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Tabuena chases a dream

Filipino golf pride joins 49 ‘rookies’ teeing off in Oakmont.

Making the cut will probably be the modest target of Filipino golf star Miguel Tabuena when he tees off at the Oakmont Country Club tomorrow in the first round of the US Open, the second major golf tournament of the year.

Tabuena, 21, is one among 49 first timers seeing action in the tournament whose layout is usually considered the most difficult among the four majors. Most of the time, the winner is barely under par and many times, the champion aggregates over par for the tournament.

Tabuena will be paired with Lee Slattery of England and Daniel Summerhays of the United States. They will tee off at 12:30 a.m. (Manila time, Friday) at hole No. 10.

Last year, Jordan Spieth won the championship at Chambers Bay after Dustin Johnson missed an eagle putt from about 12 feet and the 3-foot comebacker for birdie and settled for par and the runnerup trophy.

This will be Tabuena’s first crack at a major although he has played twice on the PGA Tour as an invitee at the Sony Open in Hawaii. On both instances, Tabuena missed the cut although not by a very big margin.

But the PGA Tour and the US Open are two different animals, as different as night and day or oranges and apples.

This is the real thing. The tournament is considered the toughest test in golf and the US Golf Association, which oversees the event, delights in making life miserable for the golfers. The USGA enjoys seeing golfers suffer and the golfers, on the other hand, take on the challenge to live up to their billing as elite players.

In an interview with ABS-CBN, Tabuena accepted the challenge and looked forward to testing his skills not only against the course but also against the world’s best players led by world No. 1 Jason Day.

“It means everything to me,” Tabuena said, adding he was lucky to represent the country “in the biggest stage” of golf.

Tabuena got into the US Open by taking medalist honors in a sectional qualifying event in Daly City in California two weeks ago.

He beat more than 100 participants fighting for six spots. His scores in that sectional showed Tabuena to be in top form. He scored a 64 at Lake Merced in the first phase of qualifying and then followed it up with a 68 at the Olympic Club for an 11 under par total.

At Lake Merced, Tabuena, sandwiched an eagle on the 475-yard, par-5 14th hole between birdies on the 11th, 13th, 15th and 16th to make the turn in 7-under 29.

Needless to say, Tabuena could not believe how well he played in the sectional and for having qualified as top placer.

“I am still in shock. This will be my first major and I just can’t wait to have fun,” he said. (DING MARCELO)