By Joe Chemycz, Web.com Tour staff
SAO PAULO, Brasil – Chile’s Benjamin Alvarado started early and finished late on Saturday as the rain-delayed Brasil Classic presented by HSBC hurried to get back on schedule. The 27-year-old from Santiago returned to the Sao Paulo Golf Club course before sunrise and finished 11 holes of round two before turning back around and completing round three as darkness fell.
The net result of 31 holes – 11 birdies, 0 bogeys and a three-stroke lead heading into Sunday’s finale.
“I’m tired. It was a long day but I played great today,” said Alvarado, who added a 5-under 66 to his partially-completed second-round 63 and stands at 17-under 196. “The key today was my putting. Every time I was far from the hole I left the ball very close and every time I had a makeable birdie putt, I did it.”
What he did was play flawless golf on a nearly endless day and move in front of an international leaderboard.
Kevin Kim, a 29-year-old rookie from South Korea, also went dawn to dusk Saturday, finishing at 14-under par after playing 29 holes in 11-under par.
South Africa’s Dawie van der Walt posted a 6-under 65 in round three and moved to 13-under 200 along with former U.S. Amateur champion Danny Lee (70) of New Zealand and Sweden’s Richard S. Johnson (70).
Knoxville native Wes Roach rolled in a 45-foot birdie putt on his final hole for a 63 early in round three and jumped over a host of others to reach 12-under and solo sixth.
“I want to try and do the same thing tomorrow,” said Alvarado, who has been bogey-free for 45 holes. “I want to try to hit the fairway and leave a 100-yard shot every time. Then, let’s see what happens with the putter. I hope to make everything tomorrow.”
Sunday’s closer may be a little easier for Alvarado, who was a 54-hole co-leader last month at the Chile Classic, which was played in his hometown of Santiago.
“I had a lot of pressure in Chile,” he admitted. “I’ve won many events but those were all small events with 100 people watching. There were a lot of people in Chile. I don’t play very often with that pressure. I had just signed with three sponsors just two weeks before the tournament and they were all watching me along with the media. It was big. I think tomorrow will be different. Today I didn’t have that pressure.”
Kim, making only his fifth career start on Tour, got out of the blocks early when the second round resumed. His hybrid from 228 yards settled three feet from the pin on the par-5, 17th hole stopped three feet from the cup and rolled in an eagle putt. He then added a birdie at No. 18, the toughest hole on the course.
“I tried to cut my hybrid around the tree but I don’t know how it made it on the green,” said Kim. “We couldn’t tell where it landed. Somehow it missed that tree. To make three there and then birdie 18 was another bonus. I know I picked up at least two strokes on the field.”
Third-Round Notes & Quotes:
-- Saturday weather: Partly cloudy. Wind W 6-12 mph. High of 82.
-- The third round was played in threesomes off the 1st and 10th tees. Times ranged from 11:20 a.m. to 1:20 p.m.
-- Lift, clean and place conditions were NOT in effect for round three.
-- While most of the attention is on golf this week, two players in the field are keeping an eye on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament. Dustin Garza and Rafael Becker (am) are both products of Wichita State University and hoping their Shockers can pull off another upset in Saturday's semi-final against Louisville.
-- Rafael Becker, who is in his senior season at WSU, was the only amateur to make the cut. Becker turned 21 on Tuesday of this week, was the 2012 Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year and is a two-time ALL-MVC selection. Becker opened the 2012-13 season by helping the Shockers capture their home event, the Diet Pepsi Shocker Classic at Wichita CC, where he was co-medalist. Prior to his arrival in Wichita, the 6-3” Becker was the No. 1 ranked junior and the No. 2 ranked amateur in Brazil.
-- Brice Garnett registered the first official ace of the tournament when he dunked a 9-iron from 161 yards on the par-3, 9th hole. Matt Fast had a pair of holes-in-one during practice rounds on Monday and Tuesday. Garnett also had an eagle-3 at No. 3, making him the first player in the tourney to have two eagles in a single round.
-- About 90 minutes after Garnett’s ace, Sweden’s Richard S. Johnson matched it with his own hole-in-one. Johnson also used a 9-iron for his ace, which hit about three directly in front of the cup and bounced in.
-- Second-year pro Wes Roach of Knoxville, Tenn., jumped up in the standings Saturday afternoon by matching the course record with an 8-under 63. His bogey-free round capped off a long day that saw him play 14 holes to finish up round two then turn right back around and be in the first group off the tee in round three.
“I got off to a good start this morning and then stumbled on the last few holes of the morning round and was kind of eager to get back at it,” said the 2011 Duke grad who was 4-under through 36 and eight shots behind the leaders. “I played more aggressively in the third round for sure. There’s no reason to hold back when you’re trying to win.”
Roach’s 63 put him at 12-under 201, which leaves him solo sixth and five shots off the pace.
Roach made 12 cuts in 21 starts last year and had his best finish late in the year – a T5 at the Winn-Dixie Jacksonville Open.
MORE ABOUT 54-HOLE LEADER BENJAMIN ALVARADO:
-- He is a 27-year old native of Santiago, Chile. He was a heralded junior player and after waiting 18 months following his graduation, he eventually found his way to Arizona State University as a 19-year old freshman in 2005. He was a two-time All-American for the Sun Devils and turned pro following graduation in 2008.
-- He is a two-time winner of the Chile Open (2003, 2011) and also won the 2002 Orange Bowl tournament and the 2003 Southern Amateur.
-- He has 10 career starts on the Web.com Tour and made six cuts. His best finishes are a T4 at the 2013 Chile Classic and a T9 in the same event in 2012. He made three cuts in six starts on Tour in 2012.
-- His only start on the PGA TOUR came at the 2011 RBC Canadian Open, where he received a sponsor exemption into the field. He posted scores of 76-71 and missed the cut.
-- He made six cuts in six starts on the 2012 PGA TOUR’s LatinoAmerica Tour and had three top-10 finishes. His best week was a solo sixth at the TransAmerican Power Products Open presented by Corona in Monterrey, Mexico in mid-September.
-- He won twice on the 2011 Tour de las Americas and finished second on the Order of Merit.
-- He also finished third on the 2011 Canadian Order of Merit and his best finish there was a runner-up effort at the Canadian Tour Player’s Cup.
-- He underwent surgery on both of his knees in 2009 which kept him out of golf for 14 months.
Second-Round Notes & Quotes:
-- Second-round play resumed at 7:25 Saturday morning. Half the field (72 players) needed to finish anywhere between five and 14 holes. The second round was complete at 11:10 a.m.
-- Lift, clean and place conditions were in effect for round two.
-- A total of 74 players made the 36-hole cut, which came at 2-under-par 140.
-- Sweden’s Richard Johnson returned to the course Saturday morning and completed seven holes in 2-under par for a bogey-free 65, which put him at 12-under 130 and tied for the 36-hole lead with Danny Lee, and later Benjamin Alvarado.
Johnson started his day with a two-foot par putt at No. 3 and added birdies at No. 4 (5’) and No. 8 (4’).
“It’s always hard when you have a delay,” he said. “The speed of the greens can change quite severely overnight. I kind of had it going a little yesterday and when you’re feeling it you want to finish the round.”
Johnson was 10-under and saw that Lee was at 12 but nobody else was within five at the time play was called.
“Of course you’re trying to catch him but it’s a long race,” he said. “We still have 36 to go and you can get out here and shoot 10-under because the greens are perfect and they’re soft. You can put a low number in. Obviously you’re trying to get as close to him as possible or pass him but it’s still a sprint to the end.”
Johnson was the only player in the field to play bogey-free for the first 36 holes.
-- Best rounds of the day (R2):
63 – Benjamin Alvarado
64 – Rafael Echenique, Kevin Kim
65 – Scott Harrington, Richard S. Johnson, Danny Lee, Aron Price, Michael Putnam
-- Former U.S. Amateur champion Kelly Kraft added two more birdies on par-3 holes during the second round. Kraft birdied all five of the par-3s during his opening-round 66, giving him seven of 10. Kraft shot a 4-under 67 for a two-day total of 9-under 133 and is solo fourth after two rounds.
-- Did you know that Sao Paulo is expected to have the second highest economic growth in the world between 2011 and 2025? The city has 34 daily newspapers and the urban area covers approximately 760 square miles. It is Brazil’s most ethnically diverse and has more women (52.6%) than men (47.4%). The Sao Paulo Stock Exchange is Brazil’s official stock and bond exchange.
-- The Web.com Tour returns to the United States for next week’s WNB Golf Classic at Midland (TX) Country Club, April 8-14. This will be the Tour’s 12th visit to Midland CC and the 21st consecutive year playing in the Permian Basin. Last year, Luke Guthrie fired a 6-under 66 in the final round and rallied from five strokes down to win for the second time in as many weeks. Guthrie finished at 17-under par and held on to beat Cameron Percy and defending champion Danny Lee by one stroke. With his win, Guthrie moved to No. 1 on the money list.