CANLUBANG: Canadian Richard Lee proved steadier than everybody else in the toughest day at The Country Club on Sunday, hitting clutch birdies and gutsy pars to snatch the Solaire Open crown with a brilliant two-under 69 in severe condition that claimed the title bids of local aces Angelo Que and Miguel Tabuena.
Lee bucked a double-bogey mishap on the difficult par-4 No. 4 with back-to-back birdies from No. 8 and came back from four down to wrest control at the turn with a 35 as Que, who led Tabuena by one after 54 holes, bombed out early with an uncharacteristic 12 on the par-5 No. 2 after going out-of-bounds thrice for a 44 start and an 82 and Tabuena cracking up and reeling back with a string of bogeys that marred his frontside 41 for a 76.
Wang Jeung-hun, just two shots behind Que at the start of the final round of the $300,000 event sponsored by Solaire Resort and Casino, actually emerged with a best 38 score in the championship flight but the Korean ace tumbled down just the same with a 77 as Lee, in a flight ahead, sustained his form at the back, gunning down two birdies, including a long putt from 25 feet on No. 15, and salvaging pars in the last seven holes for that 69.
He finished with a seven-under 277 and nipped Thai Chawa lit Plaphol by one to pocket the top $54,000 purse that had been up for grabs in a long stretch of the final round where at least 10 players took a crack at it.
In the end, Lee emerged the bewildered winner with Plaphol missing forcing a playoff with a par on the 72nd hole. The Thai carded a 70 for a 286 and took the runner-up purse worth $33,000.
“The wind was strong and it’s a challenging golf course. This is the strongest wind I’ve ever played in my life but despite the wind, I didn’t adjust my game that much,” said Lee.
Spain’s Carlos Pigem fired a 69 to snatch third place at 279 and $18,900 while Japan’s Masahiro Kawamura came out of nowhere to tie for fourth at 280 with a bogey-free six-under 65. Englishman Steve Lewton shot a 67 while American Paul Peterson carded a 69 for 280s worth $12,430 each in the second leg of the Asian Tour backed backed by DMCI Homes, BDO, PLDT and Meralco.