling with two bogeys with no bogey to show in an opening 37 that virtually dropped him out of the title race.
Shin, who also figured in a three-man playoff last week and lost, made it a four-way tie with a birdie on the opening hole in a flight ahead but the reed-thin American stumbled with bogeys on Nos. 4 and 6 and reeled back, never able to crowd the leaders again despite a birdie on the eighth.
Zanieboy Gialon rallied with a 67 to tie Orlan Sumcad, who made a 69, and Joenard Rates, who hobbled with a 72, at fifth at 271 while Justin Quiban fired a 67 to join halfway leader Clyde Mondilla, who had a 69, and Jay Bayron, who sputtered with a 72, at eighth at 272.
Lascuña, winner of the last three legs of the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., finally found his rhythm and fired a 66 but still missed a top 10 finish, ending up tied at 11th at 272 with Richard Abaring and Jhonnel Ababa, who closed out with a 66 and 69, respectively, in the 10th leg of this year’s circuit backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp and Champion.