Mondilla rallies for share of Pradera lead

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    LUBAO, Pampanga. — Clyde Mondilla came up with a late charge to check a fumbling frontside start and force a four-way tie for the lead at three-under 69 Tuesday as the ICTSI Pradera Verde Classic got going in windy conditions at the sprawling Pradera Verde layout here.

    Reeling with a four-bogey, three-birdie stint after nine holes, Mondilla got his rhythm in time, stringing four straight birdies from No. 12 to put himself back in the early mix of contenders in the $100,000 event serving as the penultimate leg of the 2019-20 Philippine Golf Tour Asia season.

    The reigning Philippine Open champion faced a curious blend of rivals in pursuit of a third PGTA diadem, led by flightmate and the winningest player on the fledgling circuit, the three-peat seeking Jhonnel Ababa; veteran campaigner Guido Van der Valk of the Netherlands and group-mate and tour rookie Jack Lane-Weston from Australia.

    “I played good and the course is in perfect shape,” said Mondilla, the reigning PGTA Order of Merit winner who ruled the Riviera leg of the circuit’s inaugurals in 2017 then bested a tough international field to win the country’s premier championship at The Country Club last year.

    Ababa also leaned on a late charge to launch his drive for a record third straight championship here, birdying four of the last eight, including a 22-footer on the 17th, against a bogey, and so did Van der Valk, who shot three birdies in the last seven to break an even par round.

    Lane-Weston bucked a bogey on No. 4 with birdies on Nos. 5, 8 and 9 then bounced back from a bogey-mishap on the 11th with two birdies in the last six holes of the 7262-yard layout that puts premium on driving and putting.

    “This is the best course I’ve ever played thus far,” said the 24-year-old Lane-Weston, only in his sixth PGTA tournament who is coming off a strong joint third place effort with Mondilla at Summit Point last November.

    The power-hitter from Gold Coast hit 10 fairways and missed four greens but said he could’ve shot better if not for a couple flubbed birdie chances at the back.

    “I didn’t hole so many putts,” said Lane-Weston, who anchored his first round 34-35 card with three birdies against a bogey at the front. He bogeyed the par-3 11th on a poor tee-shot but recovered with birdies on Nos. 13 and 18 to get into the thick of things.