MANILA, Philippines - Miguel Tabuena braced for what could be his toughest test in a young, flourishing career as he fell into a four-way tie for the lead with a scrambling one-over 72 in the third round of the Queen’s Cup at the Santiburi Samui Country Club in Koh Samui, Thailand yesterday.
Tabuena, winner of two tournaments back home, again struggled in the early going and fought back in the closing holes although the 17-year-old find flubbed a makeable birdie putt on the par-5 18th to set the stage for a wide-open battle for top honors in the $300,000 event.
He had a 209 total over 54 holes, the same output put in by halfway co-leader Thaworn Wiratchant, who actually had the lead going to the last hole which he bogeyed for a 72, Siddikur Rahman of Bangladesh, who matched par 71 and another Thai Varut Chomchalam, who came out of nowhere to join the title hunt with a fiery five-under 66.
Still, a slew of others remained in the title race with American Jonathan Moore and four others just two strokes behind at 211 and Juvic Pagunsan looming large at 212 after a rather shaky 72.
Moore fired a 67 to likewise force a five-way tie for fifth with Thai Panuwat Muenlek, who also shot a 67, Dutch Guido Van der Valk, who made a 69, Korean Baek Seuk-hyun, who had a 70, and India’s Anirban Lahiri, who carded a 72.
Tabuena appeared to have wilted under pressure in the first few holes as he opened with a bogey, yielding the lead to Wiratchant. Although he birdied No. 2, Tabuena again dropped a stroke on No. 4 then hung tough w ith pars in the next nine holes.
He birdied No. 14 but double-bogeyed the par-3 15th before rebounding with another birdie on the next for that 72.
Pagunsan also fought back from another shaky start with a blazing finish, birdying three of the last seven holes to save a one-over 72 although he dropped from fifth to solo 10th at 212.
The reigning Asian Tour champion, however, stood four strokes adrift of the joint leaders heading to the final round of the event serving as the 11th leg of the region’s premier circuit.
Pagunsan, who fired the tournament-best 65 Friday spiked by a last-hole eagle, bogeyed three of the first five holes and made the turn at 39. He dropped another stroke on No. 10 but checked his skid with birdies on Nos. 12, 13 and 18.
Mars Pucay, on the other hand, leaned on a solid start of 34 and finished with a 68 for a 214 for joint 14th with three others while Tony Lascuna slid to a share of 22nd with a 216 after a 72.
Three-time Asian Tour winner Angelo Que made a 9 on the par-5 eighth and ended up with a 73 for a 218 while Jay Bayron rebounded with three birdies in the last seven holes to salvage a 74 for a 220.