Clyde Mondilla recalled the fierce form that netted him back-to-back victories at Eastridge and Calatagan, putting in an eagle-spiked seven-under 65 and bouncing back from five down to one-up in the third round of the ICTSI Classic here in Lipa, Batangas on Friday.
A crisp, solid drive that sailed through the 331-yard No. 7 of Mt. Lobo and rested just a club-length off the cup for eagle highlighted the 23-year-old Mondilla’s 32-33 card, giving him a 54-hole aggregate of 206 and a one-stroke lead over erstwhile leader Orlan Sumcad, who stayed on track for a breakthrough win despite dropping to second at 207 after a 71.
But Marvin Dumandan also remained within striking distance at 208 after a 70 and Jay Bayron kept his bid for a third straight championship despite a second straight 71 as he stood at solo fourth at 209 heading to the last 18 holes of the P2 million event sponsored by ICTSI.
“I just felt I could go low today (yesterday) so I attacked the greens. I was just too confident of my shots,” said Mondilla, the rising Del Monte star out to atone for his playoff setback to Bayron last week at ICTSI Riviera Classic, putting the Davaoñeo shotmaker on course for a third straight win after ruling the Aboitiz Invitational at Wack Wack three weeks ago.
Sumcad, who took charge halfway through with a 66 Thursday, birdied the drivable No. 7 then added two birdies linking both nines to stay in the lead but failed to hang on at the finish, bogeying Nos. 16 and 18 to drop off the pace.
“Despite falling off the lead, I’m still confident of my chances. But I’ll just play and try to enjoy the game tomorrow (today) and hope my putting clicks,” said Sumcad, a many-time contender but never a winner on the tour backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp and Champion.
Like the top two players, Dumandan, out to break out of a long title spell, also expressed confidence of his chances for the crown as he joins Mondilla and Sumcad in a group of power-hitters in today’s championship flight.
“It will be a question of accuracy (on driving) and will boil down to who putts well,” said Dumandan, who actually turned in a bogey-free 35-35 card marred by four missed birdie putts inside seven feet.
But if there’s one player the leading troika should watch out for in a flight behind them, it is Bayron, who blew a three-under card after 11 holes with a second straight double-bogey on the tough par-4 No. 12. He also muffed a couple of birdie opportunities coming home but remained upbeat of his bid for a third straight championship.
Guido Van der Valk rattled off three birdies at Mt. Malipunyo to fire a 69 but the regular Dutch campaigner lay five strokes behind Mondilla at 211 and would need a super final round to contend for the top P360,000 purse in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
Tony Lascuña, who strung up three straight wins at Forest Hills, Eagle Ridge and Bacolod to add to his earlier Luisita romp, also made an early charge of 33 but flubbed a couple of makeable birdie putts at the back and hit just one more birdie on No. 16 to turn in a bogey-free 68. But the former three-time Order of Merit winner stood six strokes off the pace.
“I think I still have a chance. I just have to polish my putting and hope the leaders waver,” said Lascuña.
Jhonnel Ababa and Charles Hong fired identical 71s to tie Mars Pucay, who faltered with 73, at 213 while Joenard Rates also carded a 71 to join Zanieboy Gialon and Erwin Arcillas, who hobbled with a 73 and 74, respectively, at 215.