Miguel Tabuena put together a superb round of eight-under 64 highlighted by three chip-in birdies, overhauling a five-stroke deficit and moving closer to snapping a long spell with a one-stroke lead over Elmer Salvador in the third round of the ICTSI Manila Masters at the soggy Eastridge Golf Club in Binangonan, Rizal on Thursday.
Bouncing back from a poor 74, after a brilliant opening 66, Tabuena turned in one of his best rounds in a young career, sparking his birdie-binge with three chip-in birdies in the first eight holes before ripping the backside with five birdies in the last six.
His 33-31 round, however, failed to erase the course-record tying 65 posted by Cassius Casas in Tuesday’s opener of the P3.5 million event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. since the third round was played under preferred lies rules.
Still, it was enough to put Tabuena within 18 holes from scoring a follow-up to his victory at ICTSI Sherwood last year where he shot a final round 66 to beat Edward Reyes by eight.
“The chip-in at No. 8 [from 10 feet]started the momentum, It was a super hard green,” said Tabuena, who also chipped in for birdies on Nos. 1 and 6 from 15 feet.
“Actually, I got into the right spots the whole day,” added Tabuena, who hit three straight birdies from No. 13 inside six feet before closing out with a 10-footer and a tap-in. “My plan was to get into good position for Friday’s [today]finale.”
With a 12-under 204 aggregate, Tabuena is indeed looking good at the top of the elite field.
But Salvador remains just right behind at 205, matching Tabuena’s fiery windup in a flight behind with four birdies in the last five holes for a 69, while Casas floundered after a 65 and a 70, settling for a 72 and a 207.
“This is a good fight but will play it hole-by-hole and shot-for-shot,” said Salvador, who recovered from a three-bogey mishap in a five-hole stretch from No. 8 with four birdies in the last five holes.
“After I three-putted No. 12, I told myself that I needed to fight back. It’s a good thing that I was able to hit it close from Nos. 14-16,” said Salvador, who strung up three straight birdies inside four feet before birdying the par-5 18th for the third straight day.
So unsteady was Casas that needed to birdie the last two holes to make it a three-cornered fight for the top P650,000 purse in this eighth leg of the Philippine Golf Tour sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
“I lost my rhythm midway but I was still able to bounce back and I hope to carry that momentum into the final round,” said Casas, who kept the lead with a birdie on No. 3 but dropped a shot on the fifth and bogeyed Nos. 12 and 14 to drop out of the leaderboard.
The rest are too far behind to contend with Benjie Magada laying six strokes behind Tabuena at 210 after a 69 and two-leg winner and reigning back-to-back Order of Merit champion Tony Lascuna fumbling with a 74 for a 212.
Anthony Fernando joined Lascuna at fifth with a tough 71 along with Mhark Fernando also faded with a 75 after a 67 and a 70 while Marvin Dumandan fought back with a 68 to tie Carl Santos-Ocampo, who fired a 69, Jay Bayron, who shot a 70, and Jhonnel Ababa, who matched par 72, at 213.