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21D AGO

Jośe de Jesús Rodríguez man to beat at Atlas Country Club

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José de Jesús Rodríguez is teeing it up at the second event of the PGA TOUR Americas season. (Courtesy Gregory Villalobos)

José de Jesús Rodríguez is teeing it up at the second event of the PGA TOUR Americas season. (Courtesy Gregory Villalobos)



    Written by Gregory Villalobos @PGATOURAmericas

    GUADALAJARA, Mexico – Although their savvy is welcomed, PGA TOUR Americas is not designed for longtime touring professionals. It’s mostly about golf’s incoming influx of young talent with PGA TOUR dreams. Just as last week’s 25-year-old Clay Feagler, who claimed the Tour’s inaugural event in Tulum, Mexico, in a four-hole playoff. However, there is a veteran placed atop any list of players to watch at this week’s Totalplay Championship at Atlas Country Club.

    Best known by the nickname of “El Camarón (The Shrimp)" around here, José de Jesús Rodríguez has an impressive track record at the tree-lined course hosting the second event of the inaugural PGA TOUR Americas season. The field features 144 players from 17 countries, but the veteran Rodríguez is the one everybody will be trying to beat.

    Four professional wins in six starts at Atlas Country Club, including back-to-back three-shot wins the past two seasons on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica make him a good bet. Golf at this old school 7,279-yard, par-71 course designed by Joe Finger in 1970 comes easy to Rodríguez.

    “I don’t think I have won this much anywhere else,” says Rodríguez, looking back at his success at this venue. “This is the one course that has always been good to me.”

    For his two PGA TOUR Latinoamérica wins in 2022 and '23 he shot 66 or better in five of eight rounds, firing a combined cumulative score of 35-under. He had two other wins, and two other runner-up finishes here in the past, winning a Mexican Tour event in back-to-back years in 2010 and 2011 and then finishing solo second in consecutive years in 2012 (Mexican Tour) and 2013 (PGA TOUR Latinoamérica). During his 2010 win, his first here, he fired a second-round 62 that remains the course record.

    “He is definitely the favorite and he has earned that,” says Evan Knight, who walked away with runner-up honors last year after entering the final round in a tie for the 54-hole lead with Rodríguez. “He's a great player and he plays really well, especially at this course.”

    Aside from his wins at Atlas Country Club, Rodríguez has been a prolific winner throughout his entire career. He has countless wins on the Mexican Tour, won six times on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, and turned his biggest win at the Korn Ferry Tour’s 2018 United Leasing & Finance Championship into a PGA TOUR card for the 2018-19 season.

    Rodríguez doesn’t take his accomplishments for granted and he remains a hard worker whose key to success is keeping things simple. After a tough weekend at PGA Riviera Maya at Tulum Country Club, where he shot 78-76 to drop out of contention at the season-opening Bupa Championship at Tulum, he had a practice round Tuesday and played the Wednesday pro-am as well. He knows the up-and-coming stars competing on PGA TOUR Americas won’t roll over and just let him win.

    “The field gets stronger year after year, so it’s going to be tougher,” adds Rodríguez. “Anyway, regardless of the field I have to stay focused and follow my game plan. That’s why I have these practice rounds. I’m trying to figure out where to attack and where to be conservative. I’ll set up a plan and I’ll stick to it, just as I have always done.”

    Someone said Rodríguez could play this course blindfolded and still be competitive. The PGA TOUR Americas digital team tested that theory by asking him to play the scenic par-3 14th blindfolded and he accepted the challenge. Last year, during the third round, he made an ace on that same hole, which features a significant elevation change of about 27 yards. After a practice shot, his second one was as pure as they get, landing within nine feet of the hole. The outcome didn’t surprise anyone.

    José de Jesús Rodríguez blindfolded while playing the scenic par-3 14th at Atlas Country Club. (Courtesy Gregory Villalobos)

    José de Jesús Rodríguez blindfolded while playing the scenic par-3 14th at Atlas Country Club. (Courtesy Gregory Villalobos)

    Rodríguez bid for a third consecutive win on a PGA TOUR-sanctioned Tour will begin at 7:45 a.m. local time Thursday. He’ll be teeing it off No. 1 along Matthew Anderson of Mississauga, Canada and Thomas Longbella of Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin.

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