Clyde Mondilla put on a strong finishing kick to card a 69 and widen his lead to three as his rivals floundered at the finish in the third round of the ICTSI Players Championship at the Summit Point Golf Club in Lipa Batangas on Thursday.
Dino Villanueva pressed his bid early with three birdies in the first seven holes but tumbled with a backside 41 and a 75 while Jay Bayron sizzled in the heat with a 67 but blew his hot charge with a last-hole bogey.
With Mondilla birdying two of the last five holes, including the tough par-4 18th, the Del Monte ace capped an eagle-spiked 35-34 card and moved three shots clear off Bayron at 12-under 204 with 18 holes to play in the P3 million event sponsored by ICTSI.
“I’m very confident coming off a win (at ICTSI Riviera),” said Mondilla, who took a step closer to completing a grand coronation as this year’s Philippine Golf Tour Order of Merit champion with a victory here.
“But I have to play solid tomorrow (today) and watch out for Jay and Guido, who might sneak in and spoil my bid,” added Mondilla, who eagled the par-5 No. 3 from eight feet on a solid 7-iron second shot from 206 yards.
From the looks of things, Bayron, winner here in 2015, could foil Mondilla’s crack at the top P550,000 purse in the 72-hole championship organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. with the veteran Davaoeño shotmaker hoping to duplicate or better his third round output that pulled him to second at 207 to get a shot at the crown.
Guido Van der Valk also put himself into title contention with a 68 and a 208 with the Manila-based Dutchman raring to end a string of sorry finishes and nail a breakthrough in the circuit backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.
The rest must turn in impeccable rounds to get back into the thick of things with Elmer Salvador and Jerson Balasabas at far joint fourth at 210 with 69 and 70, respectively, and Villanueva dropping to a share of sixth at 211 after a four-over card.
The Cagayan de Oro shotmaker, who led in the first round but fell by one halfway through, actually pulled even with Mondilla with that three-birdie binge in a seven-hole stretch to start his round. But he dropped a stroke on the par-3 No. 8, bogeyed the 10th, yielded two more shots on No. 15 before bogeying the last two holes and dropped out of sight.
Other 211 scorers were Jobim Carlos, who shot a second straight 71, Keanu Jahns, who rallied with a 68, Rey Pagunsan, who matched par 72, and Australian Nathan Park, who rebounded with a 69.
Mondilla actually slowed down after hitting an eagle, missing a couple of birdie chances and missing the green for his lone bogey on the second par-5 hole on No. 9. He settled for a run of pars at the back before tapping for birdie on a missed eagle putt from 20 feet on No. 14 then buried another six-footer on the last hole to stay in control.
“I hurried my putt on No. 14 but I’m happy to stay on top,” said Mondilla, adding a five-under closing card would ensure his victory.
Bayron rued his last-hole gaffe that ruined his impressive fightback from five down to within one on a three-birdie binge at the front and another three-birdie string from No. 12 and enabled Mondilla to pull away.
“It’s really hard to beat a plenty who is good and lucky. But there are still 18 holes to go. Anything can happen,” said Bayron.
Villanueva also tried to prove his worth as a top contender, birdying Nos. 2, 3 and 7 to draw level with Mondilla at 11-under. But as the pressure mounted, he struggled, dropping six strokes in the last 11 holes and bowed out of contention.
Van der Valk could emerge the surprise package as he bucked a bogey start with five birdies, including three-straight from No. 3. But four behind the fired-up Mondilla, he must churn out a pretty solid finish to stir up the race for top honors in this final leg of the PGT circuit.