Delhi Delight for Blemish-Free Tabuena

Miguel Tabuena won the DGC Open presented by Mastercard at the Delhi Golf Club. Picture by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour.

New Delhi, India: Miguel Tabuena fired an inspired seven-under-par 65 to win The DGC Open presented by Mastercard at Delhi Golf Club (DGC) and claim his first title on the Asian Tour in over four years.

The 28-year-old from the Philippines, six behind overnight leader Rashid Khan from India at the start of the day, confidently glided around DGC’s challenging Lodhi Course, shooting seven birdies and no bogeys to finish on 12-under and beat Khan by one.

Khan, himself chasing a first Asian Tour victory in nine years, closed with a 72, while Thailand’s Chapchai Nirat finished one shot back to secure third place outright with a 68.

Tabuena, playing in the penultimate group, gradually reeled in Khan, who started the day with a three-shot lead over countryman Chikkarangappa S, and was four behind him at the turn, before a brilliant back nine saw him catch and overtake the Indian.

The Filipino birdied 10, 12, 15 and 16 while Khan dropped shots on 15 and 17, where he had a bad lie in a greenside trap on the par-three and failed to get up and down. Khan needed an eagle on the par-five 18th to draw level, but his approach just missed the green from where he chipped to four feet and made a four.

An 80-minute delay caused by inclement weather while Khan was playing the 14th did little to help the India’s chances, while Tabuena’s round was one short of the course record.

“I feel great,” said Tabuena, who becomes only the second player from his country to win in India after his legendary compatriot Ben Arda’s success in the Indian Open in 1969.

“I have been playing very well for the past few months and I really believed that another win was coming soon. I told myself to just stick to the gameplan,” he added.

The win completes something of a comeback for Tabuena who only just kept his Tour card on the Order of Merit in 2022, taking the last spot. He also had to deal with the trauma of his father having a heart by-pass last year.

He first tasted victory on the Asian Tour at the Philippine Open in 2015 before his second win at the Queen’s Cup at the end of 2018.

“It’s very easy to get too aggressive at Delhi Golf Club and I was very happy with how we stuck mentally to our game plan,” he added.

“I executed each shot the way I wanted to. It is hard to describe. It’s great to be back in the winner’s circle and I really believe there is way more room for improvement still. 

“To be honest, bogey-free at Delhi Golf Club on a Sunday is probably the best feeling in the world. As soon as I got my scorecard I thought: ‘Did I really just shoot seven-under in Delhi Golf Club, one of the hardest courses we play on the Asian Tour?’ It was one of the best rounds of my career on a Sunday. I didn’t force any shots. I’m pretty overwhelmed and pretty tired physically and mentally.”

Khan will be bitterly disappointed not to have prevailed. Since winning the SAIL-SBI Open at DGC in 2014 he has now finished second on five occasions here. He was also second twice on the Asian Tour last year, suggesting his time for another victory will surely come soon.

He said: “I wasn’t hitting it well at all and the worst part was that this is the first time in my life where I couldn’t hit hard. I wasn’t able to swing it well. I have a problem in my swing which I’m working on, and I played this week only on my putter. And I just didn’t hole my putts today.

“On the 17th, I had to go for it. I hit my eight-iron and I thinned it and ended up making a bogey. When you’re two shots back and going into the last hole, that’s difficult.

“If I had gone aggressive today, the score could have been even worse. During the break, I went to the range and was hitting it well, but on the golf course it was a different story. I am taking next week off.”

The Asian Tour journeys to the World City Championship at the Hong Kong Golf Club from March 23-26.

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