Armed with a big cushion, Jhonnel Ababa played pressure-free all throughout and snapped a year-long spell on the Philippine Golf Tour, beating local favorite Reymon Jaraula by two despite a wobbly finish for a 71 in the ICTSI Del Monte Championship in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon yesterday.
Not even Jaraula’s scorching frontside five-under 31 in a flight ahead nor Ababa’s late-hole miscues could tilt the balance for the homegrown talent and recent Pueblo de Oro winner as the Davaoeño ace had built too huge a lead with a string of brilliant 67s in the first three rounds of the P2.5 million event that served as the seventh leg of PGT’s 10th season.
He did stick to his game plan to slow down after doubling his 36-hole lead to four over Zanieboy Gialon and a charging Clyde Mondilla and moving six-up over Jaraula Friday, frustrating his pursuers no end with four birdies in the first 11 holes to all but wrap up the championship on a 16-under 272 total worth P450,000.
“This victory meant so much to me, confidence-wise,” said Ababa. “I actually felt I could win after Day 2 after making two eagles. I really had a great game and it motivated me in the third round.”
Not even a double-bogey on No. 15 and a bogey on the 17th could stop Ababa from nailing his first PGT win since ruling the rain-shortened Cebu leg of last year’s circuit sponsored by ICTSI, finally ending up on top after a string of top eight finishes in the last three tournaments, including a joint third effort at Pueblo which Jaraula won in a two-hole playoff over Tony Lascuña last week.
“I didn’t attack and played relax at the frontnine and made the most of my birdie chances. I made a mistake on No. 15 on wrong shot selection and made a 6 but it hardly mattered as my putting kept me going,” added the winningest player on PGT Asia with four victories, whose latest triumph likewise foiled Juvic Pagunsan’s bid for a record five-title feat in the PGT.
Jaraula did threaten to within four at the turn with his solid start but bogeyed the par-3 No. 12 in a futile attempt to gun down another birdie. He flubbed a couple more birdie opportunities in the closing holes and finished with a 67 for second at 274. He pocketed P295,000 after scoring a breakthrough at Pueblo.
Dutch Guido Van der Valk, winner in the kickoff leg in Cebu last June, birdied four of the last five and snatch solo third at 275 worth P170,000 while Lascuña also charged home with three birdies in the last five for a 68, tying Gialon and Mondilla at fourth at 277. Each received P111,666.
Gialon failed to recover from a bogey-bogey start while Mondilla, who sparked hopes of a big finish after a fiery third round 65 on solid putting, struggled on Del Monte’s surface, missing a number of birdie putts at the front to reel back.
The reigning Philippine Open champion bogeyed No. 10 and closed out with a birdie-bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie game to match par 72 with Gialon.
Noel Langamin placed seventh at 278 after a 70, his bid for a stronger finish ruined by a double-bogey on No. 15 and closing bogey while Pagunsan shot his best round of 68 for solo eighth at 279.
Anthony Fernando and Richard Sinfuego turned in identical 67s for 280s as they shared ninth place in the event backed by Custom Clubmakers, Meralco, Champion, Summit Mineral Water, K&G Golf Apparel, BDO, Sharp, KZG, PLDT and M.Y. Shokai Technology, Inc.