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Friday, July 26, 2024

Van der Valk ties Rates on last-hole swing

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Guido van der Valk plans his strategy. Manny Marcelo

Joenard Rates might need some help from above as he sets out for a final round shootout with Guido van der Valk in the ICTSI Villamor Philippine Masters.

Guido van der Valk turned what he deemed was a flawed chip shot into a resounding birdie feat at the finish, saving a 75 and catching Joenard Rates at the helm after three rounds of mental play in the ICTSI Villamor Philippine Masters at the Villamor Golf Club yesterday.

Head bowed, Van der Valk dropped both arms to his knees in frustration after chipping way past the hole on the par-5 No. 18 but the Dutchman returned a clutch 10-footer for birdie to seize a share of the lead as Rates fumbled with his par-putt bid from shorter distance for a 77 marred by a double bogey on No. 17.

On a day when the chief contenders battled tough pin placements and tricky surface and ended up with soaring scores, van der Valk tied Rates at 212 and Marvin Dumandan put himself in title contention in a long while after squeezing out a 73 to join Jhonnel Ababa, who carded a 74, at 214.

Fidel Concepcion fired one of the day’s three best scores of 70 to move to joint fifth at 216 with Gerald Rosales and Reymon Jaraula, who matched par-72s, and Keanu Jahns, who drew level with Rates with a solid frontside 33 but fell with a thud with an uncharacteristic backside 45 for a 78.

After birdying No. 9 from long range to tie the two-day leader, the Fil-German went wild on his driving and tee-shots, limping with a triple-bogey 7 on No. 10, bogeying Nos. 12 and 16, yielding two strokes on the par-3 17th, and holing out with another double-bogey on the closing par-5 hole.

But four strokes behind, Jahns remained in the hunt for a Philippine Golf Tour breakthrough although he will need a lot of work off the mound to revive his title hopes in the P2.5 million championship put up by ICTSI.

While Jahns struggled with his long game, van der Valk found the greens a lot tougher, flubbing par putts on Nos. 4, 5 and 7 to fall four strokes off Rates, who traded two birdies against the same number of bogeys for a 36, at the turn.

“I struggled with the speed of the greens today, I don’t know why,” said van der Valk, who bounced back from a rare missed cut stint at Luisita with a clear title shot in the very same PH Masters tournament he yielded to Jerson Balasabas in sudden death in 2018. “But definitely tomorrow (today), I have the chance to win because I wasted too many shots (yesterday).”

After yielding just three bogeys in the first two days, the Dutchman made five in moving day but still made it to the top with Rates, who hobbled with two bogeys and a double bogey in the last four holes and blew a three-stroke lead.

“If you play this course for four days, bogeys will come at some point because it’s that kind of golf course, no one will run away with it. We just need to stay patient,” said van der Valk, looking for a follow-up to his runaway victory, his second straight, in The Country Club Invitational last February.

“If I can get the speed of the greens tomorrow (today), I should be fine. Green-reading, especially in these kind of greens, it’s all about speed. I struggled really a lot with it today (yesterday) although in the first couple of days, it was pretty good. So that’s the key.”

Despite his shaky finish, Rates remains unfazed by van der Valk’s surge, saying: “I made a couple of mistakes on club selections in the last few holes that had cost me the lead. But I’m okay, though I’m not satisfied with my game, there’s still the final round. I just need to work hard, to stay focused.”

Like van der Valk, Rates believes it will all boil down to putting.

“The greens are good, so it’s a matter of reading and control (on putting),” said the Mt. Malarayat pro, who last won at Summit Point in PGT Asia in 2018.

“But there’s no target score, it’s actually hard to predict what score I would need to put in. But my focus is to win and work on every details of my game,” he added.


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