Davao’s Jhonnel Ababa doubled up his overnight two-stroke lead with a third straight 67 but the vaunted Del Monte boys launched their fiery, albeit late charge in another day of torrid scoring in the third round of the ICTSI Del Monte Championship in Bukidnon yesterday.
Ababa bucked a wobbly stint on the mound with superb iron game and solid putting, overcoming a bogey mishap on No. 5 with a cluster of birdies, including four in the last eight holes for a 35-32 card that hiked his 36-hole lead of two over Zanieboy Gialon to four heading to the final 18 holes of the P2.5 million championship serving as the seventh leg of the 10th season of the Philippine Golf Tour.
“I hit it most to the left with my driver but made up for the struggle with good iron play and putting,” said Ababa, whose third straight five-under card gave him a 54-hole total of 15-under 201 and closer to a first PGT crown since ruling the rain-shortened Cebu stop of last year’s circuit sponsored by ICTSI.
But Clyde Mondilla and Reymon Jaraula, two of the best players to emerge from talent-rich host province after the eminent Frankie Miñoza, put on a pair of low rounds to move into contention after straying off the leaderboard in the first two days with mediocre games.
Mondilla broke a birdie-par-bogey start with four straight birdies to close out his frontside stint then kept his birdie-binge going by sinking putts inside seven feet to add three more at the back for a 65, thus catching Gialon, who carded a 69, at second at 205.
“I struggled on the greens in the first two days but finally I got my touch back,” said the long-hitting Mondilla, who joined the elite roster of Philippine Open winners by humbling a stellar international field in severe conditions at The Country Club last April.
“Actually, I have the edge here…just need short irons for my second shots. I’m very familiar with the course, I know where to land my shots to get good birdie chances,” added the 2017 PGT Order of Merit, who promised to play in the second PGT Asia event abroad in Taiwan next week if he pulls off a win here.
Jaraula also pressed his bid for back-to-back title run following a breakthrough at Pueblo de Oro last weekend as he sizzled with an eagle-spiked, bogey-free, tournament-best eight-under 64.
At joint fourth at 207 with Elmer Salvador and Dutch Guido Van der Valk, who fired 66 and 68, respectively, Jaraula still stood six strokes behind Ababa but the rising Del Monte star remained hopeful of completing another stirring win.
“My driving was a bit wild in the first round and played safe in the next. Today (yesterday), I finally got my rhythm and touch back and hopefully, I sustain it tomorrow (today),” said Jaraula, who humbled veteran and multi-titled Tony Lascuña on the second playoff hole at Pueblo to end a six-year search for a PGT diadem.
His 64, however, fell a stroke off Miñoza’s record 63 in winning the ICTSI Del Monte crown in 2013 although Del Monte old hands said the two-time Philippine Open champion had shot a 62 in the final round of a leg of the defunct Philip Morris Golf Tour in early 1990s.
Noel Langamin, another Del Monte bet, shot a second straight 68 for solo seventh at 208 while unheralded Francis Morilla struck with a 67 to tie Keanu Jahns (71), Lascuna (72) and Alido (72) at eighth at 209.
Juvic Pagunsan rebounded from a second round 73 with a second 69 but virtually kissed his bid for a record fifth PGT win this year with a 211 aggregate, 10 shots off Ababa in a tie with Japanese Takahashi Keisuke (68) and Johvanie Abaño (72) behind Elmer Saban, who fumbled with a 73 for a 210 in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.