Van der Valk blows huge lead with floundering finish


    STA. ROSA, Laguna. — Guido Van der Valk stumbled at the finish but still held on to a two-stroke lead over a charging Clyde Mondilla despite a 74 on Thursday, enabling a host of others to stay in the hunt halfway through the rich The Country Club Invitational at the TCC course here.

    Bucking the heat and the wind that blustered rather late at the back for the second straight day, the Dutchman hit four birdies against two bogeys and threatened to pull away with a two-under card after 13 holes. But just when he thought he had the Tom Weiskoph-designed course all figured out, it bit back and he closed out with what he termed as a “shameful” finish – four bogeys in the last five holes.

    From 6-up in one stretch, Van der Valk saw his lead slash down to two with nines of 35-39 and a one-over 145 while Mondilla endured a roller-coaster backside start to shoot a 70 and assume the challenger’s role at 147, well within sight of another TCC triumph following his breakthrough Solaire Philippine Open victory here last year.

    “Bad finish,” rued Van der Valk, 40. “But here at TCC, if you sort of start making a few bogeys, it’s so easy to keep on making them because there is not a single easy hole on this course. But making four bogeys in the last five is a shame.”

    But TCC is simply living up to its toughness where survival is a major concern, a test not only of shotmaking but also of will and character and where the only predictable thing is its unpredictability.

    Mondilla fought back strong from a harrowing 77 start but birdied two of the first four holes, yielded a stroke on No. 5 then went on a birdie-bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie roll to start the last nine holes and muffed a couple of birdie chances.

    “My ball-striking was quite okay and hit all greens. But I struggled with my putting and missed a lot of chances,” said Mondilla, who headed straight to the practice green to polish his stroke as he stepped up his drive for a crack at another major crown in this event put up by ICTSI president-chairman Ricky Razon in 2003 to honor the memory of his father and ICTSI founder Don Pocholo, himself an avid golfer.