STA. ROSA, Laguna – Clyde Mondilla produced two clutch shots to avert a late collapse on Saturday, salvaging a three-over par 75 to fend off American Nicolas Paez for a first Solaire Philippine Open crown at The Country Club.
Stumbling with a four-over card through 13 holes that enabled Paez to fight back from seven down to within two, Mondilla kept his cool in sweltering heat and came through with birdies on Nos. 14 and 15 to restore his lead to four.
“I’ve won a number of tournaments in the regular circuit but this one is the most memorable, meaningful. I will never forget it,” said Mondilla, who finished with a 72-hole aggregate of two-over 290 at easily the country's toughest golf course.
With Paez birdying the last hole for a 70 and moving within two again on a 292 with Mondilla still to complete the last two holes, it was all up for the Filipino ace to keep his cool in the grandest of stages.
Mondilla parred the closing holes, including the treacherous par-4 18th, to become just the 17th Filipino winner of Asia's oldest Open.
The Del Monte native joined an elite group headed by 12-time champion Larry Montes, although four – Cassius Casas, Gerald Rosales, Artemio Murakami and Elmer Salvador – all won in an all-Pinoy field.
“When I saw Paez closing in on the leaderboard, I became wary but still confident,” said Mondilla, who banked his biggest paycheck to date worth $90,000 he received, along with the huge trophy, from Solaire president and COO Thomas Arasi.
The 26-year-old star also emerged as the third player from Del Monte to win the Open after six-time titlist Celestino Tugot and two-time winner Frankie Miñoza.
The triumph was also some sort of redemption for the former PGT Order of Merit winner, who had to fight off personal woes and injuries that hampered his campaign last year following a four-victory romp to emerge the top local player in 2017,
He was also coming off a missed cut in the ICTSI Riviera Challenge last week.
The Thais, who were in contention in the first three rounds, lost steam when it mattered most and bowed out one after the other, extending the country’s perennial rivals’ winless run in the event to another year.
Nirun Sae Ueng stumbled with a 75 but still emerged as the best Thai finisher at joint third at 295 with Angelo Que, who birdied the par-3 17th for the second straight day and saved a 73. Each received $28,250.
Tawit Polthai, who led in the first two rounds, limped home with a 77 to end up solo fifth at 296 while compatriots Poom Saksansin (74) and Namchok Tantipokhakul (77) pooled identical 297s and wound up joint sixth in the event sanctioned by the National Golf Association of the Philippines.