Clyde Mondilla
Mondilla, Ababa rally to force 4-way tie
Dante Navarro (The Philippine Star) - January 22, 2020 - 12:00am

LUBAO, Pampanga, Philippines — Clyde Mondilla and Jhonnel Ababa broke a pair of mediocre frontside starts with blistering windups, coming away with three-under 69s to force a four-way tie for the lead at the start of the ICTSI Pradera Verde Classic at the sprawling Pradera Verde layout here yesterday.

Down the crowded leaderboard that kept changing in windy morning play in gray skies with a four-bogey, three-birdie stint after nine holes, Mondilla got his rhythm in time, racking up four straight birdies from No. 12 and putting himself back in the early mix of contenders in the $100,000 event serving as the penultimate leg of the 2019-2020 Philippine Golf Tour Asia season.

But the reigning Philippine Open champion faced a curious mix of rivals in pursuit of a third PGTA diadem, led by flightmate and the winningest player on the fledgling circuit, the three-peat seeking Ababa, veteran campaigner Guido Van der Valk of the Netherlands and group-mate and tour rookie Jack Lane-Weston from Australia.

The foursome wrested a one-stroke lead over unfancied Dino Villanueva, who gunned down two birdies in his closing frontside to save a 70, while eight others submitted identical 71s at the long 7,262-yard layout that puts premium on driving accuracy and putting.

They include Michael Bibat, Ryan Bonaobra, Keanu Jahns, Reymon Jaraula, Jet Mathay, Elmer Salvador, Rupert Zaragosa and Englishman Joe Knox. Japan’s Kei Matsuoka and Yuta Sudo, and Peter Stojanovski of Macedonia matched par 72s.

“I played good and the course is in perfect shape,” said Mondilla, the reigning PGTA Order of Merit winner, who ruled the Riviera leg of the circuit’s inaugurals in 2017 then bested a tough international field to win the country’s premier championship at The Country Club last year.

Ababa also leaned on a late charge to launch his drive for a record win here, birdying four of the last eight, including a 22-footer on the 17th, against a bogey.  Van der Valk shot three birdies in the last seven to break an even par round.

Lane-Weston, on the other hand, bucked a bogey on No. 4 with birdies on Nos. 5, 8 and 9 then bounced back from a bogey-mishap on the 11th with two birdies in the last six holes.

“This is the best course I’ve ever played thus far,” said the 24-year-old Lane-Weston, only in his sixth PGTA tournament, and coming off a strong joint third-place effort with Mondilla at Summit Point last November.

The power-hitter from Gold Coast hit 10 fairways and missed four greens but said he could’ve shot better if not for a couple of flubbed birdie chances at the back.

“I didn’t hole so many putts,” said Lane-Weston.

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