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PGT: Mondilla regains touch at Del Monte

Clyde Mondilla rediscovered the putting touch he had shown in the first round but lost in the next, putting himself back in the lead with an eagle-spiked 65 under overcast skies. He was one shot ahead of Reymon Jaraula in the third round of the ICTSI Del Monte Championship in Bukidnon on Thursday.

Despite a solid frontside featuring a birdie on No. 4 and an eagle on the ninth, Mondilla still struggled to regain his putting stroke. He missed short birdie opportunities in the first three holes and three-putted from 10 feet on No. 10, symbolizing his struggles on the greens he’s so familiar with.

However, things turned around after he dropped a three-foot birdie putt on No. 13. He picked up another stroke on a muffed 8-foot eagle putt on the next hole and then drilled three more putts from inside six feet. This string of clutch five birdies carried the multi-titled campaigner past three aces and placed him on the threshold of back-to-back championships on the Philippine Golf Tour.

He was actually aiming for six straight wins but hit a tree on his second shot on the par-5 18th hole and blasted way past the hole, settling for par and a 33-32 for a 54-hole total of 15-under 201.

“I didn’t expect to be on top again; I just tried to put myself in a good position. But I got my confidence back (in putting) in the last nine holes,” said the runaway winner at Forest Hills last June. He drove past halfway point leader Justin Quiban and erstwhile joint second-placed Reymon Jaraula and Jhonnel Ababa, closing in on the top P437,000 purse in the P2.5 million championship sponsored by ICTSI.

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However, Jaraula stayed where he stood after 36 holes, pressing his own title drive following a big win at Valley last June with a bogey-free 67. It was capped by birdies in the last two holes as he assembled a 202 to set up a final-round duel of homegrown talents.

“Maganda ang putting pero kulang lang sa swerte,” said Jaraula, who also rued a couple of missed birdie opportunities from short range in near-ideal scoring conditions. “Kumpyansa naman ako kasi nag bogey-free pero kailangan na mag-focus sa putting bukas (Friday).”

Quiban snapped a two-birdie, two-bogey card after 12 holes with an eagle and two birdies against one more birdie for a 69 and a 203. This set the stage for a three-man shootout in the last 18 holes of this eighth leg of the Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.-organized circuit, supported by PGTI official apparel Kampfortis Golf.

“Just made too many bogeys, missed a lot of greens, and couldn’t commit to my shots,” said Quiban, who took command with two straight 67s. He highlighted his third-round stretch-run fightback with an eagle on No. 14.

After a good drive, I cut it with a Hybrid shot from 247 yards, hoping it would stop and land on the green,” said Quiban. It did, and he canned the eagle putt from eight feet. Chasing a third PGT crown after winning in Bacolod and in PGT Asia at Luisita, the one-time PGA Tour campaigner said, “I just have to make good decisions on club and shot choices. Putting is great all week, but I have to hit it closer.”

The rest will need to produce flawless, low rounds to muddle up the title race as Ababa, winner here in 2019, slipped to fourth at 206 after a 71, while Rupert Zaragosa also turned in a one-under card for fifth at 208, and Ferdie Aunzo grabbed solo sixth at 210 after a 69.

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Elmer Salvador fired a solid eagle-aided 67 to tie Zanieboy Gialon, who carded a 70, at seventh with 211s. Young Sean Ramos shot a 68 to catch Tony Lascuña and Dino Villanueva, who both matched 70s, and Nilo Salahog, who posted a second straight 73, at ninth with 212s.

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