• Villacencio wavers, recovers to nip Tabuena in playoff

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    Arnold Villacencio CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

    Arnold Villacencio CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

    Arnold Villacencio finally nailed the win that has eluded him for years, bucking the rain and an hour-long delay to upend the fancied Miguel Tabuena with a birdie on the second playoff hole and capture the ICTSI Summit Point Golf Classic crown in Lipa, Batangas on Saturday.

    Not even the long stoppage due to lightning could cool down and rattle the 46-year-old Villacencio, who blew a three-shot lead over Tabuena after 54 holes but fought back from two strokes down with three straight birdies from No. 12 then matched the young gun’s pars in the last three holes to force a playoff at 13-under 275 after a 71.

    Tabuena, who charged back with a flawless four-under 68, missed clinching it on the first playoff hole after his birdie putt from 20 feet stopped on the edge of the cup with Villacencio’s bid from almost the same distance falling short by one foot.

    But after both players hit their respective drives in the rain in sudden death, the organizing Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, inc. halted the match due to lightning. The wait extended to over an hour as rains pounded the layout, submerging the fairway and the putting green.

    But Villacencio proved steadier at resumption, drilling in a pressure-packed birdie from pin-high length on their third trip on the par-4 18th off a superb approach shot after Tabuena dumped his second shot into the greenside bunker and blasted to within a foot.

    “I’m very, very happy to finally win. My wish was to score a victory before I reach my senior year,” said Villacencio, who pocketed his biggest paycheck to date worth P200,000 after going winless the last 27 years. “I thank God for giving me this win and it’s an honor to beat a young ace in Miguel.”

    The loss, on the other hand, extended Tabuena’s playoff woes after the ICTSI Manila Masters runaway winner lost in a playoff in the Yeangder Players Championship of the Asian Tour in Taiwan last September. He took home P120,000.

    Anthony Fernando, who also sparked hopes for a breakthrough win with 66 and 67 in the middle rounds to get a rare spot in the championship flight, couldn’t get going with a 36 start but fired two birdies at the back for a 70. He shared third place with Clyde Mondilla, who rallied with a 67 for 276, and combined P97,500 purse.

    Dumandan, tied with Villacencio after 54 holes, also cracked under pressure at the front with a 37 but remained in a three-way with Tabuena and Villacencio. He, however, fell behind with another bogey on the 11th and needed to birdie the par-5 16th for the second straight time to salvage a 73 for solo fifth at 277 worth P32,500.

    Tony Lascuña, winner of four legs in this year’s circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., failed to mount a rally and settled for a 71, ending up tied at sixth with first round co-leader Dante Becierra, who matched par 72, at 279.

    Mars Pucay shot a 69 while Edward Reyes carded a 70 as they shared eighth place at 281 while Fil-Am Carl Santos-Ocampo charged back with a 68 to tie ICTSI Royal Northwoods winner Zanie Boy Gialon, who made a 72, at 10th at 283.

    Tabuena only had three bogeys, one each in the first three rounds but needed to rebound from as many as six strokes with 36 holes left to contend for the crown as Villacencio struck with a 65 in the second round to lead the stellar field in the P1 million event.

    Tabuena actually wiped out a three-stroke deficit after nine holes with birdies on Nos. 2 and 5 for a 34 as Villacencio, pressured to nail a first-ever pro crown, bogeyed the opening hole, fought back with back-to-back birdies from No. 2, only to drop two strokes on the par-3 No. 6 for the second straight day for a 37.

    Another birdie on No. 10 shoved Tabuena on top and the ICTSI Manila Masters champion, raring to atone for his playoff loss in the Yeangder Players Championship of the Asian Tour in Taiwan last month, went 2-up after Villacencio bogeyed the par-4 No. 12.

    But Villacencio strung up three-straight birdies from No. 12 in impressive fashion, the last matching Tabuena’s birdie on No. 15 that tied the duo again.

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