Jhonnel Ababa nailed his second straight Philippine Golf Tour Asia in style, gunning down an eagle on the final hole for a 69 to frustrate Australian Andrew Campbell and capture the ICTSI Pradera Verde Classic crown by two in Lubao, Pampanga on Saturday.
Needing just a birdie on the par-5 18th of the Pradera Verde Golf and Country Club to foil Campbell’s playoff bid, Ababa did the toughest thing to close out a final round, secure the victory and stake his claim as the hottest player on the region’s newest circuit put up by ICTSI.
“I was so confident. I didn’t hesitate with my second shot,” said an ecstatic Ababa, who after hitting his drive to the left side of the dog-leg 18th, blasted a 3-wood from 250 yards to within five feet for that title-clinching eagle.
“I felt I was Tiger (Woods) after I made that eagle. I felt nobody could beat me,” added Ababa, who came into the $100,000 event brimming with confidence after routing the field by seven at Eagle Ridge last week. His 69 capped another four-day run of under-par cards for a 10-under 278 worth another $17,500, earning him P1.750 million in two weeks time.
In a flight ahead, Campbell worked his way from four strokes down and shot a flawless five-under 67, including a birdie on the No. 18, to tie Ababa, who had a one-under card after No. 17, at eight-under 280.
But after fending off Tony Lascuña and American Josh Salah’s charges in the championship flight, Ababa knew he had a chance to crush Campbell’s bid for sudden death.
He did, not just with a birdie.
Unlike in his runaway triumph at Eagle Ridge, however, the Davaoeño shotmaker this time had to buck Lascuña’s early charge, Jay Bayron’s attack midway through and Campbell’s late-hole assault.
“Even before the start of the final round, I knew I could win again. Everything clicked – driving, irons, putting. Though Tony grabbed the lead in one stretch, I didn’t panic then I cashed in on his errant drive on the ninth and made a birdie for a two-shot swing,” said Ababa.
Campbell, who also birdied Nos. 6, 9, 12 and 14, took the $11,500 runner-up prize.
Lascuña, who trailed Ababa by one after 54 holes, actually grabbed the lead with a birdie on the opening hole coupled with Ababa’s bogey on the par-5 third. But Ababa struck back with a birdie on No. 7 and regained the lead on a two-shot swing (birdie-bogey) on the ninth. He held sway with another birdie on the 10th as Lascuña could close in only to within one despite Ababa’s bogey on No. 14 with flubbed birdie putts in the closing holes.
Lascuña, winner at PGTA Wack Wack, wound up with a 71 and settled for third at 281 worth $7,000 while Bayron, who also threatened to within two after 11 holes but settled for pars the rest of the way, ended up fourth at 282 after a 69.
Salah, three adrift at the start of the final round, reeled back with back-to-back bogeys from No. 4 but fought back with three birdies in the last four holes at the front then recovered from a double-bogey mishap on No. 11 with an eagle on the next to shoot a 71 for solo fifth at 283.
Clyde Mondilla failed to come up with a strong finishing kick and turned in a fourth straight 71 for a 284, sharing sixth place with Lexus Keoninh of the US, who carded a 70.
Aussie David Gleeson rallied with a 68 and took eighth place 285, Orlan Sumcad shot a 69 to finish ninth at 286 and Englisman Matthew Webb set a course record six-under 66 to tie Korean Park Jun Sung, who matched par 72, at 10th at 287 in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.