Cassius Casas lost his putting touch and barely held off a charging Clyde Mondilla with a two-under 70 in demanding condition as he clung to a one-stroke lead in the second round of the P1 million Canlubang Golf Invitational at Cangolf’s North course in Canlubang on Thursday.
After dishing out a vintage 66 on Wednesday, Casas slowed down with just three birdies against a bogey on the par-5 No. 14 as he flubbed at least four birdie chances inside six feet for a 34-36 round and a 136 total, enabling Mondilla to rally from five shots down to within one by matching Casas’ opening round six-under card for a 137.
With Jun Bernis falling just a stroke farther back at 138 after a 70 and Charles Hong also carding a 70 for a 139, a wide open battle for the crown and the top P200,000 purse looms in today’s final round of the 54-hole tournament organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments Inc. and sponsored by ICTSI.
“Unlike yesterday [Wednesday], I couldn’t putt this time. I would’ve pulled away if not for my missed birdies in the closing holes,” rued Casas, referring to his flubbed chances on the last four holes at the front.
“But I still like my chances although I need to shoot a 68 or 69 to finally win,” added the Davaoeño shotmaker, chasing his first crown after snatching the ICTSI Del Monte Championship title in 2010 following the disqualification of three players on the final hole of the final round.
But Mondilla, the former national champion, is also out to nail his breakthrough win after joining the big league in 2011. But more importantly, the ace from Del Monte is raring to atone for his run of missed cut stints this season–six–before he wound up 28th at ICTSI Riviera Classic last month.
After a 71, Mondilla pressed his bid early with back-to-back birdies from No. 10 then added three more in the last five holes at the back to negate a bogey on No. 13.
He gunned down three more birdies at the front against bogey, missing catching Casas at the helm with a muffed eight-foot birdie putt on the par-5 ninth.
Bernis gained a rare spot in the championship flight by rallying with three birdies at the back for that 70 with the former national champion hoping to lean on his local knowledge of the course which he calls home.
“I’ll try my best. But my familiarity doesn’t guarantee anything. Cassius is a veteran and Clyde is also hungry for a crown,” said Bernis.
Just three strokes adrift, Hong is also tipped to contend for a first-ever pro crown along with Jessie Balasabas, who placed second to Mhark Fernando at ICTSI Riviera Classic last month, and defending champion Zanie Boy Gialon.
Balasabas blew a solid 34 start with a 37 for a 71 for joint fifth at 141 with Gialon, who groped for form with a 72 after an impressive 69, while ICTSI Palos Verdes champion Michael Bibat rebounded with a 69 to join Mars Pucay (70) and Japanese Toru Nakajima (73) at 142, six shots off Casas.
Fernando hardly recovered from a 74 with a 72 and lay way off the pace at 146 with 2011 champion Artemio Murakami, who also had a 72, Jomar Pepito (73), Richard Sinfuego (71), Miguel Ochoa (71) and Arnel Enema (71).