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  • Smotherman rolls to first title, taking the 59th Mexican Open

  • Following his victory at Club Campestre Tijuana, Austin Smotherman now ranks second on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Order of Merit. (Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR)
    Following his victory at Club Campestre Tijuana, Austin Smotherman now ranks second on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Order of Merit. (Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR)
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  • TIJUANA, Mexico—Austin Smotherman turned what was a tightly bunched leaderboard when the final round of the 59th Mexican Open began into something of a rout as he shot a final-round 65. It was Smotherman’s fourth consecutive round of 66 or better at Club Campestre de Tijuana this week, and that was more than enough to secure his first PGA TOUR Latinoamérica title. His 18-under final score was four shots better than crowd favorite, Mexico’s Juan Pablo Hernández, who finished alone in second. Harry Higgs, Smotherman’s college teammate at Southern Methodist University, tied for third, with Colin Featherstone. The duo finished five shots behind Smotherman’s leading pace.

    In Sunday’s final round, Smotherman only made two bogeys, on No. 1 on and No. 13. His last bogey of the tournament seemed to open the door a bit for the pursuers when Smotherman’s iron off the tee on the short, par-4 went right. Smotherman couldn’t tell if his ball landed out of bounds, so to be sure he hit a conditional tee shot. When he found his original tee ball, Smotherman punched into the fairway but couldn’t get up and down for par, missing a 10-footer. At the same time, Brazil’s Alexandre Rocha, who shared the 54-hole lead with Smotherman and Featherstone, was hoping for a two-shot swing. However, Rocha’s long birdie attempt on No. 13 just slipped by the hole, and he followed that par with a bogey on the next hole, ending his hopes of a comeback.

    Smotherman, in his second full season on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, came close to winning at the season-ending Shell Championship in December 2017, tying for second, a stroke behind winner Brady Schnell. Smotherman’s strong play at the end of the year that led to a 30th-place finish on the Order of Merit and has carried into 2018. His 21 birdies here this week tied him for third in that category, and he played Club Campestre de Tijuana’s two par-5s in 6-under, with four birdies and an eagle.

    Did You Know Austin Smotherman teamed with Southern Methodist teammate Bryson DeChambeau at the inaugural U.S. Amateur Four-Ball in the spring of 2015 at San Francisco’s Olympic Club. The duo advanced to the round of 16 before their elimination after tying for fifth in the stroke-play format.

    Key Information

    Nine of Austin Smotherman’s last 10 PGA TOUR Latinoamérica rounds—tracing to the season-ending 2017 event, the Shell Championship—have been under-par, with seven of those rounds in the 60s. He’s 28-under during that stretch.

    Besides Austin Smotherman’s four sub-70 rounds this week, 11 other players also enjoyed four consecutive scores in the 60s.

    Not only was Austin Smotherman’s final-round 65 more than enough to secure the win, it was also tied for low round of the day, with American Tyson Alexander. Alexander’s 5-under Sunday score allowed him to move up 33 spots on the leaderboard, into a tie for 16th.

    Colombia’s Marcelo Rozo also enjoyed a big jump on the final day after putting together his second 66 of the week to go with the 66 he posted in the second round. Rozo started the day in 18th place but moved to solo seventh. He also had a top-10 (tied for fourth) at the 2017 season-ending Shell Championship. Rozo has been under-par in his last nine rounds—the final round of 2017 and all eight rounds this season. He’s 24-under during the stretch.

    In addition to Juan Pablo Hernández’s strong play, five other Mexicans made the cut. Amateur Álvaro Ortiz Becerra was par or better in each of his four rounds, including a Sunday 67. He tied for 21st. Adrián Rodríguez tied for 32nd, Santiago Gavino tied for 39th, amateur Raúl Pereda tied for 42nd and Alfredo Ruiz finished 60th.

    Ben Polland maintained his Order of Merit lead by $1,061 over Austin Smotherman, who moved into the second position on the earnings’ chart. Polland tied for 32nd this week.

    Quotable

    “I feel great. I’m still here trying to catch my breath.” –Austin Smotherman

    “I’m definitely happy with the way I finished on the last few holes. They were tough, playing with the wind.” –Austin Smotherman

    “I didn’t know if the people ahead of us were playing well because we couldn’t see the leaderboards. I knew I had a lead over the guys in my group, but I didn’t know how big. It was just one of those things that I knew I had [the lead], I just didn’t know by how much.” –Austin Smotherman

    “We’re all chasing the same spots (on the Order of Merit), and there’s only one winner each week. If I just keep taking care of business, play well and make cuts and keep doing what I did this week—be super consistent—hopefully by the end of the year that will put me in that top-five spot.” –Austin Smotherman

    “It’s always exciting to play in your national open. I played very good, and I can’t complain about that. Austin just played a little better, and he deserved to win.” –Juan Pablo Hernández

    “The crowd was awesome. Everyone was cheering for me. I don’t think I’ve ever played in front of that many people before.” –Juan Pablo Hernández

    Next Event

    PGA TOUR Latinoamérica observes a two-week break in its schedule before resuming in mid-April for a two-tournament stint in Argentina. The 87 Abierto OSDE del Centro presentado por FiberCorp is April 12-15 in Cordoba. Following that tournament is the Molino Cañuelas Championship in Buenos Aires on April 19-22. PGA TOUR Latinoamérica will return to Mexico in early June for the inaugural Bupa Match Play, featuring the top-players form the Order of Merit and four qualifying players from Mexico in the single-elimination tournament.

    Final-Round Weather Report

    Partly cloudy and mild, with a high of 60. Wind W at 8-14 mph.

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