ICTSI Match Play: Tabuena, Que on collision course; Lascuña, Ababa win

ICTSI Match Play: Tabuena, Que on collision course; Lascuña, Ababa win
Miguel Tabuena (left) and Angelo Que
Pilipinas Golf

SANTA ROSA, Laguna – Miguel Tabuena and Angelo Que chalked up victories in commanding fashions to arrange an eagerly anticipated quarterfinal showdown in the ICTSI The Country Club Match Play Invitational that continued to witness the surge of a former ace making a comeback after a two-year hiatus.

Tabuena — who eased past fellow Asian Tour campaigner Lloyd Go, 3&2, in Tuesday’s first round of the tournament at the TCC course here — took four of the first eight holes and coasted to a 6&5 romp over Rupert Zaragosa. He thus moved to the Last 8 against fellow former Philippine Open champion Angelo Que at 7:34 a.m.

The three-time Asian Tour titlist also displayed formidable form, clipping Ira Alido early on by winning three of the first eight holes on his way to claiming a 6&4 victory in blustery conditions at the long, demanding, well-kept layout. He routed Minseong Kim, also of Korea, 7&5, in the first round of the knockout matches among the top finishers of the recently-concluded 10-leg Philippine Golf Tour.

Despite their numerous encounters in stroke play competitions, this marks their first face-off in match play, promising an engaging contest of strategic play.

“Miguel, in match play? Never,” said Que when asked if they had ever faced each other in head-to-head duels.

“I’m excited to play with Angelo tomorrow. I haven’t played with him in a while, so it should be good fun,” said Tabuena, who tied for ninth in last Sunday’s Indonesian Masters. “I’m sure we will a good time on the course.”

Elmer Salvador, meanwhile, continued his impressive run, beating Valley leg runaway winner and third seed Reymon Jaraula, 4&3, after stunning last year’s match play runner-up Keanu Jahns, 4&3, the previous day.

“I’ve been hitting it pretty well — driving, 3-wood, long and short irons,” said Salvador, who had posted a couple of Top 7 seven finishes in his return from a two-year layoff due to illness. “My putting has also been clicking and I just hope to keep it going.”

But the multi-titled Davaoeño shotmaker, who last won in Riviera Classic in 2014, faces a tough challenge against Dutch and reigning back-to-back TCC Invitational winner Guido van der Valk, who repulsed Fidel Concepcion, 2&1. They clash at 7:18 a.m.

Tony Lascuña likewise kept his title-retention drive in the P2-million event put up by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. going as he trampled Zanieboy Gialon, 4&2, to set up a clash with Marvin Dumandan, who secured victory on the 19th hole for the second consecutive day.

But unlike in his escape over Rico Depilo, the jolly shotmaker needed to fight back from one down after 17 holes, coming through with a solid shot from 200 yards on the tough No. 18 to within two feet for birdie to force a playoff against Joenard Rates.

He then birdied No. 1 to clinch the win and a spot in the next round against a solid Lascuña starting at 7:10 a.m.

“Super ganda ng laro ko the first two rounds — driving, iron shots, pitching and putting. Focus lang bukas uli,” said Lascuña, winner at Caliraya Springs and a four-time OOM champion.

Top seed and this year’s OOM titlist Jhonnel Ababa also dominated Albin Engino with a 5&3 rout to arrange an interesting showdown with Quiban, who posted the same scoreline against Korean Hyun Ho Rho.

“With this course, you have to keep everything in play because the roughs and bunkers are always in play. Here a par game wins,” said Quiban.
Against Ababa in their 7:26 a.m. encounter, the South Pacific leg winner said: “I have to take advantage of the long holes. I’ve been hitting my drives and irons pretty well, so hopefully, make more putts.”

Tabuena, Que and Quiban continue to buck the rigors of an Asian Tour grind but the troika will be as much tested as the rest of the surviving field in Thursday’s quarterfinal clashes in morning play with the winners disputing the final berths starting at 12 noon.

“On the road for the last three weeks and I was 50-50 if I would play this week. But match play is not as tiring as the four-day (stroke-play) competition,” said Tabuena, who is also using this week’s event as part of his buildup for next month’s LIV Golf qualifying in Abu Dhabi.

"I see this week as practice, a week that I can win and something to try different stuff with my game,” he added. “I’m very confident of my game right now. But in match play, you’re not playing much against the course but against one person. Anyone can win, so different strategies, different ways to approach your shots.”

But the 2017 TCC Invitational champion stressed the need to stay aggressive, saying: “I know this course very well, I’ve won here a couple of times, so I definitely have an edge.”

But Que is also a three-time champion at TCC Invitational and has been playing solid the first two rounds, guaranteeing a furious battle of power and styles between two of the country’s leading players.

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