Clyde Mondilla dished out a near impeccable putting touch to shoot a four-under 68 and wrest a one-stroke lead over a gutsy Dino Villanueva halfway through the ICTSI Players Championship at the Summit Point Golf Club on Wednesday in Lipa City, Batangas.
The Del Monte ace grabbed the lead early with three birdies inside 12 feet at the back where he teed off then added another on No. 3 before settling for pars in another hot, windless day here, moving him past Villanueva at nine-under 135 and 36 holes away from a breakout season on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour.
“I actually struggled with my irons but my putting clicked,” said Mondilla, the runaway PGT Order of Merit winner out to cap his remarkable season with another victory here.
Mondilla, 24, has won three events in this year’s PGT and PGT Asia Tour, including the ICTSI Riviera Classic two weeks ago, and is all set to nail his first OOM title in the absence of Tony Lascuña, Miguel Tabuena and Angelo Que, the next three players in the OOM ranking, who are all competing abroad.
Unlike Mondilla, Villanueva grappled with his balky putter all day, muffing at least four birdie chances inside seven feet and missing staying on top for the second straight day in the P3 million event sponsored by ICTSI.
“Had I made those putts, I would’ve stayed on top,” said Villanueva, referring to his failed bids on Nos. 4, 8, 9 and 16.
But after failing to solve the tough par-5 No. 5 for the second straight day, the 33-year-old winless pro from Cagayan de Oro, who upstaged Mondilla and the other big guns with a 66 Tuesday, fought back with three birdies at the back and saved a 70 to stay in the title hunt at 136.
“I hit all but two greens and I’m happy to finish with a 70 despite my poor putting,” said Villanueva.
Rey Pagunsan, one of the tour’s power hitters out to end a long title spell, matched Mondilla’s four-under card and joined Michael Bibat, who shot a 70, at 139, four strokes adrift with two rounds to play in the event hosted by Summit Point and backed by Sta. Lucia and the Leviste group.
Jay Bayron, winner here at Summit in 2015, turned in a second 70 and lead the 140 scorers, who include Justin Quiban (69), Jobim Carlos (71), Elmer Salvador (72) and Dutch Guido Van der Valk (73).
Orlan Sumcad, Jerson Balasabas and Albin Engino pooled identical 141s after a 68, 69 and 70, respectively, while Australian Nathan Park, who stood just a shot off Villanueva and in a tie with Mondilla and Van der Valk at the start of the day, floundered at the back with a 40 and hobbled with a 75. He slid to joint 13th with Gerald Rosales (68), Rufino Bayron (70) and Korean Hwang Myung Chal (70) at 142, now seven shots off the pace.
“I played awful in the first 11 holes. I missed many greens and visited the bunkers four times. I just couldn’t do anything good out there,” rued Park.
Twenty-six others advanced to the final two rounds of the PGT season-ending tournament with James Ryan Lam (75), Rico Depilo (76), Jhonnel Ababa (77) and Nelson Huerva (77) barely making the cut at 147.
The noted casualties were Rene Menor (74-148), the surprise winner at ICTSI Splendido of the PGT Asia Tour, Marvin Dumandan (74-148), Ira Alido (74-149), Jun Bernis (74-151) and Cassius Casas (80-155).
Other backers of the event, serving as the final stop of the 10-leg PGT circuit, are Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.