Justin Quiban outgunned Clyde Mondilla in a frontside duel then bounced back from a bogey mishap on No. 12 with three birdies to card a 67 and storm ahead by five in the third round of the CAT (Central Azucarera de Tarlac) Open at the Luisita Golf and Country Club in Tarlac on Friday.
Toughened up by Top 6 finishes at Southwoods and Wack Wack the last four weeks where he figured in the title chase but faded when it mattered most, Quiban, 21, thus moved 18 holes away from nailing a breakthrough victory with a 13-under 203, now confident of his shots and iron play.
“I feel pretty solid – with my irons doing the most damage which enabled me to attack the pins with precision,” said Quiban, who hit all but one fairway and missed just two greens in hot condition with the format back to summer rules.
Mondilla pulled to within two with back-to-back birdies from No. 11 but failed to match Quiban’s strong finishing kick of three birdies in the last six holes. He settled for a 71 and fell behind by five at 208.
Still, the 23-year-old winner of four Philippine Golf Tour legs this year, remained confident of his chances for a follow-up to his PGT Asia victory at Riviera last September but stressed the need to come up with a strong start in today’s final round.
“It can still be done. I just need to have a good start tomorrow (today),” said Mondilla, who yielded to Quiban’s near-impeccable game that featured six birdies, half of which he drilled inside seven feet at the front, against one bogey.
Just one up on the reigning PGT Order of Merit winner after 36 holes, Quiban birdied the par-3 No. 2 for the second straight day, gained on a two-shot swing on No. 4 (birdie-bogey) and pulled away by five with a birdie on the ninth for a 33.
Mondilla, who made the turn with a 37, fought back to within two with birdies on Nos. 11 and 12 coupled with a Quiban three-putt miscue on the 12th but the latter countered with a birdie on the next and regained a five-stroke lead with birdies on Nos. 15 and 16 for that five-under card and a five-shot lead.
Peter Stojanovski of Macedonia, leaning on a hot start of four birdies in the first eight holes, fired a second straight 69 to tie Joenard Rates at third 209 while Swede Oskar Arvidsson (67), Elmer Salvador (70) and Jhonnel Ababa (71) lay a shot farther back at 210.
Rates, tied with Mondilla halfway through the $100,000 fifth leg of the PGT Asia put up by ICTSI, also failed to match Quiban’s hot form in the featured flight, although he put up a late charge to save a 34 and a 72.
Arvidsson rebounded from a disastrous second round 76 with an impressive five-under round and wheeled back into title contention on his very first try on the region’s newest circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Thai Natchanon Varapornkittirat carded a 70 for a 211 and Wisut Artjanawat, also from Thailand, faltered with a 74 and slipped to joint ninth with Charles Hong, who groped for a 73, at 212.
Tony Lascuña, one of the pre-tournament favorites, birdied two of the first eight holes but made one bogey and stumbled with a double-bogey on No. 11 and bowed out of contention with a 214 in a tie with Aussie Hayden Beard (73), Kris Etter (74), Choo Tze Huang of Singapore (73), Gerald Rosales (69) and Arnold Villacencio (69).
They stood behind the 213 group composed of Jay Bayron (69), Malaysian Amir Nazrin (70), Marvin Dumandan (72) and Dutch Guido Van der Valk (73).
Other backers of the event are Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.