Tabuena edges Que in thriller, enters ICTSI Match Play semis

Tabuena edges Que in thriller, enters ICTSI Match Play semis
Miguel Tabuena
Pilipinas Golf

SANTA ROSA, Laguna – Miguel Tabuena did the unthinkable, orchestrating a jaw-dropping comeback from four holes down with eight to play to sting Angelo Que, 1-up, in a thrilling high-noon showdown in the ICTSI The Country Club Match Play Invitational here Thursday.

“I don’t think anyone who was 4-down would expect to come back. But that was early on and I told myself there are a lot of holes left,” said Tabuena, who sealed his improbable backside run with a clutch birdie putt from under 20 feet, set up by an excellent 8-iron approach from a fairway bunker on the challenging No. 18 of the TCC course.

“It was against the wind so I thought it would be much closer than that but I was happy to make the putt,” added Tabuena.

Tabuena’s triumph propelled him to the semifinals, where he faced Justin Quiban in an afternoon duel at presstime. Quiban earlier secured his spot in the Last 4 by winning No. 6 and birdieing the eighth, ultimately clinching a 3&1 victory over Jhonnel Ababa.

Tony Lascuna and Elmer Salvador, on the other hand, sealed a clash of seasoned Davaoeno aces in the other side of the quarterfinals as the former repulsed a hard-fighting Marvin Dumandan, 3&1, and the latter stunning Guido van der Valk with a monster 30-foot par-saving putt on the 18th to escape, 1-up.

Preserving a one-stroke lead over the reigning two-time TCC Invitational champion, Salvador opted to lay it up at TCC’s demanding closing hole in a bid to secure a par but he chipped short and left himself instead with a tough putt to make.

Van der Valk, meanwhile, blasted to within tap-in distance for par, adding pressure to his veteran rival, who is out to cap a comeback from a two-year layoff with a strong finish in the P2-million championship put up by ICTSI.

But Salvador delivered in the clutch, pumping the air with full-fisted glee after the ball tracked the slope and dropped into the cup.

Tabuena later dropped Que to his knees with his own version of a massive putt, progressing instead to the next phase for a crack at the top P280,000 purse in the four-day championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc.

Reflecting on his performance, Tabuena acknowledged the challenges he faced and credited his perseverance, saying: “I thought I was going to go home early. But I'm proud of myself and my sister-caddie (Danielle) for just not giving up and fighting through some fatigue already,” said Tabuena. “Angel played pretty well the first part of the match.”  

Truly, Que skillfully transformed an initial heated birdie exchange with Tabuena into what had seemed to be a commanding 4-up lead after 10 holes.

A birdie duel in the first three holes hinted at the coming of a long, arduous battle for one of the coveted slots between two of the country’s top shotmakers with Que seizing a 1-up lead on No. 3.

Despite both players struggling on the demanding par-4 No. 5, Que still managed to win the hole and went 3-up at the turn after Tabuena missed an uphill par-putt on the ninth.

Que also took No. 10 to post his biggest lead but Tabuena struck back on the next and won Nos. 13 and 14 to cut the deficit to just one hole with four holes to play.

A wet bogey by Que on the tough par-3 17th enabled Tabuena to draw level, setting the stage for the dramatic finish.

The other quarterfinal matches all lived up to expectations. Quiban dished out his best to topple the year’s best, Lascuna fighting back from one-hole down after 10 holes by flashing vintage form to win four of the last eight, and Salvador sustaining his run of reversals that included a first-round upset of last year’s runner-up Keanu Jahns and Reymon Jaraula.

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