To say that he saved his best for last would be an understatement. For the former two-time Philippine Open champion and former Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit winner fumbled early but used his experience to rebound strong, producing four birdies in a seven-hole stretch from No. 3 to storm ahead.
As Quiban faded with a disastrous triple-bogey 7 on No. 13, Tabuena held sway and claimed a two-stroke victory on a birdie-birdie feat from No. 16, frustrating Gialon, who eagled the par-5 16th and birdied the next, no end.
“We just stuck to our game plan and everything worked pretty well for me,” said Tabuena, after nailing the victory on a 282 total worth P360,000, his first since ruling the Queen’s Cup of the Asian Tour in 2018.
“We knew Justin won’t gonna give up as well as Zanieboy. But I guess I have the experience, having played here a few times,” said Tabuena, who notched his second Phl Open at The Country Club in early 2018, his last local triumph before shifting his campaign abroad. “I was pretty familiar with the conditions and it wasn’t the hardest because the greens were actually in good shape and it was pretty easy to read the putts.”
Tabuena, who never figured in the title chase in PGT’s return in new normal at Riviera, actually fell by as many as three in the early going as Quiban turned a one-shot lead after 54 holes into a three-stroke cushion on a two-shot swing (birdie-bogey) on No. 2. But he birdied Nos. 3, 5, 6 and 9 to wrest control then watched Quiban crumble on No. 13 before foiling Gialon’s charge at the finish.
Gialon, who threatened to within one after that eagle feat, closed out with a 70 and ended up second with a 284 worth P236,000 while Richard Sinfuego snatched third place with a 287 after a 72 and received P136,000.
Quiban, who took charge with a tournament-best 65 in the second round and stayed ahead despite a 73 Thursday, bounced back with a birdie on No. 15 but yielded the stroke on the next and ended up with a 75 and a 288 for fourth worth P106,000.
Michael Bibat, who tied for the lead halfway through the P2 million championship marking the start of the new ICTSI-sponsored circuit, failed to recover from a third round 76 and hobbled with a 74 for fifth at 290 while Jobim Carlos placed sixth at 291 after matching par 72.
Ira Alido, who dominated the stellar field to score a breakthrough at Riviera Langer, finally broke par 71 and could only tie for seventh at 292 with Rupert Zaragosa, who carded a 72.
Jolo Magcalayo also shot a 72 to tie Alido and Zaragosa and claimed the low amateur honors in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Nilo Salahog rallied with a 68 to tie Joenard Rates, who stumbled with a 75, at 10th at 293 while Angelo Que ended up at joint 12th at 294 with American Lexus Keonin and Marvin Dumandan after a 72, 68 and 69, respectively.
Tabuena later said he could’ve done better, particularly in his long game, but stressed: “A win is a win” while crediting his putting and short game, and his team, which included coach J3 Altea, to his victory that more than heralded the return to form of the diminutive but talented Rio Olympics veteran.
“But everything stops here,” he said, adding: “It’s a matter of getting back to work and fixing few things that I think I could improve on.”
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