GUIDO VAN DER VALK pulled off an improbable birdie putt from way out on the 72nd hole to tie then pounced on Miguel Tabuena’s pulled drive in sudden death to snatch the International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) Splendido Taal Championship crown on a routine par on Friday in Laurel, Batangas.
Van der Valk pulled through on an early blast to battle back from 2-down to 2-up over Clyde Mondilla but lost a two-stroke lead in the face of Tabuena’s final round blitz that featured two eagles in a flight ahead for a 64.
But the Manila-based Dutch came through with that incredible putt from the fringe on No. 18 to spike a closing 68 and force a playoff at 16-under 272.
“That’s ridiculous. It’s probably the longest putt I ever made in my career to get a crack at the championship, But it happens,” Van der Valk said.
One down heading to the par-4 closing hole, van der Valk hit a good drive but slipped with his right foot on his approach, the ball landing on what he described as “long, long way off the hole with a massive break.”
But he did the unthinkable then rode on that brilliance to frustrate Tabuena with another solid drive on their return to No. 18 then hacked his approach shot, this time, to within seven feet.
In contrast, Tabuena pulled his drive then hit a shot from under the tree to the right side of the green. His chip went past the hole and needed two putts to hole out.
Freed of the pressure, van der Valk flubbed his birdie bid then tapped in for par to clinch the victory worth P360,000.
Tabuena had appeared headed to annexing his third victory here at the Greg Norman-designed layout after posting his first career win in 2012 and reigned again in 2015 as he rallied from six down to storm ahead by two on a six-under blitz in a five-hole stretch from No. 9. But he bogeyed the tough No. 16 for the second straight day and settled for a one-stroke lead at the end of regulation on a fiery 64 in scorching conditions.
But van der Valk never lost hope although it looked like he did after barely reaching the 18th green.
“I was just lucky it went in,” he said.
Tabuena thus fell short of scoring a second playoff victory after edging Mondilla at Luisita last March, ruing blowing the chance to post one of the most stirring comebacks in Philippine Golf Tour (PGT) history when he rallied from six down to take command heading to the last five holes.
That blistering Tabuena charge featured a second eagle on No. 11 but a missed green miscue on No. 16 stalled his charge while giving van der Valk a chance to mount his own version of a late rally.
Tabuena received P236,000.
Mondilla never recovered from a double bogey mishap on No. 2 and ended up with a 74 to drop to third at 276 worth P136,000 while Tony Lascuña stayed in the hunt with a 34 start but made two backside bogeys and finished with a 72 for fourth at 278. He took home P106,000.
Former national champion Lloyd Go also rallied with a 66 to tie former Masters titlist Jerson Balasabas, who shot a 68, at fifth at 279 while Joenard Rates birdied the last hole to shoot a 67 and share seventh place with Sean Ramos, who matched par 72, at 282.
Ira Alido, who dominated the field in the ICTSI Riviera Championship at Langer in 2020, closed out the backside with a 32 for a 68 as he salvaged joint ninth at 283 with Dino Villanueva and 2019 Pueble de Oro leg winner Reymon Jaraula, who carded 69 and 71, respectively.
Carl Corpus floundered with a 73 but still took the low amateur honors as he finished tied for 11th at 284 with Dan Cruz and Eric Gallardo, who turned in 72 and 74, respectively, in the third leg of this year’s PGT put up by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc.
Image credits: Roy Domingo