Mito Pereira wins playoff, secures PGA TOUR card at REX Hospital Open
June 06, 2021
By Zach Dirlam, PGATOUR.COM
- June 06, 2021
Mito Pereira interview after winning the REX Hospital Open
RALEIGH, N.C. – Mito Pereira, who lost his Korn Ferry Tour card after a rocky 2018 season and clawed his way back up the professional ladder, secured his PGA TOUR card in thrilling fashion Sunday at the REX Hospital Open. A native of Santiago, Chile, Pereira birdied the first playoff hole to defeat Stephan Jaeger for his second victory of the 2020-21 season.
Pereira’s win vaulted him from No. 12 to No. 2 in the 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour points standings, well over the 1,700-point threshold the Korn Ferry Tour is currently using as its fail-safe number for players to finish inside the top 25. Come August 15, the final day of the Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Aetna, Pereira will join Joaquin Niemann and Benjamin Alvarado as the only Chileans in history to earn a PGA TOUR card.
“Chile's a small country. To have two Chileans on the PGA TOUR, the biggest tour, it's something that maybe 10 years ago nobody thought about it,” said Pereira, who will join Niemann on TOUR this fall. “Right now, it's real, and I want to thank all the guys in Chile, too, that have been really supportive to me. It's a dream.”
Pereira and Jaeger both carded bogey-free 4-under 67s Sunday and finished with matching 21-under 263s, which tied the tournament’s 72-hole scoring record.
Pereira, who played one season of college golf at Texas Tech University, opened the tournament with a career-low 9-under 62, highlighted by a career-high 11 birdies, tied for the most in a Korn Ferry Tour round this season. He followed it with three consecutive 67s, with the vast majority of his second and third rounds (35 holes) coming Saturday.
Sunday afternoon, Pereira birdied Nos. 3, 8, and 10 – all par 4s – and headed to the par-5 15th locked in a tie with Jaeger, who was seeking his third win of the season for an immediate promotion to the PGA TOUR. Both players made birdie there, and despite not gaining any ground, Pereira cited it as a key point in the day.
“I didn't hit a good drive,” Pereira said. “I ended up in the rough. Then I hit 5‑iron, lay‑up, then I hit a really good shot from 120 (yards), almost made it. That birdie was huge.”
Jaeger and Pereira missed quality birdie looks at the par-3 16th, escaped the par-4 17th – which played as the toughest hole all week – with fours, and headed to the par-4 18th two strokes clear of the field. Pereira followed a perfect tee shot with a wedge that spun back into the front fringe, while Jaeger drove well through the fairway, threaded a shot between two trees, and left himself with an incredibly challenging up and down from the bunker behind the green.
Pereira easily two-putted for par. Jaeger, a short game savant, had 15 feet left to keep his hopes of a three-win promotion alive. His putt caught the right third of the cup and fell in.
“One hundred people don't make up and down from back there,” Pereira said. “You just don't make par from there.”
The two headed back to the 18th tee for the playoff, and both left themselves comfortable distances into the green. Jaeger knocked his approach inside of 15 feet, only to have Pereira throw a dart inside of five feet from 110 yards out.
“I normally hit my 60 (degree wedge) like 105 (yards), but with this adrenaline, obviously it was the perfect club,” Pereira said. “I just wanted to hit a low one so it doesn't spin back, and it ended up being perfect.”
Jaeger’s birdie putt slid by on the high side, and Pereira knocked his 4-footer right in the heart.
Pereira first earned Korn Ferry Tour status via a third-place finish in the 2016 PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Order of Merit, largely off the strength of a win and two runner-ups. Pereira retained status for the 2018 Korn Ferry Tour season, but missed his final eight cuts and went on to finish 129th on the regular season points list, failed to earn his card back through Q School, and fell of his bicycle and suffered a broken collarbone back home in Chile. He went back to PGA TOUR Latinoamérica in 2019, finished 10th on the Order of Merit, and placed T41 at Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament’s Final Stage, missing guaranteed starts by a single stroke.
Although Pereira’s priority number was low, it got him into the 2020 County Club de Bogota Championship. He made a 20-foot eagle putt on the 72nd hole for his first win of what would eventually become the 2020-21 season.
“It feels like a long time from Colombia,” Pereira said. “I have more experience than in Colombia. I think losing the playoff in Huntsville (last month) gave me a lot of experience, too. Everything helps, and I hope I keep the momentum going. (In) 2018 I played really bad on this tour, lost my card, I got injured. Everybody has tough times, but I think the way you solve that, it's who you are, and that's the most important part.
“That's why I think I'm here and I'm heading to the PGA TOUR.”