Three share first-round lead at Chile Classic
March 06, 2014
By Joe Chemycz, PGATOUR.COM
- Henrik Norlander is one of three players tied for the early lead. (Fiume/Getty Images)
SANTIAGO, Chile – South Africa's Garth Mulroy, Mexico’s Sebastian Vazquez and Sweden's Henrik Norlander all posted 8-under 64s and share the first-round lead at the Chile Classic, the second stop on the 2014 Web.com Tour schedule.
Byron Smith, from Palm Springs, Calif., shot 65, good for solo fourth at the Prince of Wales Country Club course in Santiago, while Jorge Fernandez-Valdes of Argentina and Roger Sloan, another Canadian, are tied for fifth place, two back of the leaders.
Nine more players are knotted at 5-under 67, including Andrew Putnam and Santiago native Nicolas Geyger. Carlos Sainz Jr., of Illinois was the only afternoon starter to join the group and that was courtesy of a late run that saw him birdie Nos. 6 and 7 and then double-eagle the par-5, 9th to close his day.
Fourteen of the top 15 posted scores came from the morning wave Thursday as afternoon winds picked up and made the already firm and fast layout a little tougher to handle.
“You don’t have to hit it far but you have to hit it straight,” said Mulroy, who saw the course for the first time on Tuesday. “You have to put the tee shot in the fairway and in certain positions. I hit only four drivers all day and one of those was a bit of a gamble.”
The 64 is a nice start for the Mulroy, who lives in Raleigh, N.C., but focused most of his time last year on the European Tour where he made 14 cuts in 17 starts and had a pair of top-10 finishes to wind up No. 51 on the Order of Merit.
“I played as few as I could in the States while still trying to get into the final four,” he said. “I didn’t play enough to get into those four and the ones I did play in, I didn’t play very well. A lot depends on these two weeks for me. If I play well here then I may shift my attention to this Tour this year.”
While Mulroy has a choice of which Tour he might use as an avenue back to the PGA TOUR in 2015, Vazquez and Norlander will use their rookie campaigns on this Tour as possible springboards.
Vazquez tied for 57th at last year’s Puerto Rico Open in his only career TOUR start while Norlander, a 2011 Augusta State grad, made 13 cuts in 22 starts on the TOUR as a rookie last year but wound up No. 159 on the FedExCup points list.
Vazquez, 23, started slowly and turned the front side in just one-under before hitting the accelerator on the back with a 7-under 29.
“I was hitting the ball well on the front nine but the putts didn’t go in,” he said. “I kept pretty calm and the second nine was very good.”
It was good because he stuffed his irons close – the longest of five birdie putts made was only 12 feet – and watched as his knock-down, 7-iron from under the trees at No. 17 eventually found the cup for an eagle-2.
“I pushed my first shot and was in between the trees,” he said. “I punched it under the branches from 112 yards. It was just a low one that isn’t supposed to go in. Sometimes you get some good luck.”
NOTES AND QUOTES
• Thursday weather: Mostly sunny all day. Winds were calm in the morning and then S 10-15 mph in the afternoon. High of 86.
• The course record at the Prince of Wales Country Club is 11-under 61, set by 2013 tournament champion Kevin Kisner in the third round a year ago.
• The winning scores in the first two years of this event were 22-under by Paul Haley II in 2012 and 21-under by Kevin Kisner in 2013.
• Canada’s Roger Sloan recorded the fourth ace in the tournament’s three-year history. Sloan used a 9-iron for his hole-in-one on the 146-yard, 11th hole, his second of the day. It was Sloan’s fifth career ace but his first in competition. He finished with a 6-under 66.
• Jake Younan also made an ace at the 11th hole Thursday. The Australian-born, Texas Tech-educated Younan finished with a one-over 73.
• Carlos Sainz Jr.’s double-eagle at the par-5, 9th hole was the first in the tournament’s three-year history.
• Andrew Putnam, runner-up at the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship two weeks ago, put together a solid, bogey-free 67 that has him T7. Putnam also opened with a 67 here a year ago while playing with his older brother, Michael, who went on to win twice in 2013 and be named Player of the Year.
“I’d like to win early – Michael did that and that gave him a lot of confidence for the year,” said Putnam. “My goal is just to make it to the PGA TOUR next year.”
• Korea’s S.J. Park is part of a large group of players at 5-under 67. Park, 27, is making only his second career start on the Web.com Tour. He posted scores of 73-70 but missed the cut two weeks ago at the rain-delayed Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship in Bogota.
• Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship winner Alex Cejka posted a 3-under 69 in the first round of the PGA TOUR’s Puerto Rico Open.
• Players who were bogey-free in the opening round:
64 – Garth Mulroy
65 – Byron Smith
67 – Andrew Putnam, Bhavik Patel, Brett Lederer, Jonathan Fricke
68 – Guy Boros
70 – Richard S. Johnson
• There are nine players from Chile in this week’s field:
- Felipe Aguilar (71)
- Benjamin Alvarado (71)
- Juan Cerda (69)
- Christian Espinoza (72)
- Nicholas Geyger (67)
- Hugo Leon (70)
- Santiago Russi (70)
- Mark Tullo (73)
- Martin Ureta (70)