ANTIPOLO CITY — Clyde Mondilla went on attack mode early and sustained his assault to finish ahead with an 11-under 60, holding a huge four-stroke lead over Albin Engino at the start of the ICTSI Forest Hills Classic at the Nicklaus course here Tuesday.
The Del Monte ace’s amazing birdie-binge in preferred conditions didn’t actually stop until after he had run out of holes to play on, birdieing the last five in a fashion only a player of his caliber could dish out.
“Sa backnine, tuloy-tuloy. Every hole na makikita ko, feel ko mabi-birdie ko,” said a delighted Mondilla, who launched his record run with four frontside birdies, including on the ninth.
He made it four straight with birdies in the first three holes at the backside of the par-71 tight course that virtually lay defenseless to Mondilla’s solid driving, superb iron play and outstanding putting.
“My mindset was to hit the fairways and greens. After 3-4 holes, I got the confidence (in driving). Driving is key here although there are tight holes (fairways) but I kept on attacking. I hit it close on my approach shots and my putting clicked although I missed a couple of putts,” said Mondilla, who finished with 22 putts.
Luck also smiled at the former Philippine Open champion who last won in the PGT Asia at Pradera Verde in 2020. His pitch from just above the drainage on No. 12 bounced before the green then rolled and disappeared into the cup.
‘Driving is key here although there are tight holes (fairways) but I kept on attacking.’
“I was just trying to hit it close to save par. Pero pag-pitch ko, pumasok. Parang araw ko talaga at bonus na talaga yun. So added confidence din,” said Mondilla, who had also set course records at Splendido Taal (63) and Calatagan (64).
Forest Hills’ record was 63 posted by Tony Lascuña in 2017 and Jhonnel Ababa in the PGT Asia in 2018 under summer rules.
Though a bogey on the par-3 13th stalled his charge, it didn’t stop Mondilla from proceeding with his record feat as he birdied the last five holes inside six feet.
Despite his big lead, Mondilla isn’t taking any chances since there are still 54 holes remaining in the P2 million championship serving as the seventh leg of this year’s PGT put up by ICTSi.
“It’s a big advantage, so in the next three days, I’ll try to hike it (lead), pero kailangan pa din mag-ingat,” Mondilla added.
Lost in Mondilla’s record birdie-spree were the Tour big guns although unfancied Engino took solo second with a solid, personal-best 65. However, that was hardly mentioned in the clubhouse conversation.
Lascuña, winner here in 2016-17, came through with a pitch-in eagle on the par-4 No. 3 and a 10-foot eagle on the par-5 No. 16 and spiked his 66 with a birdie on the sixth.
But his bogey-free round still stood six strokes off Mondilla with Dino Villanueva gaining solo fourth with four backside birdies for a 67.
Iloilo leg runaway winner Rupert Zaragosa fired a 68 for fifth while Keanu Jahns crowded Mondilla at the top with three frontside birdies and an eagle on the 10th. That’s until the Filipino-German faltered at the finish, bogeying Nos. 13, 14 and 18 to drop to joint sixth at 69 with Russell Bautista and Korean Hyun Ho Rho.
Angelo Que shot three birdies but made two bogeys for a 70 and a share of ninth with Ferdie Aunzo, Elee Bisera and Japanese Atsushi Ueda.