Clyde Mondilla staked his claim as the hottest pro on tour, putting on another late charge to overhaul a four-stroke deficit and snare the ICTSI Philippine Masters crown by one over Tony Lascuña, Jhonnel Ababa and American Nicolas Paez with a closing 70 at the Villamor Golf Club on Saturday.
A blistering backside 33, reminiscent of his feat last week where he battled back from three down to beat Miguel Tabuena and Lascuña by one at ICTSI Manila Southwoods, netted Mondilla another victory, a prized championship, the P2 million event put up by ICTSI being the revival of one of the country’s four majors.
“I just played it safe at the front and when learned that I was near the leaders, I made my move,” said the 24-year-old Mondilla, who drove the 318-yard par-4 No. 10 and two-putted for birdie. He added another from five feet on the next and drilled in a four-footer on No. 13 to take charge.
“After I birdied No. 14, I told myself that I can win this,” he added.
He then watched Lascuña and erstwhile contender Keanu Jahns self-destruct with late bogeys to clinch the coveted crown on a six-under 282 total worth P360,000, emerging on top after surviving another final round battle of nerves and poise.
Lascuna, who blew another title crack with bogeys on Nos. 15 and 17, nearly forced a playoff after his pitch from 40 yards on the closing par-5 hole stopped one roll of ftarget to the disappointment of the big gallery that ringed the final hole anticipating a sudden death in the revival of the fabled event.
He settled for a 73 and tied Ababa, who shot a 70, and Paez, who matched par 72, at 283. Each received P168,333.
First day leader Jobim Carlos also wheeled back into contention with a three-under card after 11 holes but the sophomore pro fumbled with bogeys on Nos. 12 and 16 to bow out. He also birdied the 18th to finish with a 70 for joint fifth at 284 with Zanieboy Gialon, who made a 73, and second round leader Nathan Park of Australia, who shot a 71. Each got P78,000.
Jerson Balasabas turned in a second 71 and wound up ninth at 286 while Jahns, in the hunt majority of the way, faded with a three-putt miscue for a double-bogey on the par-3 17th and drove out of bounds in the final hole for a 77 and a 287.
Third round leader Joenard Rates succumbed to pressure early and never recovered from a 42 start, ending up with an 80 to tumble to joint 10th at 288 with Mhark Fernando, who fought back with a 69.
With Rates fading out early, Lascuna and Jahns took charge and slugged it out in a shootout in the final group with Mondilla failing to gain any headway with an opening 37.
But the Del Monte ace, who racked up three victories last year to finish second to Lascuña in the Order of Merit derby, birdied the first two holes at the back and hit another on the par-3 13th, making it a three-way battle as Lascuña and Jahns came up with routine pars.
But as Lascuna and Jahns stumbled with bogeys in the closing holes, Mondilla held sway with a slew of gutsy pars for that 70, warding off Ababa and Paez’s late charge and Lascuña’s last-hole bid to claim another one-stroke victory just before the rain fell.
The title chase was so tight that after Rates, who surged to a 2-shot lead over Lascuna and Jahns after 54 holes, fell with three straight bogeys from No. 5, three players – Ababa, Paez and Jahns – took charge at 6-under overall at the turn and Lascuna stood at 5-under and five – Balasabas, Carlos, Mondilla, Park and Reyes – lay another shot farther back at 4-under.
Moments later, Jahns seized control, still at 6-under, as Paez bogeyed No. 11 and Ababa dropped a stroke on No. 12 in separate groups with Lascuna, Mondilla and Paez joining Paez and Ababa at 5-under.
Three holes later, Mondilla joined Jahns at the helm with a birdie on No. 13 and Lascuña followed suit with his own feat on No. 12 with Ababa and Park just a stroke behind and Carlos and Paez another shot back, setting the stage for the wild finish in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by BDO, KZG, Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Sharp, Champion, Summit Mineral Water and PLDT.