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BURST OF BRILLIANCE — Ababa banks on birdie binge, captures ICTSI Mimosa


‘I just wanted to go for the green (on par-5 No. 16) after driving into the fairway bunker. But I hit my third shot to within birdie distance and made it.’

BY firing four birdies on each side, Jhonnel Ababa turns his fortune around. | Photograph by Joey Sanchez Mendoza for the daily tribune @tribunephl_joey

CLARK Freeport Zone — Jhonnel Ababa reset the course record with a 64 on Friday. And through the sheer brilliance of his round, he rightfully claimed all the prize that looked unreachable all week.

Ababa came out on top of a gut-wrenching battle of wits and nerves in fashioning out a five-stroke triumph over Michael Bibat in the ICTSI Mimosa Plus Championship.

In capturing the 10th and last leg of the Philippine Golf Tour this season, he strung up a 22-under 266 total over four rounds at Acacia course.

He beat Bibat, who played in a group ahead, and flight-mate Dino Villanueva by five after both carded 69s for 271s.

“I just wanted to go for the green (on par-5 No. 16) after driving into the fairway bunker. But I hit my third shot to within birdie distance and made it,” said Ababa in Filipino.

Ababa spiked his title romp on a pair of four-birdie feats on both nines to turn what had been a wild, wooly stretch run chase into a runaway triumph worth P450,000.

Three-day leader Guido van der Valk squandered a three-under card with a double-bogey, bogey finish on a course whose closing holes not only tested the chief contenders’ skills but also their mental toughness despite yielding a run of under-par scores in all four days.

The Dutchman wound up with a 72 and fell to fourth at 272 while Nilo Salahog and Keanu Jahns tied for fifth at 274 after a 70 and 71, respectively.

Tony Lascuña carded a 69 for joint seventh at 276 with Elmer Salvador, who also faded with three bogeys in the last eight holes after an eagle-spiked frontside 33 for a 72.

Marvin Dumandan, who lost in a four-hole playoff to Justin Quiban in the last PGT leg at South Pacific in Davao, charged back with a 68 to tie Elee Bisera, who shot a 69, Sean Ramos and Iloilo leg runaway winner Rupert Zaragosa, who matched 71s, at ninth at 277.

He earlier saw Bibat misfire on the 16th and told himself: “I have a chance (to win).”

The Davaoeño ace didn’t only seize the moment. He also made the most of it, holing out with his eighth birdie for a pair of 32s that capped a four-day display of stellar play that included rounds of 68-65-69.

“This win is a big blessing. There was so much pressure at the start but I told myself to stay focused and enjoy the game,” said Ababa, who thanked his family and friends for their all-out support throughout his campaign, including Borough Lasik Center, Ping Philippines and Calatagan Golf Club.

The margin of victory didn’t reflect the manner by which the final 18 holes were fought as Ababa still trailed Bibat by one heading to the par-5 16th, which the latter had birdied in the first three days of the P2 million event put up by ICTSI.

But the 2006 Asian Games bronze medalist bungled his second shot, found the water and ended up with a double-bogey, setting the stage for Ababa’s unswerving march to another PGT win.

Bibat never recovered from that late slip and bogeyed the 17th, blowing what he had toiled in stifling heat that saw him produce six birdies in the first 10 holes that drove him past van der Valk.

“I birdied No. 16 for three days, so I went for it again. But I made a mistake, so that’s golf,” said Bibat, who split the combined second and third place prizes of P465,000 with Villanueva.

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