MANILA, Philippines -- Motivated by some crushing setbacks, Clyde Mondilla continues to push for the championship that is missing in his trophy collection.
The veteran Mondilla is now gearing up for another possible shot at the The Country Club Invitational crown beginning Tuesday (Feb. 7) at the TCC course in Laguna.
"As much as possible, I practice daily – fairways in the morning then range in the afternoon," said Mondilla, who had squandered two clear cracks at the title in the last two editions of the Philippine Golf Tour's flagship tournament.
He co-led with young Korean Tom Kim in the third round in 2019, but wavered with a 76 in the final round and ended up third behind Kim and Keanu Jahns. The 2010 national amateur champion also lost by one to Guido van Der Valk in 2020 before the event took a forced two-year break due to the pandemic.
Heading into the P6-M event, Mondilla admits he is far from his top form.
"Even if I practice every day, I still have so much to improve on," he said.
But with 12 titles under his belt -- including the 2019 Philippine Open that was also held at TCC -- Mondilla looms as one of the favorites in an elite cast that includes three-time champion Juvic Pagunsan.
Others going for a second championship are 2013 winner Frankie Miñoza, multi-titled Tony Lascuna (2004) and Micah Shin, who became the first non-Filipino winner of the event put up by ICTSI chairman and CEO Ricky Razon in 2003 to honor his father and ICTSI founder Don Pocholo, when he nipped 2017 titlist Miguel Tabuena by one in 2018.
Van der Valk, on the other hand, isn't only chasing a second TCC diadem but is also out to sustain an impressive 2022 campaign that saw him snare two titles at Splendido Taal and at Pradera Verde to emerge the top player after the seven-leg season.
Like the rest of the stellar 30-player field, Mondilla stresses the need to dish out a superb all-around game to fuel his title drive, given the challenges and terrors lurking in every corner of the exacting par-72 layout.
"My game plan is to play a good round every day. We know how tough TCC is. But that's the challenge for us. It's the toughest course in the country. And to be able break par, one needs to be solid not just in driving and irons but in short game as well," said Mondilla.
"Even-par for four days would be enough," he added.
Others in the hunt for top honors in the Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.-organized event are last year's leg winners Zanieboy Gialon and Michael Bibat, Reymon Jaraula, Jhonnel Ababa, Lloyd Go, Ira Alido, Joenard Rates, Sean Ramos, Ruperto Zaragosa III, Rico Depilo, Orlan Sumcad, Jerson Balasabas, Gerald Rosales, Jay Bayron, Dino Villanueva, Anthony Fernando, Fidel Concepcion, Albin Engino, Enrico Gallardo, Richard Sinfuego, Art Arbole, Mars Pucay, Paul Echavez and Dan Cruz.
Meanwhile, the pro-am tournament will be held Monday (Feb. 6), featuring a select number of pros and amateur guests and sponsors of the sponsoring ICTSI, with the practice round set in the afternoon.