Sta. Rosa, Laguna—Clyde Mondilla holed out with a birdie then watched Kim Joo Hyung fumble with a missed green bogey for a big two-shot swing that put the Filipino ace back in joint lead with the young Korean in the third round of the P5 million The Country Club Invitational here yesterday.
Kim, 16, bucked an opening hole mishap with a cluster of birdies to stun Mondilla and three-time champion Angelo Que with a 33 start but Mondilla rallied from three down with a strong finish at TCC’s tricky finishing holes, sparking his fightback with a birdie on No. 14 before drilling in a 10-footer on the difficult No. 18 to salvage a 70.
Kim rebounded from a bogey on No. 11 with a birdie on the 16th to keep his spot on top but the Korean upstart, who became the youngest winner on the Philippine Golf Tour at Pueblo De Oro last year, failed to ride the pressure on the last hole, hitting it short on his approach shot.
“That’s a good bogey,” said Kim, whose 70 kept him tied with Mondilla at even 216, virtually setting up a two-man duel for the top P1.5 million purse in this kickoff leg of the PGT’s milestone 10th season put up by ICTSI chairman Ricky Razon in 2003 to honor the memory of his father and ICTSI founder.
“I played good, my irons, short game and putting were okay,” said Mondilla, seeking to make it two-in-row here at the Tom Weiskoph-designed layout after besting a crack international field in the Solaire Philippine Open three weeks ago.
The Del Monte ace hit three birdies inside 15 feet against a lone bogey, missing eagle chances on the two par-5s. He hit a solid 3-iron second shot from 195 yards on No. 8 but misread a 10-footer then hacked a 3-wood second shot from 280 yards to within 15 feet on No. 14.
Keanu Jahns turned in a rare backside 32 to save a 71 as he moved to solo third though four strokes behind the joint leaders at 220 for a spot in the championship flight tipped to go down to the last shot or putt.
Que, seeking a record fourth crown, turned in an impressive 35 but after three straight pars at the back, the power-hitting shotmaker wavered, bogeying three of the last six, including the last for a 74 and a 222, now six shots behind.
Aussie Tim Stewart also charged back with a closing 34 to salvage a 73 for solo fifth at 224 while Juvic Pagunsan, the only other three-time winner of this event long regarded as a major championship for its prized money and select cast, continued to struggle, hobbling with a birdie-less 76 for joint sixth with first round leader Jerson Balasabas, who limped with a 78, at 226.
Dutch Guido Van der Valk bogeyed two of the last four for a 75 and a 227 while Korean-American Micah Shin, who became the first non-Filipino winner of this event when he nipped absentee and 2017 champion Miguel Tabuena on the 72nd hole last year, matched par 72 but lay 12 shots behind at 228 with Justin Quiban, who also battled back with a 35 for a 75.
Kim said he struggled off the mound and vowed to stay in control of his game in the last 18 holes but refused to predict the winning score.
“The course is difficult and the hot weather adds up to the challenge. So I have to stay focused,” said Kim.