Micah Shin provided the spark and sheen in an otherwise punishing day at The Country Club in Sta. Rosa, Laguna on Friday, producing a stirring five-under 67 that shoved the young American past Miguel Tabuena in the third round of the TCC Invitational-Don Pocholo Razon Memorial Cup.
While the rest of the elite field came in ruffled by the gusts for the third straight day and rued the tough pin placements in the pivotal third round, Shin made it look a little bit easy with his crisp driving, near-impeccable iron game and exceptional putting, taming the dreaded backside with a mind-boggling 32 to grab the lead at four-under 212.
What made his feat doubly astounding was he did it despite fumbling with a triple-bogey on an errant drive on the tight par-4 No. 4, playing the last 12 holes in six-under, capped by a birdie-birdie windup in a finish that could easily win major championships on an exacting course like the TCC.
“I made a number of solid drives today (yesterday). Most of them landed on the fairways, an important aspect that I must duplicate in the final round to get a shot at the time,” said Shin, who grew up and honed his talent and skills in Davao.
But outside his birdie splurge, Shin, whose lean frame belies his power off the tee, made mention of his spectacular par-save on the par-4 No. 9 where he hit a wayward drive into the bushes, took a penalty drop and hacked a solid approach to within five feet.
“That’s my shot of the day,” he said.
Tabuena held sway majority of the way, mixing two birdies against the same number of bogeys after 15 holes but after Shin holed out with that birdie-birdie feat and moved up by one in a flight ahead, the defending champion went for a birdie to tie but ended up with a bogey and fell by two, his 73 dropping him to second at 214.
He later said he actually felt a slight cracking sound on his left shoulder after the second round and went straight to the hospital for a check-up.
“The doctor said I have pulled a rotator but said I could play on. I just need to rest after the tournament,” said Tabuena, who had a grueling campaign in the Asian Tour at the start of the new season.
Still, he said it hardly affected his game and vowed to strike back in the final round in a bid to complete a back-to-back feat in the P5 million event put up by ICTSI president and chairman Ricky Razon in 2003.
With first round leader Guido Van der Valk falling 11 strokes behind at third at 223 after a wind-blown 81, the fight for the top P1.5 million is reduced to a two-way battle with the 21-year-old Shin going for this third pro victory after ruling the CAT Open at Luisita in 2016 and an Asian Tour event last year.
Four behind Tabuena after 36 holes, Shin buckled down to early with back-to-back birdies from No. 2. But he reeled back after pushing his drive to the hazard and made a 7 on No. 4. He, however, quickly wheeled back into contention with four birdies in the next eight holes.
With Tabuena keeping a one-under card after 14 holes, Shin stayed behind then surged ahead with that birdie-birdie windup as the former fumbled with two bogeys in the last four holes.
Like Tabuena and Van der Valk, the rest turned in over-par scores, all carping about the pin placements placed on strategic spots – near the bunkers or hazards – with 2004 champion Tony Lascuña limping with a 78 for fourth at 227, and back-to-back PGT Asia winner Jhonnel Ababa stumbling with a 77 for a 229 for joint fifth with Frankie Miñoza (76), Elmer Salvador (78) and Keanu Jahns (82) with Jobim Carlos shooting a 74 for joint ninth with American Nicolas Paez (76) and Jay Bayron (77) at 230.