RIO DE JANEIRO—Miguel Tabuena of the Philippines couldn’t sustain a hot start Thursday and wound up tied for 42nd place after the first day of golf action in the 2016 Rio Olympics here.
Tabuena showed up at the Olympic Golf Course seeking a good, steady round. He had pars in the first two holes then birdied two of the next three to go two-under very early in his round.
But he couldn’t get a birdie in the last four holes of the front nine then got into trouble with back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 10 and 11, a par 5 and a par 4. He went even.
Tabuena checked the skid with a par on the 514-yard No. 12, but bogeyed the 13. He tried to keep his grip on his game and birdied the next hole, a 229-yard par 3.
That was the last good thing he did on the course on opening day because he bogeyed two of his last three holes. From two-under early in the round, he closed out at two-over 73.
Australia’s Marcus Fraser torched the brand-new Brazilian course and led the opening round with an eight-under 63, birdying five of the first six holes. He had four more birdies on the back nine.
Fraser’s only bogey came on the second hole. Other than that, he looked perfect out on the links course and under sunny but windy conditions.
Canada’s Graham Delaet shared second place with Henrik Stenson, the reigning Open champion from Sweden, with identical rounds of five-under 66, three shots off the pace.
Five players were tied for fourth at 67, including South African and 2013 US Open champion Justin Rose, who scored a hole-in-one on the 189-yard No. 4 using a 7-iron.
A big group of players chased Fraser all day, including Sergio Garcia of Spain, who hit some great shots, leading up to a group of eight at 73, including Tabuena.
Also at 73 was American Bubba Watson, the two-time Masters champion.
Tabuena, the only Filipino athlete who saw action Thursday, said he will not give up even if he’s 10 strokes off the leader. There are three more rounds left.
“I won’t give up for you guys,” he said.
Tabuena said the winds played a factor and hoped that teeing off at 7:52 a.m. Friday can make a little difference because of lighter winds in the morning.
“The conditions were really tough today. It was very windy. Then I just couldn’t close many putts as I wanted to,” said Tabuena.
Instead of the famous swoosh, the 21-year-old Philippine Open champion wore the Philippine flag on his shirt and his cap.
“I thought I played well. But f you start to miss your tee shorts here which is very crucial, it can cost you, and that cost me two worthy holes,” said Tabuena.
His father, Luigi, was on the course for 18 holes, joined by the Filipino swing coach, Joel Altea.
“This is certainly one of the biggest tournaments I played in besides the US Open. But this means a bit more. I don’t wear a sponsor’s logo on my shirt. I’m wearing the Philippine flag and that means so much more to me,” he said.
The father did not ask anything more from Tabuena.
“He’s still there. He had two bad holes, two bad holes. But he’s still there,” he said, referring to Nos. 10 and 16 as the ones that really dragged Tabuena down.
“Those were birdie holes that he boyeged. Actually that was a four-shot swing there, from two possible birdies to two bogeys,” he said.
Tabuena bogeyed the par-5 last hole when he missed the fairway with his drive, played safe then overshot the green with his third shot. On in four, he two-putted for bogey.
Now he’s looking at a 10-shot deficit when he tees off at 7:52 a.m. with the same group – Roope Kakko of Finland (72) and Yuta Ikeda of Japan (74).
“That’s a long way to go. This is stroke play golf. You have three more days and I’ll just continue to grind tomorrow,” said Tabuena.
Asked how many greens he missed, the boyish-looking golfer said he couldn’t even remember.
“Too many to count. That’s probably one thing I have to adjust tomorrow, and if I get my putter to work,” said Tabuena.
“The first nine was good (putting). Then my putter started to cool off in the back nine. Like I said, my game isn’t in a good place now. I just can’t force things now,” he said.
He said since arriving here last Aug. 6, he played three practice rounds on the course, but not under the same windy conditions as Thursday’s.
Because no other Filipino athlete saw action Thursday, Filipino sports officials were out in full force at the course, led by Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose Cojuangco.
Jose Romasanta, chef-de-mission of Team Philippines here, walked a few holes and realized how tough the field is despite the absence of the world’s top players.
“You have Bubba Watson, Stenson, Justin Rose and Serio Garcia. How can that be easy?” he said.
While Tabuena was swinging out on the course, the rest of the remaining Filipino athletes here were out training for their respective events.
Mary Joy Tabal will compete in women’s marathon on Aug. 14, followed by long jumper Marestella Torres Sunang and 400m hurdles entry Eric Cray on Aug. 16, then taekwondo jin Kirstie Elaine Alora on Aug. 20.
Weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, who won the silver medal last Aug. 7, is back home enjoying her victory. She met President Duterte in Davao City and left with a P5 million check plus another pledge of P2 million from the President.
Nestor Colonia, the other weightlifter, arrived in Manila with Diaz. Two athletes, judoka Kodo Nakano and table tennis’ Ian Lariba, left Rio de Janeiro Friday morning, to be followed next by swimmers Jasmine Alkhaldi and Jessie King Lacuna on Aug. 15
The two boxers, Rogen Ladon and Charly Suarez, will return home on Aug. 17.