With the last two Philippine Golf Tour legs decided via playoffs, a third straight down-to-the-wire finale could be in the works again as the men of the tour slug it out in the ICTSI Splendido Classic which gets going today at Splendido Taal Golf and Country Club in Tagaytay.
Sudden deaths actually marked three of the last four tournaments of the country’s premier circuit sponsored by ICTSI with veteran Frankie Miñoza outlasting young Miguel Tabuena in a record five-hole playoff at Negros Occidental Classic last July.
After Jay Bayron nipped Malaysian ace Gavin Green by two to win the Aboitiz Invitational at Wack Wack, the former nipped Clyde Mondilla on the first playoff hole to pick up another victory at ICTSI Riviera.
But Mondilla played like a man on a mission at ICTSI Classic, edging Orlan Sumcad, also in sudden death, at Mt. Malarayat last weekend for his third leg victory, counting his back-to-back title feats at Eastridge, where he also nipped Jobim Carlos in a playoff, and Calatagan.
That makes him the marked player in this week’s P2 million event, which is again tipped to go down to the last shot or putt given the field’s highly competitive form and hunger for recognition.
“I feel good, especially coming off a lucky win,” said Mondilla on the eve of the 14th leg of this year’s circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc. and backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp and Champion.
The 23-year-old Del Monte star actually withdrew in the third round at Aboitiz due to back injury and played below par at Riviera. But he said he has recovered his form since and expressed confidence of pulling off another win as he tries to match Tony Lascuña’s four-leg romp this season.
“Unlike before when I just relied on hand power to favor my aching back, I can now hit it on a full swing,” said Mondilla. “That’s why I like my chances this week.”
He sets out against American Micah Shin and Japanese Toru Nakajima in the featured 8:35 a.m. group on No. 1 even as Sumcad vowed to contend again in pursuit of a breakthrough win in the 8:40 a.m. flight with Dutch Guido Van der Valk and Justin Quiban at the backside of the wind-ranked layout.
Bayron also hopes to come out strong in the company of Mars Pucay and Zanieboy Gialon in the 7:50 a.m. group, also on No. 10, while Lascuña seeks to snap out of a mini-slump as he tees off at 8 a.m. with Solomon Gines and Joenard Rates, also at the back.
“With so many solid players, I have to play good from opening hole and hope to sustain it up to the final day,” said Lascuña, who topped the second leg at Luisita then strung up three straight victories at Forest Hills, Eagle Ridge and Bacolod.
But the former three-time Order of Merit winner slowed down in the next four legs, limping to joint 11th in Negros Occidental, settling for a share of fourth at Aboitiz, ending up joint sixth at Riviera and placing solo fourth again last week.
Others tipped to contend for the top P360,000 purse are Jobim Carlos and Marvin Dumandan, who will tee-off with Albin Engino on No. 1 at 8:05 a.m.; Rufino Bayron, Cassius Casas and Michael Bibat, who will start at 7:45 a.m., also on the first hole; and Elmer Salvador, who drew Erwin Arcillas and Jet Mathay at 8:30 a.m. on No. 10.