Nathan Park blew a huge lead as his putting touch deserted him at the finish, settling for a four-under 68 and a two-stroke edge over an equally charging Clyde Mondilla midway through the ICTSI Philippine Masters at the Villamor Golf Club yesterday.
After bogeying hole No. 1, the left-handed Australian went on a birdie spree in a five-hole stretch from No. 2.
But he squandered a four-shot lead with back-to-back three-putt miscues from No. 7, enabling Mondilla and the rest of the pack to stay within striking distance heading the final 36 holes of the P2-million event.
“I was fantastic up to the sixth hole at the front. Then my putting deserted me,” rued Park, who sizzled with birdies on Nos. 12, 15 and 16 then bounced back from a bogey-mishap on No. 1 with another four-birdie binge in five holes from the second.
With a seven-under 137, Park led Mondilla, who rallied with a 67 for a 139, by two while Tony Lascuña, Keanu Jahns and erstwhile leader Jobim Carlos stood a short farther back at 140 after a 69, 70 and 72, respectively, ensuring a spirited battle for the top P360,000 purse in the 72-hole championship sponsored by ICTSI.
Mondilla, who opened with a so-so 72 coming off a victory over Miguel Tabuena and Lascuña at Southwoods last week, also charged back early with three birdies in the first eight holes but flubbed at least four birdie putts inside three feet.
The Del Monte ace, however, rolled in an eagle putt from 50 feet on the par-5 closing hole to finish with a 67 and line himself up for another crack at the championship in the circuit organized by Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.
“I missed a number of birdie putts from close range but made a long, long putt for eagle. But that’s golf,” said the 24-year-old Mondilla, who racked up three victories last year to finish second to Lascuña in the Order of Merit derby.
Japanese Genki Okada made a blistering start at the back to fire a 31 and wrest the lead at seven-under overall but faltered at the front with a 42 marred by four bogeys and a double-bogey with no birdie to show. He wound up with a 73 and dropped to joint 14th with Albin Engino (72) and compatriot Seiji Yanagisawa (73) at 143.
Forty-three players made the cut at 147 with former champion Robert Pactolerin safely making it through with a 145 after a 73 and Cassius Casas, the winner here in 2000, pooling a 146 after a 74.
Among the notables who failed to advance were Dutch Guido Van der Valk (70-148), former Masters winner Rodrigo Cuello (71-148), Jay Bayron (72-151), and Ferdie Aunzo (78-155).
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