Champion rewind: Ortiz
Carlos Ortiz' win earned him fully-exempt status on TOUR
August 25, 2014
By Kevin Prise, PGATOUR.COM
Carlos Ortiz found success quickly as he embarked on his professional career. The 23-year-old Mexico native advanced through the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament last winter on his first try, finishing T15 at final stage to earn full Web.com Tour status for this season. Then, he won twice in his first six starts to all but lock up PGA TOUR status for 2014-15. Quite the ascent for the 2013 North Texas graduate.
But Ortiz hit a rough patch in the middle of the season, missing four cuts in six starts prior to last week’s WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by Kraft. He hadn’t recorded a top-25 finish since the first week of May, and his once-considerable stranglehold on the money list’s top spot was shrinking by the week.
Still, Ortiz arrived in Portland comfortable with his game – he had played his last 12 competitive rounds in 20 under par. After months of waiting for results, everything came together at Witch Hollow at Pumpkin Ridge. Ortiz opened with rounds of 66 and 63 to jump in front, and his 14-under 270 total was good for a one-stroke victory over Jason Gore and Adam Hadwin.
Although Ortiz’ third victory earns him fully exempt status on the PGA TOUR, the TOUR’s regular season is over, so he will wait to jump in until the 2014-15 TOUR season gets underway in October. In the meantime, he plans on playing the Web.com Tour Finals; his game is sharp, and he’s excited to try and take advantage. He would also like to hold onto the No. 1 spot on the money list and earn a place in THE PLAYERS next year.
“I wasn’t doing the right stuff in the middle of the season,” Ortiz said. “I was thinking too much and I wasn’t following my process. I got too caught up on those two wins and thinking about the future and next year. But I think I got back to basics, coming here without expectations and just letting it go. This week, everything started going my way, and that’s what you need to win.”
Ortiz arrived at the WinCo Foods Portland Open in a good place mentally, and his optimism for the week grew when he saw the course, feeling that the winning score would be higher than that of the previous few weeks on the Web.com Tour. He shot 12 under to win the Panama Claro Championship, and 13 under to win the El Bosque Mexico Championship, two of the highest winning scores on this year’s Web.com Tour.
Ortiz described Witch Hollow at Pumpkin Ridge as a tough, tricky track, where it’s tough to fire at pins when the wind blows and the greens firm up. That was the case on Sunday, when none of the final 16 players to tee off managed to break 70 – a far cry from the prior week’s News Sentinel Open presented by Pilot, when third-round leader Martin Piller shot a final-round 63 for a two-shot win over Bronson Burgoon, who closed in 62.
With the conditions demanding, Ortiz stuck to his game plan despite feeling some nerves down the stretch, and he finished with seven straight pars on Sunday to seal the deal.
“It’s always good for me when people are not shooting 25 under,” said Ortiz. “It’s not as much of a race with the putter. When I’ve won, the golf courses have been playing harder, and I think this one is right up my alley. I felt very comfortable. I’m hitting it great, and I putted really well this week, and that really helped.”
Ortiz switched from a Scotty Cameron putter to an Odyssey counterbalanced model after the Wednesday pro-am in Portland, and he finished T13 in putts per green in regulation at Witch Hollow at Pumpkin Ridge. Considering he ranked third for the week in greens in regulation (79.17 percent), it made for a lethal combination.
Carlos Ortiz winner's interview after the WinCo Portland Open
Ortiz grew up playing at the same club (Guadalajara CC) as 27-time LPGA winner Lorena Ochoa, and he credits Ochoa as a mentor and influence as he works his way through his first professional season – which has also included a sponsor’s exemption into the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance on the PGA TOUR, where he finished T65. Ortiz said that he and Ochoa exchange texts and emails frequently, and that it means a lot knowing that he can count on her for advice in any way, at any time.
“She’s always been a good example for me,” Ortiz said. “I grew up watching her become No. 1 in the world, and that was a good thing. When you have somebody that close, and you’re watching her work that hard and making her dream come true, it’s unique. This year, I’m playing and she’s not playing anymore, and she’s reached out to me and offered to help in any way she could. We text and she emails me and she’s always there for anything I need.”
Ortiz also credits two-time Champions Tour winner and former Web.com Tour winner Esteban Toledo as an inspiration, citing his strong career as proof that a Mexican-born player can succeed on the highest levels of professional golf.
With Toledo having moved on to the Champions Tour, the stage is set for Ortiz to take what he has learned this season on the Web.com Tour and apply it on the PGA TOUR, as he strives to become the next top-level Mexican-born golfer. With five top-three finishes in 16 Web.com Tour events this season, he’s off to quite the start.
“It’s been a dream season for me,” Ortiz said. “I’m proud of myself.”
He should be.
Carlos Ortiz accepts the Ice Bucket Challenge at the WinCo Portland Open