TARLAC – Miguel Tabuena cashed in on a key two-shot swing on No. 12 to wrest control then outgunned Ira Alido in a clash of skills and nerves in the stretch to fashion out a 65 and retain the ICTSI Luisita Championship crown by two here Friday.
On the outside looking in majority of the way, Tabuena even fell by two strokes off Alido with a bogey on the first hole but found his touch and rhythm in time to engage the third round leader in a shootout after the duo detached themselves from a crammed leaderboard with torrid frontside assaults on the Luisita Golf and Country Club course.
When the smoke cleared, Tabuena emerged virtually unscathed and a winner again at the Robert Trent Jones, Sr.-designed layout the way he did when he repelled Clyde Mondilla in sudden death here last year.
“The turning point was actually when I caught Ira on the ninth hole, we were even after No. 9. But there were still so many holes left,” said Tabuena, who after a bogey start, rattled off five birdies in the next eight holes and tied Alido, who fired four birdies of his own in the same stretch, at 12-under overall.
But as Alido regained the lead with back-to-back birdies to launch his backside bid against Tabuena’s birdie on No. 10, the latter countered with his own feat on the par-4 12th, which Alido bogeyed for a crucial two-shot swing that pulled the recent Asian Tour’s DGC Open winner ahead for the first time.
He never relinquished the lead, hiking it to two with another birdie on the next then after the duo traded bogeys on the tough No. 15, Tabuena birdied the par-5 16th to all but put the outcome beyond doubt.
He parred the last two to cap a brilliant closing 32-33 round for a 72-hole total of 14-under 274 on a course he calls home.
“It’s just something about this course where I feel very comfy. This is my fifth win at Luisita alone,” said Tabuena, who pocketed the top P360,000 purse out of the P2 million total prize in this fourth leg of this year’s Philippine Golf Tour.
“It’s something about the greens, the atmosphere, the history, the people watching every year. It feels like home and hopefully, I will have time to come back next year,” said Tabuena, who also saw a lot of promise from the 22-year-old Alido.
“Ira is a hell of a player, He just won a few months ago and he has big things coming for him,” added the former Philippine Open champion here in 2015, who also thanked ICTSI, Monde Nissin and Lexus for backing his campaign.
Alido birdied the last hole for a 68 and a 276, the runner-up finish still auguring well for the young campaigner, who rallied from five shots down to snatch the PGT Bacolod leg crown last March. He pocketed P236,000.
“Nothing really went wrong. I just had a couple of bad breaks. Overall it went really good. Miguel just played better,” said Alido. “We were going back and forth but there were some shots that I wished I could’ve taken them back.”
Fidel Concepcion likewise enhanced a promising career with a third place finish, charging back with a solid 66 spiked by a three-birdie binge from No. 13 for a 279 total while Mondilla sizzled with a five-birdie splurge in a six-hole stretch from No. 10 to fire a 66 and snare fourth place at 281.
Zanieboy Gialon and Michael Bibat tied for fifth at 282 after a 69 and 70, respectively, while recent Caliraya Springs leg winner Tony Lascuña shot a bogey-free 68 for joint seventh at 284 with Frankie Miñoza, who fumbled with a 75.
Miñoza, who continued to amaze with his fine form and staying power to join Tabuena and Mars Pucay at second, just a stroke off Alido after 54 holes of the event put up by ICTSI, stayed in the mix with a frontside 35. But the rigors of playing in hot conditions for the fourth straight day took their toll on the 63-year-old campaigner, who bogeyed No. 11, dropped two strokes on the 17th and holed out with another miscue.
Jhonnel Ababa also shot a 68 for solo ninth at 285 while Angelo Que blew a four-under card after 14 holes with a floundering finish. The three-time Asian Tour winner dropped six strokes in the last four holes, marred by double bogeys on Nos. 16 and 18.
He wound up with a 74 for joint 10th at 286 with Japanese Atsushi Ueda and second round co-leader Jay Bayron, who fumbled with 73 and 76, respectively.
Pucay, meanwhile, birdied the first hole to fuel tie Alido in the lead but a wet double-bogey on the par-3 No. 2 dropped him off the lead. He remained in contention with a run of 10 pars but like Que, the former national hotshot hobbled at the finish, yielding seven strokes in the last six holes, including a 7 on No. 17. He ended up with an 81 and tumbled to joint 22nd at 290 with Francis Morilla and Albin Engino, who turned in a 72 and 75, respectively.