LEON, Guanajuato, Mexico. --American Scott Sterling missed a three-foot putt for par on the par-5 18th hole but still managed to grab the first-round lead of the weather-delayed 53rd Mexico Open presented by Banamex, the third international event on the 2011 Nationwide Tour schedule. All 144 professionals made their way onto the 7,708 yard, par-72 El Bosque Country Club, located approximately 6,800 feet above sea level, but only 72 players completed the first round due to rain and inclement weather. The remaining half of the field will resume play at 8:00 a.m. on Friday morning with the second round expected to begin at 10 a.m.
Sterling notched eight birdies and one bogey en route to 7-under 65 on Thursday and leads by one over Mexican Estanislao Guerrero, Australian Peter Lonard and American Aaron Watkins. A trio of Australians -- Matthew Giles, James Nitties and Alistair Presnell -- and Mexican Oscar Serna are two back at 5-under 67.
"I had a pretty disappointing finish," said Sterling, who has one career victory on the Nationwide Tour (Jacob's Creek Open Championship/2007). "I've been hitting it well the past couple of weeks but I just haven't been scoring. Today I was able to make a couple of big putts and I'm pleased with my start."
"I like the golf course but I'm surprised I played well because I normally struggle with elevation," he said. "When I get the putter going I score. Hopefully the putter keeps working tomorrow."
Despite three-putting his final hole of the day, Sterling made his fair share of putts in the first round. On the par-4 13th hole he rolled in a downhill 30-foot putt for birdie and then he made a 25-foot putt for birdie on the par-4 17th hole. The rest of his birdies were a mix of five and eight footers.
"The putt on the 13th hole would have gone at least six feet past the hole had it not gone in," he said. "I felt like I stole one there."
Lonard's bogey-free 66 matched his low round of the year. He fired 66 in the first round of last week's Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open and went on to finish T20.
"The greens are really soft right now and the challenge for the players is to control their spin," said Lonard. "I don't spin the ball that much so it wasn't too tough for me around the greens. Unfortunately that means less distance off the tee and with the rain making the course soft it presents a challenge."
Guerrero, the low Mexican player from Tijuana, also posted a bogey-free round. He is competing in his first Nationwide Tour event.
"I am just very happy I played well today," said the 25-year old, who played on the golf team at Old Dominion in Norfolk, Va. before graduating in 2008. "I want to finish in the top 25. Tomorrow, I will play one shot at a time and one hole at a time. I will try to avoid the mistakes. For me the most important thing is that I enjoy playing golf."
The first round was delayed for two hours prior to the start of the tournament due to a torrential downpour and nearly two hours late in the afternoon because of threatening conditions.
• James Nitties recorded a hole-in-one on the par-3 12th hole. He hit a pitching wedge from 123 yards. Nitties shot 37-30 for 5-under 67. His 6-under 30 on the back nine is a new tournament record.
• James Hahn double-eagled the par-5 18th hole to finish 1-over 73. Hahn hit a 3-iron from 240 yards. The double eagle was the first in tournament history.
• Play was suspended from 7:50 a.m. to 9:50 a.m. because of rain and from 4:08 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. due to inclement weather in the area.
• Ted Brown withdrew prior to the start of the first round.
• Last year's runner-up, B.J. Staten (79), and Richard T. Lee (80) withdrew after the first round.
• Jake Younan-Wise was disqualified for signing an incorrect scorecard.
• Alistair Presnell made five birdies in a row (No. 18 -- No. 4) en route to a 5-under 67 in the first round.