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Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Dutch does it again at TCC

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GUIDO VAN DER VALK rode a near-impeccable frontside charge to cushion the impact of a faltering finish but still won by five strokes over Lloyd Go with a 73 to retain The Country Club (TCC) Invitational crown on Friday in Santa Rosa, Laguna.

Not even a backside 40 that could easily ruin one’s title drive in big-time championships could stymie Van der Valk’s claim to a second straight championship in the Philippine Golf Tour’s (PGT) centerpiece event as he built too much of a buffer—eight shots over Go—with a frontside tournament-best 33 spiked by four birdies against a bogey.

Like the Dutchman, the rest failed to tame TCC’s exacting backside as difficult pin placements made the stretch run chase more daunting and challenging.

That paved the way for Van der Valk’s easy win as he assembled a six-over 294 total, including a first round 73 and a couple of 74s, and pocketed the record P2 million purse in four days of hard work and tests after emerging the best in what had been billed as the Don Pocholo Razon Memorial Cup for the second straight time.

“It’s an honor to win this tournament twice. It’s very special to win back-to-back and I’m super happy that I managed to do it,” said Van der Valk, who became only the second player to score a repeat in 16 editions of the annual championship.”

There were no TCC Invitationals in 2015-16 and 2021-22.

“I played really good after 9 holes but I struggled a little bit at the back but I had enough of a buffer to still be comfortable,” added Van der Valk. “I’m thrilled to have done this again and I look forward to defending my title next year.”

Angelo Que won in 2007, five years after the event was launched by International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) chairman and CEO Ricky Razon to honor his father and ICTSI founder Don Pocholo. The three-time Asian Tour winner then reigned in 2010 and 2011.

Unlike Que, who had to rally to beat fellow three-time TCC winner Juvic Pagunsan in 2010, Van der Valk spiked his TCC “double” in wire-to-wire fashions, leading from the start and enduring an enthralling battle of nerves and wits that stretched up the final hole to edge Clyde Mondilla by one three years ago.

He also set the pace with three others with 73s Tuesday. But while Jerson Balasabas, Clyde Mondilla and Jay Bayron faded one after the other, Van der Valk stayed steady and took solo control with a 74 halfway through then kept a two-shot lead—after blowing a five-stroke bulge in the stretch—with another two-over card in moving day.

But though the Dutchman’s five-shot triumph was imposing, it still paled in comparison with Artemio Murakami’s record 13-stroke win over Que in 2009.

But his latest exploit further underlined the brilliance in the man, who worked on his game in the run-up to the championship after winning two legs when the PGT resumed with a seven-leg offering last year.

“I did really good work hard the week before, so I practiced really hard. My ball-striking wasn’t that great before but it kind of sorted out for me, I knew what I was doing wrong and I managed to slowly get better during the tournament,” he said.

Go, who grabbed a spot in the championship flight with a third round-best 71, snatched runner-up honors, worth a whopping P1 million, with a 299 after a 74 as Gialon fell apart with a wave of bogeys in heat and wind for a six-over card in the early stretch and the rest failed to wage a charge that could merit a second look or revive their slimmest of hopes.

As Gialon blew it all with a frontside 42, Go assumed the challenger’s role with a 37 at the front but could get no closer than that it was at the finish as he likewise wavered at TCC’s demanding finishing holes, bogeying Nos. 16 and 18 after a birdie on the 13th.

That paved the way for Van der Valk’s runaway triumph, hoping to sustain his brand of play that has marked his steady rise to the top of the PGT ranking when the Pilipinas Golf Tournaments, Inc.-organized circuit goes full blast starting next month.

Micah Shin, winner here in 2018, carded a 74 and tied 2004 champion Tony Lascuna, who turned in a 75, at third at 301 and split the combined P948,000 purse.

Clyde Mondilla, who lost to Van der Valk by one in a thrilling 2020 final, skied to a 77 and wound up fifth at 303 worth P288,000.

Art Arbole shot a 75 for joint sixth at 304 with Michael Bibat, who holed out with a double-bogey for a 78, while former amateur standout Mars Pucay also put in a 75 to tie 2013 winner Frankie Miñoza and erstwhile contender Jay Bayron, who both carded 77s, at eighth with 305s.

Gialon, runaway winner in Caliraya Springs last year, skied to an 84 and tumbled to 14th at 307.

Image credits: Roy Domingo

Read full article on BusinessMirror

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