Armour surges to top with opening-round 64

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Stan Badz/PGA TOUR
Ryan Armour leads Paul Haley II by one stroke at the Mexico Open Presented by Banamex.
June 07, 2012
Laury Livsey, PGA TOUR Staff

LEON, Mexico -- Ryan Armour has set himself up quite nicely through 18 holes as he looks to win his first Nationwide Tour title in what is his 173rd Tour start. Paul Haley II's last stop in Latin America turned out so well that he has the looks of a player who would like to repeat his performance. And with that, Day 1 of the Mexico Open is in the books, as Armour will take a one-shot lead into the second round after shooting an 8-under 64 Thursday at El Bosque Country Club.

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Armour has three Nationwide Tour runner-up finishes in his career, but his first two were 12- and five-shot losses. However at this year's Panama Claro Championship, Armour truly contended when he fired weekend rounds of 68-68 only to fall a stroke short of winner Edward Loar.

When asked about his close calls but no wins during his career, Armour said, "I haven't gotten that far in my thinking. Right now I want to relax and enjoy today."

There was a lot to enjoy. Armour, a 1999 Ohio State graduate, made nine birdies against only one bogey, with four of his birdies coming on his last four holes.

"I hit a lot of fairways today, a lot of greens," Armour said. "It's something I hadn't been doing a lot lately, giving myself a lot of chances with the putter. I always feel if I can get 14, 15 good looks at it, I'll play well." Of his nine birdies, the longest putt he made was downhill, an 18-footer on No. 15.

Almost three months since he won the Chile Classic in Santiago by three strokes, Haley opened with a bogey-free 65, including, like Armour, a birdie on the 18th hole.

Haley, a Nationwide Tour rookie, won in only his third career start, and here he is setting himself up to make a run at win No. 2. The way his first round at El Bosque started, though, it didn't look like he was on his way to anything of note.

"On my first five holes, I was trying to find the ball with my swing. I wasn't hitting it that great, but luckily my putter was on, and that's what's been missing the last few weeks," said Haley, who made four consecutive pars to start the tournament. "I'm not a power player. I'm usually having to rely on just consistency and making very few bogeys."

Haley, a native of Dallas, where he still makes his home, did admit that he can reach each of the four par-5s at El Bosque in two, and he capitalized on those holes, birdieing them all. "If you can birdie three or four of the par-5s, odds are you're going to have a pretty good day."

Three players -- Tag Ridings, James Love and Jon Mills -- all shot 66s and are bunched together tied for third.

In the first nine events of the Nationwide Tour season, there have been nine different winners. Haley would like to become the first to pick up multiple victories. He came close after his breakthrough win in Chile, tying for second at the TPC Stonebrae Championship, a stroke behind winner Alex Aragon. Even with that performance, he's been a bit unsettled about his play, missing three cuts in six starts since Chile.

"I've been struggling with my game the last couple of weeks. But I had a good talk with my instructor, Randy Smith, about my putting, and how I just need to let [the putter] go and not really worry about the result," he said. "And that seemed to work."

Armour credits a practice session at The Dye Preserve near his home in Jupiter, Fla., Monday morning as the reason for his solid play.

"I came here with that thought (from practice), to just keep that rhythm and keep that one swing thought I had today instead of the eight I've had over every shot the last four weeks," Armour added. "It seemed to work, and I tried to simplify stuff. It's as good as I've hit it all year."

First-Round Notes

Ryan Armour's 8-under 64 during the first round at El Bosque Country Club left him atop the leaderboard after the first round of the Mexico Open and was easily his best round of the season. Previously, he shot 68 twice, most recently at the Panama Claro Championship. The 64 still falls well short of Armour's career-low round, a 61 last year at the Panama Claro Championship.

• In his last nine rounds, going back to the BMW Charity Pro-Am and last week's Rex Hospital Open, Tag Ridings has eight under-par rounds. He shot a 6-under 66 at El Bosque Country Club Thursday and is tied for third. His 66 matches the 66 he shot in the second round at the BMW Charity Pro-Am last month.

• The par-4 sixth hole was the most difficult in the first round, but the leaders did well there. James Love and Tag Ridings both birdied the hole, and Paul Haley II, Jon Mills and Ryan Armour made pars. For the day, No. 6's stroke average was 4.511.

Justin Bolli had a nice set of bookends to his round Thursday. Opening the tournament on the first hole, he made eagle there. Then on the 18th hole, he made eagle there, too. That made him the 14th player this year to record two eagles in one round.

• The bogey-free rounds Thursday came courtesy of Paul Haley II and Phil Pettitt, Jr.

James Love's 6-under 66 Thursday established a new personal career-low Nationwide Tour round. In his 12 previous Tour starts, dating to his amateur days in 2003, he had shot 67 five times.

• Love's front-nine 30 also tied an El Bosque Country Club record, with five other players (Greg Kraft, 2008; Brendan Steele, 2010; Efren Serna, Jr., 2010; and Roberto Castro, 2011).

• The best opening round by a winner in the four-year Nationwide Tour history of this event was the 65 Jamie Lovemark shot in 2010. That year, Lovemark was one shot behind Peter Tomasulo after 18 holes.

• The Serna family have all four male members of the family playing this week, with the three Serna brothers, Antonio, Oscar and Efren, duplicating their feat of 2009 by playing together again at the Mexican Open, the site of their debut. In the history of the Nationwide Tour, the Nicklauses (Michael, Jack, Jr., Gary and Steve) all competed in the 2003 and 2004 BMW Charity Pro-Am. In 2007, the Pappases -- Brenden, Deane and Craigen -- competed in the 2007 Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational. Antonio led the way, firing a 4-under 68. Oscar shot 75 and Efren came in with a 79. Efren Serna, Sr., also playing this week, shot a 1-over 73.

Pos. Name Scores (to par)
T8 Antonio Serna 68 (4-under)
T49 Oscar Fraustro 72 (even)
T49 Federico Garcia 72 (even)
T49 Esteban Toledo 72 (even)
T57 Armando Favela 73 (1-over)
T57 Yoshio Yamamoto 73 (1-over)
T57 Efren Serna Sr. 73 (1-over)
T85 Mauricio Andoni Bercun 74 (2-over)
T85 Jose de Jesus Rodriguez 74 (2-over)
T98 Oscar Serna 75 (3-over)
T98 Manuel Inman 75 (3-over)
T98 Juan Salazar 75 (3-over)
T108 Salvador Hernandez 76 (4-over)
T120 Estanislao Guerrero 77 (5-over)
T120 Juan Diego Fernandez 77 (5-over)
T120 Jose Octavio Gonzalez 78 (6-over)
T125 Mauricio Azcue 78 (6-over)
T125 Jose Trauwitz 78 (6-over)
T132 Efren Serna Jr. 79 (7-over)
T138 Kenji Murayama 82 (10-over)

• Besides the Sernas, there are 16 other Mexico natives playing this week. Here are all their results:

Pos. Name Country Scores (to par)
T24 Benjamin Alvarado Chile 70 (2-under)
T24 Julian Etulain Argentina 70 (2-under)
T49 Fabian Gomez Argentina 72 (even)
T120 Fernando Mechereffe Brazil 77 (5-over)
T125 Diego Vanegas Colombia 78 (6-over)
T132 Diego Velasquez Colombia 79 (7-over)
137 David Vanegas Colombia 80 (8-over)
WD Cesar Costilla Argentina  

• There are also eight additional Latin Americans playing in the Mexico Open. Here are their results:

• Of the 21 eagles Thursday, 19 came on par 5s and two on par-4s. The par-4 eagles were courtesy of Esteban Toledo (No. 5) and Travis Wadkins (No. 17).

• Five players withdrew from the tournament midway through their first rounds due to injury Thursday. Jerrod Turner played 11 holes before dropping out with an aggravated wrist. Cesar Costilla had just made his first birdie of the day, on his 10th hole, when he withdrew because of a bad shoulder. Anthony Rodriguez played 15 holes before a neck injury sidelined him, and Brian Smock withdrew after his 13th hole of the day. Christopher DeForest was a late withdrawl after the 16th hole.

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