Sta. Rosa, Laguna—Guido Van der Valk survived another day of floundering finishes here yesterday, fending off Clyde Mondilla’s early threat with a pitch-in eagle on No. 8 then holding sway despite a wobbly windup to cling to a two-stroke lead after three rounds of The Country Club Invitational.
The duo matched 75s, which proved to the best in wicked conditions, marred by almost identical three-bogey mishaps in the last eight holes as they kept the 1-2 posts at 220 and 222, respectively, with the Dutchman moving 18 holes away from becoming the third straight non-Filipino to win the Philippine Golf Tour’s flagship championship after back-to-back victories by Koreans Micah Shin and Kim Joo Hyung.
“I think today (yesterday) was the hardest with the wind practically blowing in all 18 holes,” said Van der Valk, adding that TCC actually needs no wind to be extremely difficult, given its length, the roughs, hazards and the putting surface.
“Just look at the scores, it was that hard and I am happy with this 75. I actually feel that I played my best round,” he added.
He was just so delighted with his eagle on No. 8 when his 7-iron second shot from 210 yards fell 10 yards short of the green but his pitch landed exactly where he had wanted.
But his own version of a 75 also gave Mondilla a clear shot at a second straight crown at the dreaded TCC layout after the Del Monte star bested a tough international field to win the Solaire Philippine Open last year.
Unlike in his impressive second round 70 where he hit all greens, however, Mondilla, 26, struggled with his short game, saying: “I missed a lot of greens. You’ve got to be consistent with your short game here at TCC, especially in putting.”
He actually pulled to within one with a birdie on the first hole but the early warning hardly shook Van der Valk’s confidence as the latter watched the former lose his rhythm and bogey three of the next five holes.
Mondilla broke the spell with a birdie on the par-5 No. 8 but Van der Valk, who also bogeyed No. 3, eagled it to go 4-up, only to yield strokes in the next two holes on a bogey on the ninth coupled with the Filipino ace’s birdie on the 10th.
But he never got any closer and Van der Valk failed to pull away either as Mondilla bogeyed Nos. 11, 12 and 18 and the latter dropped strokes on Nos. 11, 14 and 18, the treacherous par-4 many believe would decide the outcome today.
The top two players’ shaky finishes likewise kept at least two other veteran campaigners and a former amateur standout in the hunt for the top P1.5 million purse as Jay Bayron moved to solo third at 224 despite a 76 he even spiked with an eagle and Lascuña assembled a 226 despite slipping to fourth with a birdie-less 78.
Many-time national champion Rupert Zaragosa also gained despite a similar 78 as he joined Lascuña at fourth, six strokes off the pace, a deficit not to big to overcome on a course that continued to test the poise and mental toughness.
The rest fared worse in another punishing day with the wind blowing from all over with only one player, Rene Menor, matching par 36 for a 79-240, and three submitting 43s, including Ira Alido (87-237), James Ryan Lam (84-244) and Rico Depilo (81-248).
Keanu Jahns, who shot the tournament-best 69 Thursday, fumbled with a 76 for sixth at 228 while Spain’s Marcos Pastor (77), Jhonnel Ababa (78), Reymon Jaraula (78), Michael Bibat (78) and Albin Engino (79) all pooled 229s.