Clyde Mondilla sustained fearsome form from tee to green and set a new course record of eagle-spiked eight-under 64, threatening to blow away the field with a seven-stroke lead over Elmer Salvador and Jhonnel Ababa halfway through the ICTSI Calatagan Invitational in Calatagan, Batangas on Thursday.
Coming off a bogey-free 67 Wednesday to share the opening round lead with a pair of unfancied bets, Mondilla stormed ahead early with an eagle on the par-5 opening hole then gunned down seven birdies the rest of the way to negate a bogey on No. 5, the only black mark in a sterling 36-hole card at the Calatagan Golf Club.
“My driving, iron game and putting clicked which further boosted my confidence,” said Mondilla, who had earlier hoped to just duplicate his opening round feat but instead found himself shattering the previous course best of 66 set by Ababa in the Philippine Golf Tour event in 2011.
Thus he stormed ahead at 13-under 131, seven shots clear off Salvador, who shot a second straight 69, and Ababa, who slowed down with a 70 after a 68 for 138s.
“I’m overwhelmed with my game and I hope to keep it going in the last two rounds,” said the 23-year-old rising star from Del Monte, seeking to become the first back-to-back winner of this year’s circuit following his playoff win over absentee Jobim Carlos at ICTSI Manila Masters at Eastridge two weeks ago.
So awesome was Mondilla’s form that he dominated veterans Tony Lascuna and Mhark Fernando for the second straight day with Lascuna citing Mondilla’s superb putting as key to his back-to-back title bid in the sixth leg of the PGT sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
“If he continues to putt that way, no one can beat him,” said Lascuna, pointing to Mondilla’s eight long putts, including that eagle feat from two-pin length distance following a solid 3-iron tee shot and a superb 3-wood second shot.
In a separate flight, Salvador hit four birdies after 13 holes but dropped a stroke on the next and settled for another three-under card in tie with Ababa, who bogeyed No. 15 for a closing 36.
Lascuña’ winner here when the circuit, organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc., made its last stop in 2013, continued to struggle with his balky putter and missed at least four birdie chances, finishing with 71 and laying eight shots adrift at 139.
Jay Bayron rebounded from a 73 with a 68 but remained 10 shots behind at 141 while erstwhile co-leader Joenard Rates limped home with a 75 and tumbled to joint sixth at 142 with Japanese Syotaro Onuki, who bounced back with a 70.
Fernando, winner here in 2012, failed to get going and carded a 72 to drop into joint eighth with Rufino Bayron and Orlan Sumcad, who fired 68 and 69, respectively, for 143s while Reymon Jaraula turned from awesome to awful as he skied to an 80 after matching Mondilla and Rates’ opening 67s and slid to 147.
After ramming in that eagle putt from long range, Mondilla strung up back-to-back birdies from No. 3 but failed to rescue a par off the greenside bunker on No. 5 for his first bogey after 23 holes. But he birdied the next for the second straight day then rattled four more birdies at the back, including back-to-back feats to cap a pair of 32s.
“I feel good about my chances (for another win) but I have to continue playing solid from tee to green in the last two rounds,” said Mondilla, eyeing to add another P360,000 to the P650,000 he pocketed at Manila Masters.
Forty four players made it to the final 36 holes with Anthony Fernando (72), Miguel Ochoa (75), Randy Garalde (76), and Japanese Kei Takahashi (78) and Yuta Sudo (82) making the cut at 152.