The Nationwide Tour visits the second of four countries that kick off its 2008 season on Thursday when its tees off at Tres Marias Golf Club in Mexico for the 50th Mexico Open presented by Corona. The Open, first played in 1944, is on the Nationwide Tour schedule for the first time via a co-sanctioning agreement between the Nationwide Tour and the Mexico Golf Federation.
Though in its 50th year, the Open is on the Nationwide Tour schedule for the first time. It offers a $625,000 purse. The Mexico Open has a rich history and long list of prominent past champions that includes World Golf Hall of Fame members Ben Crenshaw, Lee Trevino, Billy Casper and Roberto De Vicenzo as well as PGA TOUR stars Stewart Cink and Fred Funk and Champions Tour rookie John Cook.
Sixteen of the 132 spots in the field are reserved for exemptions as determined by the Mexico Golf Federation and fours spots for the Tour de las Americas.
Estaban Toledo, another past champion of the Mexico Open (2000), returns to his home country this week. The Mexicali native and youngest of 11 children has earned $4.2 million on the PGA TOUR and Champions Tour since turning professional in 1986. He is dedicated to giving back as displayed by his support of the "To Get A Grip Foundation" and the Estaban Toledo PGA TOUR Pro-Am, which benefits the Foundation.
Mark Brooks, the 1996 PGA Champion, is making his first Nationwide Tour start of the year this week. The former University of Texas All-American played in two Nationwide Tour events last spring, missing one cut and finishing tied for 37th in the other.
Scott Dunlap, winner of the last week's season-opening Panama Movistar Championship, looks to make it two in a row at the Jack Nicklaus-designed Tres Marias. Dunlap took a unique approach to last week's event, playing no practice rounds since Christmas. "It's the first tournament of the year and you almost don't have any expectations," the 1985 University of Florida finance major said. Since 1990, Dunlap has earned more then $3 million on both the PGA TOUR and Nationwide Tour.
Jeff Klauk, coming off a tie for second in Panama, hopes to continue his solid play in Mexico. His runner-up performance was his best since winning the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open in 2003. The Florida Southern graduate whose father is about to retire as the superintendent at the PGA TOUR's home facility, TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., finished 34th on the Nationwide Tour money list last year. Klauk closed the 2007 campaign strong with finishes of T22 or better in six of his last seven events. "My coach, Cody Barden, and I have been working very hard on a lot of things in the off-season and it's nice to see that pay off," Klauk said of the tie for second Panama finish.
GOLF CHANNEL will air a 60-minute post-produced highlight show of the Mexico Open in the United States. The Nationwide Tour last played in Mexico in 2001 at the Monterrey Open which was won by South African Deane Pappas. Tres Marias Golf Club, a 7,226-yard, par-71 layout, was home to last year's LPGA Corona Championship, which was won by Silvia Cavalleri (-20).
After next week's break the Nationwide Tour travels to New Zealand for the HSBC New Zealand PGA Championship (Feb. 14-17) and Australia for the Moonah Classic (Feb. 21-24). The Nationwide Tour's plays the Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic in late June in Canada, marking the fifth stop outside the U.S. borders, a Tour record.