CALATAGAN, Batangas – Clyde Mondilla staked his claim as the hottest player on the ICTSI Philippine Golf Tour today, winning for the second straight time – an eight-stroke romp over Jhonnel Ababa in the ICTSI Calatagan Invitational on a closing 69 at the Calatagan Golf Club here Saturday.
Unlike in his victory at Manila Masters at Eastridge two weeks ago where he battled from two strokes down in regulation and nipped rookie pro Jobim Carlos in sudden death, Mondilla this time won it in wire-to-wire fashion, storming unassailably ahead by seven halfway through before holding sway in the last 36 holes.
On his way to another win worth P360,000, Mondilla didn’t only beat a stellar field but also dominated his rivals with his superb iron game and awesome putting. He led by as many as nine over Ababa after 13 holes, slowed down with back-to-back bogeys from No. 15 then capped his four-day brilliance, that included a record 64 in the second round, with a birdie on the par-5 18th.
“It’s nice to win again. I really expected Elmer (Salvador) and Jhonnel to make their charge but I was able to hold them off after I birdied No. 4,” said Mondilla, who pooled a 72-hole total of 17-under 271 to post the biggest winning margin thus far six legs into this year’s circuit sponsored by International Container Terminal Services, Inc.
The 23-year-old rising star also firmed up his hold of the Order of Merit lead with a total earnings of P1,579,896.
Just three ahead of the veteran Salvador and four up on Ababa, Mondilla said he felt the pressure as they headed to the first tee but took his father’s advise to heart and settled down midway through the front nine of the tight layout.
“He told me to just relax and play my game. After all, he said, I’m in the lead and there was no need for me to press on,” said Mondilla. “After birdying No. 4, I regained my confidence and made the right shots and putts.”
While Mondilla cruised to a trouble-free win, three players slugged it out in a fierce battle for runner-up honors with Ababa pocketing the P250,000 purse despite a 73 for a 279 and Tony Lascuña settling for third with a 72 for a 280 worth P140,000.
Salvador also birdied No. 4 but sputtered with five bogeys, including three straight from No. 7, and limped home with a 76 to drop to joint fourth instead at 281 with Japanese Syotaro Onuki and Jay Bayron, who shot 70 and 71, respectively.
Rufino Bayron rallied with a 68 to salvage seventh at 282 while 2011 champion Mhark Fernando matched par 72 for a 284 followed by Zanieboy Gialon, who also rebounded with a 68 for a 285.
Joenard Rates, who matched Mondilla’s sizzling opening 67, stumbled with a 73 and ended up tied with Mars Pucay, who shot a second straight 70, for 10th with 287s in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, adidas, KZG, Sharp, Summit, Srixon, Pacsports, TaylorMade and Champion.
For a while, a tight finish loomed as Salvador pulled to within three after 54 holes and Ababa also moved within that distance with a birdie on No. 2. But Mondilla kept his rivals at bay with a birdie on No. 4 then birdied No. 6 for the fourth straight day and watched his rivals fumble with bogeys on a couple of holes to go five-up again as they made the turn.
But Mondilla proved far from being satisfied, rattling off three straight birdies from No. 11 to post leads as many as nine as Salvador and Ababa struggled while trying to salvage pars.
He did fumble with bogeys on Nos. 15 and 16 but still finished with a flourish, birdying the closing hole for the third straight day, leaving his rivals in awe and in quandary as to how to stop the red-hot Del Monte shotmaker as they head to the ICTSI Eagle Ridge Invitational two weeks from now.
“If he continues to play that way, it will be difficult for us to stop him,” said Lascuña, who kept his spot at No. 2 in the OOM ranking with earnings of P1,153,115.
From No. 23, Ababa is expected to move up to the top 15 with P375,928 while absentee and reigning OOM winner Miguel Tabuena still in third with P791,058 followed by Japanese Toru Nakajima (P671,506) and Carlos (P492,305).