TARLAC – Clyde Mondilla outgunned Cebuano Charles Hong and Keanu Jahns in a backside shootout and came away with a bogey-free five-under 67 to seize a one-stroke lead in the third round of the P2 million ICTSI Luisita Championship at the Luisita Golf and Country Club here Friday.
Kept at bay by the gutsy two-day leader Jahns and second-running Hong despite a two-birdie feat at the frontside, Mondilla rattled off three more birdies in the last nine holes then watched Jahns crack under pressure in the closing holes to overcome a two-shot deficit and storm ahead with a 14-under 202 aggregate.
The soft-spoken former national champion thus moved 18 holes away from nailing his second victory after scoring a breakthrough at ICTSI Canlubang where he nipped veteran Cassius in a final round duel late last year.
Hong, one behind Jahns at the halfway mark of the 72-hole championship sponsored by ICTSI, fell one birdie short of Mondilla’s backside feat and settled for a 69 as the two-time ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour leg winner stayed at second at 203 in a tie with Jahns, who looked headed for another impressive round with a four-under card after 12 holes until he stumbled with back-to-back bogeys from No. 16 and dropped to joint second with a 70.
Still, the troika will slug it out in today’s final round in a continuation of their spirited third round duel for the top P360,000 purse tipped to go up the 72nd hole.
Jhonnel Ababa, who missed the cut by one at ICTSI Anvaya last week, matched Mondilla’s three-birdie binge at the back in the other flight and turned in a 68 but stood three shots off Mondilla at 205.
Title-hungry and power-hitting Marvin Dumandan gunned down an eagle on No. 5 and knocked down four birdies, preserving a solid round with two scrambling pars to match the tournament-best 66 posted by Mondilla, Hong, Jahns and Albin Engino in the first round of the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
But Dumandan will have a lot of work to do to overhaul a four-stroke deficit at 206, the same output put in by former ICTSI PGT Order of Merit winners Jay Bayron and Elmer Salvador, who both carded 67s.
Frankie Miñoza, who sparked hopes of a repeat of his title feat when the par-72 course last hosted a pro championship – the President’s Cup – in 1989, failed to sustain a pair of 68s with a 71, slipping to eighth at 207, five shots off Mondilla.
Like Miñoza, the reigning three-time OOM winner Tony Lascuña slowed down with a 70 after a second day 67 as he pooled a 208 for joint ninth with Rolando Marabe, who made a 71.
Miguel Tabuena, winner of the PGT kickoff leg at Splendido and one of the early favorites to win this sixth leg of the circuit, hardly moved up with a 69 after back-to-back 70s, his 209 putting him in joint 11th with long-hitting Orlan Sumcad, who eagled the par-4 No. and hit five more birdies against a bogey for the day’s other 66, and Japanese Toru Nakajima and Yuta Sudo, who both fired 70s.
Enjoying top form, Jahns pulled away by three over Hong and by five over Mondilla with three birdies in the first six holes. But he bogeyed No. 7 which Mondilla birdied and the latter stayed back within two off Jahns and tied Hong at second as they made the turn.
Jahns hit back-to-back birdies from No. 11 but Mondilla pressed his bid with his own birdies on Nos. 11, 13 and 15 with Hong reeling back with a lone birdie on the 12th.
But just when he thought he had kept Mondilla and Hong in check, Jahns lost his momentum and stumbled with bogeys on Nos. 16 and 17, enabling Mondilla to surge ahead and Hong keeping alive his drive for a third career victory.