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PGT: Mondilla stumbles but clings to 2-shot lead in Splendido

Clyde Mondilla kept the ICTSI Splendido Taal Championship under control despite a late frontside stumble, recouping at the finish to salvage a 72 and move 18 holes away from ending up on top after back-to-back runner-up finishes on the Philippine Golf Tour.

But an uncharacteristic triple-bogey on the par-5 No. 9 nearly ruined the day of the stocky Del Monte ace, who birdied Nos. 3 and 10 then bounced back with back-to-back birdies from No. 16 from close range after dropping another stroke on the 14.

From seven-up over Tony Lascuña halfway through the P2 million event, Mondilla saw his once-formidable lead reduce to two with a 14-under 202 aggregate as Guido van der Valk took the challenger’s role with a solid eagle-spiked 66 in a separate flight for a 204.

Lascuña cashed in on Mondilla’s early meltdown with a fiery 33 to move within two but the multi-titled campaigner slowed down with a one bogey-one birdie card at the back for a 69 and a 206, four strokes behind.

“It happens,” said Mondilla, referring to his solid drive on No. 9 that sailed straight and long but failed to clear a fairway hazard on his 6-iron second shot. He took a drop and overshot the green then three-putted.

“There was pressure but I was able to endure it. Just had an unlucky bounce on No. 9,” added Mondilla, who lost to Miguel Tabuena on the second playoff at ICTSI Luisita last March and then lost by four to Zanieboy Gialon in last month’s ICTSI Caliraya Springs Championship.

In both events, he anchored his strong finishes on final day rallies. But he made sure to start out strong this week although he yielded the first round lead to Tabuena’s late surge Tuesday.

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But the 2019 Philippine Open champion, whose campaign is backed by Luisita Golf and Country Club, took control after 36 holes, dominating the Greg Norman-designed layout with a blistering 63 in the second round.

“At least, I’m still in the lead although it’s now a close fight,” he added.

Van der Valk rode on an eagle feat on No. 2 and birdied four of his last 10 holes for a pair of 33s that pulled him within two and a chance to end a long title drought on the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

“I hit the ball pretty well and hit 17 greens. I had many birdie chances,” said van der Valk, who hopes to translate the big opportunity into a winning attack in the last 18 holes.

“I’ll try again to do the same thing tomorrow,” he added, while stressing the need for patience in tackling a challenging course as Splendido.

Six down, Lascuña remained confident of pulling off a come-from-behind win, saying he had overhauled a deficit of as many as six strokes to win at Eagle Ridge a decade ago.

“It’s a big lead but can still be done,” said Lascuña. “But I need to put it all together tomorrow and hope to gain on Mondilla and van der Valk early on.”

Meanwhile, a bogey on No. 16 stymied Tabuena’s charge, ending up with a 70 for a 208, six strokes off Mondilla, while Eric Gallardo and Sean Ramos pooled identical 210s after a 68 and 71, respectively.

Carl Corpus birdied three of the first five holes then rebounded from a bogey on No. 8 and a double bogey on the next with two backnine birdies. He finished with a 70 to join former Masters titlist Jerson Balasabas, who rallied with a 68, at seventh at 211 and close in on the low amateur honors in the event organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.

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Marvin Dumandan, whose second round 66 sparked hopes for one of the Tour’s longest hitters to snap a long spell, holed out with a double-bogey for a 72 and dropped to joint ninth with Dan Cruz, Reymon Jaraula, Gerald Rosales and Rupert Zaragoza, who all carded 70s, Albin Engino, who shot a 71, and Art Arbole, who faltered with a 73.

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