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Mondilla wrests lead with solid 68

Clyde Mondilla

LIPA, Batangas , Philippines  — Clyde Mondilla leaned on impeccable putting to shoot a four-under 68 and wrest a one-stroke lead over a gutsy Dino Villanueva halfway through the ICTSI Players Championship at the Summit Point Golf Club yesterday.

The Del Monte ace grabbed the lead early with three birdies inside 12 feet at the back where he teed off then added another on No. 3 before settling for pars in another hot, windless day here, moving him past Villanueva at nine-under 135 and 36 holes away from a breakout season on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.

“I actually struggled with my irons but my putting clicked,” said Mondilla, the runaway PGT Order of Merit winner out to cap his remarkable season with another victory here.

Mondilla, 24, has won three events in this year’s PGT and PGT Asia Tour, including the ICTSI Riviera Classic two weeks ago, and is all set to nail his first OOM title in the absence of Tony Lascuña, Miguel Tabuena and Angelo Que, the next three players in the OOM ranking, who are all competing abroad.

Unlike Mondilla, Villanueva grappled with his balky putter all day, muffing at least four birdie chances inside seven feet and missing staying on top for the second straight day in the P3 million event sponsored by ICTSI.

“Had I made those putts, I would’ve stayed on top,” said Villanueva, referring to his failed bids on Nos. 4, 8, 9 and 16.

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But after failing to solve the tough par-5 No. 5 for the second straight day, the 33-year-old winless pro from Cagayan de Oro, who upstaged Mondilla and the other big guns with a 66 Tuesday, fought back with three birdies at the back and saved a 70 to stay in the title hunt at 136.

“I hit all but two greens and I’m happy to finish with a 70 despite my poor putting,” said Villanueva.

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