Golfer Tabuena plays through pain for the Philippines

RIO DE JANEIRO – Miguel Tabuena tried but failed to make the most out of the favorable playing conditions Saturday and stayed near the bottom of the leaderboard entering the final round of the golf competition in the 2016 Rio Olympics.

Tabuena played with strips of muscle tape on his hurting right shoulder. He said it felt a little better than the other day and yet he could not turn in a round better than two-over-par 73, the same output he had in the opening round last Thursday.

The 21-year-old Filipino had a string of bogeys on the second, third and fourth holes. But he averted a total collapse with 5 straight pars and back-to-back birdies on numbers 10 and 11, just enough to cushion two more bogeys on the 13th and 15th.

He left the brand-new Olympic Golf Course with a 221 total as the big guns made their moves on a day that was far better than the opening round, which was too windy, and the second, when a downpour in the morning made it tougher for the 60-man field.

Tabuena was in 56th place at the end of the day, but stressed that he will play on despite his condition, and make the most out of this rare Olympic experience.

“One more day tomorrow,” said Tabuena, still trying to break par on the links course that was built for the Rio Olympics, and will be turned into a public course once the Games are done.

Tabuena said there’s no plan to quit even if playing with the hurting shoulder may jeopardize his chances in a few more tournaments toward the end of the year.

“I don’t really like it when I play in pain. For me, if I’m in pain I already pull the plug right away because it’s too risky. I have more tournaments at the end of the year. But this the Olympics. It’s hard to give up,” he said.

Tabuena had high expectations heading to Rio, and thought that a solid start and some luck can put him in medal contention as golf makes a comeback in the Olympics after 112 years.

“The first day I put too much pressure to myself, as well as the second day. I tried to shoot a low number. And if you try too hard in golf you can go haywire,” he said.

Three bogeys very early in the round, a 3-putt from 45 feet on the second and then on missed greens on the others, stymied his chances.

“The winds are not as strong as the first two days. The weather conditions are actually perfect for scoring. You’ll see a lot of guys shooting low and getting close to the leader because the wind is not that strong and the pins are accessible today,” he said.

Justin Rose of Great Britain emerged as the new leader after 54 holes, hitting two eagles and 4 birdies against two bogeys for a 6-under 65 and a 201 total.

The 36-year-old Rose, the 2013 US Open champion, will enter the final round just one stroke ahead of reigning British Open champion Henrik Stenson of Sweden (68), and 3 up on two-day leader Marcus Fraser of Australia (72).

Two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson of the United States continued his surge, firing his second straight 67 to be at 207, 6 strokes off the pace, while Rickie Fowler, also from the US, carded the day’s best round of 64 built around an eagle, 7 birdies and two bogeys (201).

Tabuena will answer the gun for the fourth and final round with hopes of turning a better round.

“Today, I enjoyed a bit more and tomorrow I will enjoy all of it because it was my last round tomorrow and the Olympics is every 4 years and I’m happy to be part of it,” he said.

“The shoulder is better but I’m still in pain and it still bothers me. But it’s not as bad as before,” added the young veteran of the 2016 US Open.  –