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Peerless Mondilla pulls away with a fiery 63 in ICTSI Splendido Taal golf tilt

Jan Veran - Philstar.com
Peerless Mondilla pulls away with a fiery 63 in ICTSI Splendido Taal golf tilt
Clyde Mondilla hits a solid 2-iron off No. 10 tee on his way to an eagle.

LAUREL, Batangas – Thwarted in his bid for the first round lead by a late-charging Miguel Tabuena, Clyde Mondilla produced a round so imposing that didn’t only put him back on top but also in firm control halfway through the ICTSI Splendido Taal Championship here Thursday.

Behind a near-impeccable all-around game, Mondilla fired a nine-under 63 and stormed past Tony Lascuña by seven strokes and stood eight shots clear of Tabuena and Dutch Guido van der Valk in the P2 million championship that could be for the Luisita-backed Del Monte ace for the taking.

An eagle-birdie backside start drove Mondilla past Tabuena and the former Philippine Open champion bucked a mishap on No. 12 with another birdie on the 17th to stay at the helm then pulled away by ripping the frontside of the softened Splendido Taal Golf Club layout with six birdies for a 30-33.

“It was near-perfect,” was how Mondilla described his round that also featured three straight birdies from No. 4 and two closing birdies.

Rupert Zaragosa’s 64 posted in the 2015 Splendido Classic, however, remains the course record since play in this week’s championship is held under winter rules.

But Mondilla isn’t after the marks, having posted a record of his own with a 64 in winning the ICTSI Calatagan Invitational in 2016. With a whopping 14-under 130 aggregate, the amiable shotmaker moved two rounds away from pocketing the top P360,000 purse in this third leg of this year’s Philippine Golf Tour.

But the big lead comes with the big pressure and Mondilla, who used a 2-iron off the mound and a seven-iron from 170 yards to eagle the 534-yard No. 10 from seven feet in one of the late flights, vows to deliver with a stronger performance in the last two days.

“Actually, I feel the pressure more that I’m in control. I would’ve preferred to be the one in pursuit,” said Mondilla, who marked his strong runner-up finishes at Luisita and Caliraya with final round rallies. “So I need to face the challenge and play better.”

Lascuña had long left the clubhouse before Mondilla came in with the former nurturing hopes of getting a clear shot at the crown after a 68 built around a superb closing frontside 33.

Though 36 holes remain in the Pilipinas Golf Tournament, Inc.-organized event, Lascuña’s 137 left him with too big a deficit to overcome with Tabuena slipping to joint third at 138 with Guido Van der Valk, who carded a 70, after failing to sustain a 66 start with a 72.

“I missed a lot of chances at the back,” said Lascuña, who failed to cash in on the first two par-5s which he both birdied in a 69 start Tuesday. “But I kept telling myself just to be patient and the putts would drop in time.”

They did. After draining a six-footer on No. 2, another par-5, he birdied the next from eight feet and drilled another from almost the same distance on the fourth. He missed another chance from six feet on No. 5 but birdied the par-3 sixth from 8 feet, only to yield a stroke on the eighth on a mishit for a 33-35.

“Overall, I’m happy. I’ve been hitting it quite good off the tee and to the greens,” said the first Filipino to win on the Philippine Golf Tour Asia in Taiwan in 2019 that snapped a two-year title spell.

But Mondilla dropped more birdies on a day of sun and shower on this undulating layout.

Art Arbole shot a 70 for joint fifth at 139 with rookie pro Sean Ramos, who flourished with an eagle-aided 67 after a 72, while Marvin Dumandan bucked all the distractions and a couple of muffed birdie opportunities from close range to turn in a bogey-free 66 that lifted him from joint 35th on an opening 74 to solo seventh at 140.

Amateur Carl Corpus also held his ground against Tabuena and Ira Alido, producing a five-birdie, one-bogey card for a 68 that steered him past a lot of others from tied 24th to joint eighth with Joenard Rates and Albin Engino at 141.

Rates matched par 72 while Engino checked a frontside 37 with five birdies in the first eight holes at the back but missed joining Dumandan at seventh with a last-hole bogey for a 69.

Forty pros made the cut at 152 with Richard Sinfuego clinching the last spot with a 72 after an 80 while all five amateurs advanced, including Perry Bucay (71-142), Ivan Monsalve (70-143) and Ryan Monsalve (73-143).

CLYDE MONDILLA

GOLF

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