Singaporean veteran Mardan Mamat coasted to a five-stroke victory in the fourth round of the US$300,000 ICTSI Philippine Open yesterday, putting an end to a six-year winless run.
The emotional 44-year-old picked up his third Asian Tour victory with a closing one-under 71 at the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club’s East course, completing a wire-to-wire victory with an eight-under 280 aggregate.
Mo Joong-kyung of South Korea threatened briefly before finishing a distant second, signing off with a 74, while top Filipino honors went to Antonio Lascuna, who returned a 69 for tied third place with Japan’s Azuma Yano.
However, it was a heartbreaking end to local teen sensation Miguel Tabuena’s tournament, who started the final round one shot back of Mamat, but faded badly with an 81 to settle for a share of 11th position.
After tapping in for his lone bogey on 18, Mamat fell to his knees as he celebrated his return to the winner’s enclosure. He later broke down in tears when asked how he had made it through the barren six years without a win.
“My wife encouraged and pushed me a lot to practice. She said you love the game so much and why must you quit. There was a time when I said it was time for me to be a golf coach, but she said not in your dreams,” he said.
“It feels great. It’s always good to win a tournament, especially the oldest national Open in Asia,” the delighted Singaporean added.
With his closest challengers Mo and Tabuena starting poorly, a rock-solid Mamat raced three shots clear with a birdie on the fourth hole and by the time he turned in 35, he was six shots clear of the pack.
Mo endured a horrendous opening seven holes, going five-over par in seven holes before rallying briefly with four birdies in mid-round to pull to within four shots of Mamat.
Chasing a third Asian Tour victory, the South Korean rued two poor tee shots, which led to his double-bogeys on three and seven.
Lascuna finished as top Filipino after a solid round that included four birdies in his outward nine.
It was a nightmarish final day for the 17-year-old Tabuena, who was hoping to become the youngest winner of the Philippine Open.
He turned in 39 with five bogeys against two birdies and his hopes all but vanished with a triple-bogey on the 10th following an errant drive into the woods.
“After bogeying the first, my confidence went. I was aiming for fairways and greens, but it didn’t happen. I’ll learn from this,” he said.