March 19, 2023: Filipino Miguel Tabuena overturned a six-shot deficit to edge past overnight leader and home favourite Rashid Khan to win the second edition of The DGC Open presented by Mastercard on Sunday. It was Tabuena’s third Asian Tour win and the first since 2018.
At the end, a closing par on the 18th hole was good enough to give the young Filipino a one-shot win on 12-under par 276 (68-71-72-65), while Rashid Khan returned an 11-under total of 277 (67-70-68-72). Tabuena also became only the second Filipino to win in India since Ben Arda, who won the Indian Open in 1969 at the Royal Calcutta Golf Club.
There were three Indians in the top five but the top prize went to Tabuena, who did not put a foot wrong on the final day and even survived a missed three-footer for an eighth birdie on the 18th.
Thai veteran Chapchai Nirat took sole third place at 10-under par 278 (68-71-71-68). Two-time Indian Open winner SSP Chawrasia was fourth on seven-under 281 (72-70-71-68) finishing with a four-under bogey-free round that matched Tabuena’s feat of keeping the round error-free.
Making it a fine day for India overall were Gaganjeet Bhullar (69), Om Prakash Chouhan (72) and Honey Baisoya (72) all tied for sixth place at six-under 282 along with Thailand’s Suteepat Prateeptienchai (69).
The compactly built 29-year-old Tabuena fired seven birdies in a bogey-free card of 65 to rein in runaway leader Rashid Khan who started the three shots ahead of the field.
Chapchai Nirat, who made a run in the middle of the round was unable to maintain that momentum in the closing stages and carded 68 to finish third at 10-under.
S Chikkarangappa (72), who was lying second after 54 holes, finished fourth, while SSP Chawrasia fired a bogey-free 68 to finish sole fifth.
Though Tabuena played superbly all day, he was in full flow on the back nine as he birdied 10th, 12th, 15th and 16th. Rashid, who had just one birdie in the first 14 holes and missed a bunch of possible birdies, dropped his first shot on the 15th and at that point Tabuena was suddenly looking good with a birdie on the same hole a few minutes earlier.
Tabuena made back-to-back birdies with one on the 16th and as Rashid dropped a second bogey on 17th, the Indian was left with an unenviable task of going broke for an eagle on 18th to force a play-off. He managed only a birdie.
It was the sixth runner-up finish in his pro career for Rashid and the fifth since his last title in 2014. Last year Rashid was runner-up twice and he was runner-up yet again this time.
Tabuena got stronger as the day went on, playing what at times seemed to be nerveless golf. Playing in the group ahead of Rashid Khan, Chikkarangappa (280) and Honey Baisoya (282), he had three birdies to make the turn on three-under 33 and then picked up a further four shots on his way home.
“Nerveless was the last thing I was out there today,” he said at the post-victory media interaction, “The DGC is one of the toughest courses we get to play on the Asian Tour. I’ve played it many times before and it is still a test every time, plus Rashid is the kind of player you can never relax about. I know him very well, he is very aggressive so overall, I’m very glad with this result.
“I called my wife first after winning and then I called my dad and I told him that this tournament was for him. He went through a lot last year and we were very lucky in the end. He is doing very well now, but I missed half the year last year. I played less than 10 events last year and it was very hard to keep my card for this year. I was lucky enough to play well in the latter part of the year.
“I was very solid off the tee which gave me the best possible look at any pin. I was hitting a lot of three-irons, four-irons and my hybrid, so those were the money clubs this week for me and I knew that coming in this week.
“I have played this course a number of times and I’m really glad I figured it out. I was very proud of the way I stayed patient this whole week, I just stuck to my game plan and came out very lucky at the end.”
Manasi Narasimhan, Vice President & Head, Marketing & Communications, South Asia, Mastercard, said, “The week was packed with some nail-biting moments as the participants showcased their mesmerizing craft on the sprawling greens of the Delhi Golf Course. Despite a short halt because of the weather, the golfers were swift to switch back to their game and put up a stellar display that went down to the wire. Watching Tabuena on the 18th hole was exhilarating, and we congratulate him on the win. We hope to continue our association with The DGC and also entice many other prominent golfers to play on the Indian shore”
“I gave it my best shot,” Rashid said later. “There was nothing more I could have done today. Finishing second is not that bad a result and I’m quite happy to take that away from here. I have had a problem with 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, that’s it.”
Chapchai, who once shot 32-under while winning the SAIL Open in Gurgaon in 2009, said, “My game is coming back with second top 10 after Qatar this year but still has some way to go.”
He added, “I have only just come back after two years off from the game where I was coaching my team of youngsters. Then I came back last year and definitely I need more practice. I need to come back stronger.
“But I’m really, really happy. I have been working with my coach and some results are starting to come but still a long way to go. Today I just wanted to keep it on the fairway and reach the greens and mostly I did that. Only missed the fairway on 14 but I came back well. Greens also were very firm, much more than last year but I have to say very good course, very happy overall.”