Clyde Mondilla unleashed a strong finishing kick to vault into the lead, battling back from four-down to one-up with a 70 in a day of changing fortunes in the third round of the ICTSI Riviera Classic that saw the erstwhile leaders tumble and a couple of top contenders make a surge in Silang, Cavite on Friday.
Halfway leader Rufino Bayron and first round pacesetter Micah Shin fell prey to the risky par-4 No. 11 of the Langer course with the pin placed on a slope with the former ending up with a triple bogey and the latter dropping two strokes on errant approach shots.
That enabled Mondilla to wrest control with a routine par and emerge the new leader for the third straight day in the P2 million event serving as the 12th leg o the circuit sponsored by ICTSI and organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc..
“I took it easy in the early going and waited for them (Rufino and Micah) to make mistakes. And when they did (on No. 11), I grabbed the chance then went on an attack mode,” said Mondilla, who ran off three straight pars from No. 14 to take charge at six-under 207.
Rufino Bayron, who wrested the halfway lead with a 66, fumbled with two more bogeys after that triple-bogey mishap on No. 11 and limped with a 77 to fall to fifth at 210 while Shin, who showed up the elite field with an opening 65, hobbled with a 72 and dropped to joint third with Jay Bayron at 209.
Jay Bayron, who beat Malaysian Gavin Green by two to bag the Aboitiz Invitational crown at Wack Wack last weekend, rallied from seven shots down to move within two off Mondilla with a 69 and revive his hopes for a second straight championship.
He drilled in three birdies in a four-hole stretch from No. 13 but missed joining American Nicolas Paez at 208 with a bogey on the last hole.
Paez, out to atone for a final round meltdown at Wack Wack, made the biggest move in the topsy-turvy third round, birdying three of the last five holes to fire one of the day’s two best scores of 68.
The 27-year-old Californian, who led in the middle rounds at Aboitiz but wound up sixth with a closing 77, also made a 7 on No. 11, negating his three birdies in the first 10 holes. But he fought back with birdies on Nos. 13, 15 and 16 and gain a spot in the championship flight with Mondilla and Jay Bayron.
With just three strokes separating the top five players, a wild battle for the top P270,000 purse loomed with Mondilla vowing to change tactics, opting for a conservative approach in a bid to nail a third crown after scoring back-to-back wins in the Eastridge and Calatagan legs of the circuit backed by by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Summit Mineral Water, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade, Sharp and Champion.
“I’ll play it steady and look for holes where I can set up good birdie chances,” said Mondilla, also out to make up for his third round pullout at Wack Wack due to back injury.
But he will be up against two players chasing their own title aspirations with Paez on verge of redemption and Jay Bayron closer to completing a rare back-to-back feat.
Add Shin and Rufino Bayron to the mix and this final round is expected to be as fierce and unpredictable as ever.
Tony Lascuña fired the day’s other 68 but stood six strokes behind at 213 for joint sixth with Jobim Carlos, who carded a 73, while Charles Hong charged home with a 33 to shoot a 70 for solo eighth at 214 and defending back-to-back champion Elmer Salvador carding a 70 for joint ninth with Rolando Marabe Jr. and Rico Depilo, who shot 70 and 74, respectively, at 216.