For 32 holes stretching back to Saturday, Rashid Khan’s pole position remained largely unchallenged. Chasing his third win on the Asian Tour, the 32-year-old home contender met his match in the final holes with Philippines’ Miguel Tabuena snatching a one-stroke win in fading light to walk away as the DGC Open champion.
It had seemed like a straightforward final day in Rashid’s bid for a win for the better part of the day. But it turned into a see-sawing contest on the other side of a 77-minute weather interruption – rain halted the contest on Saturday too — as Tabuena caught up with Rashid and went ahead, the 28-year-old becoming the first Filipino since 1969 to win in India.
Ben Arda, a nine-time winner on the Asian Tour, was the last man from the Philippines to take top honours in India when he won the Indian Open at Kolkata’s RCGC.
Holding a three-shot lead overnight, Rashid only managed an even par 72 on Sunday while Tabuena shot a brilliant, bogey-free 65 to finish 12-under for the tournament. In the end, bogeys on the 15th and 17th holes hurt Rashid with a birdie finish proving only good to finish second, one shot clear of Thailand’s Chapchai Nirat (10-under). S Chikkarangappa (8-under 280) and SSP Chawrasia (bogey-free 7-under 281) finished fourth and fifth respectively.
Rashid had a sedate start, unlike the rousing Day 3 he had. His first birdie arrived only on the par-5 eighth hole before he went one-over on the back nine. Six shots behind the leader to start the day, Tabuena’s great momentum, capped by back-to-back birdies on the 15th and 16th carried him past Rashid.
“I don’t feel I was conservative or too safe today. Had I been ultra-aggressive, I would have carded far worse,” Rashid said. “The key on this course is driving and that is one area where I fell short today. I was driving well on the practice tees but just couldn’t trust the turf.”
Unlike Rashid, Tabuena, who went bogey-free in the first round too on the narrow fairways, fired three birdies on the front nine. Gradually climbing the leaderboard, he came into his own after the weather interruption, the birdie on the 15th leaving him one shot behind the leader. Rashid missed a par putt on that hole and the bogey allowed Tabuena to catch up. The 28-year-old nudged ahead on the next hole with a decisive birdie. He missed a three-footer for another birdie on the 18th, but the four birdies on the back nine had delivered the win.
“It’s very hard to go for the flag from the rough here. I told myself to just keep being solid off the tee and my putter has been pretty hot for the past few tournaments. I also capitalised on the par-5s through the tournament,” said Tabuena.
With two tricky holes to go, wresting back his position was going to be tough and a bogey under pressure on the 17th extinguished hopes of victory.
“I had to go for it. I was trying to hit my 8-iron and I thinned it again and ended up making a bogey,” Rashid said. An eagle on the 18th would have still forced a playoff in a redux of last year, but a birdie is all he managed.
Making it an overall fine day for India were Gaganjeet Bhullar (69), Om Prakash Chouhan (72) and Honey Baisoya (72), who were all tied for sixth at six-under 282 along with Thailand’s Suteepat Prateeptienchai (69).