Benítez opens two-shot lead at Argentine Open

  • Isidro Benítez is ranked 86th on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Order of Merit. (Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR)
    Isidro Benítez is ranked 86th on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Order of Merit. (Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR)
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  • PILAR, Argentina—Isidro Benítez birdied four of his first six holes on Friday and then cruised to the top of the leaderboard at the 113 playing of the VISA Open de Argentina presentado por Macro. The 19-year old from Puebla, Mexico, ended up firing a 6-under 66 to go with his opening 67, and he will take a two-stroke lead into the weekend at Pilará.

    American Michael McGowan, fresh off his medalist showing at the Web.com Tour’s second stage qualifier in Brooksville, Florida, is tied for second with Harry Higgs, who has a tie for 10th, a win and a third-place finish in his last three starts. Argentines Ricardo González and Tano Goya are both tied for fourth, three shots behind Benítez.

    Benítez has birdied the par-5 first, seventh and 15th holes both days, while settling for pars on the par-5 18th in each of the two rounds. After going bogey-free in his opening round, Benítez bogeyed No. 6 Friday in the final full-field event on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica schedule.

    “I’m just trying to repeat the things I’m doing well. I’ve learned a lot about being in this position, and I think it’s time for me to have a good weekend,” said Benítez, playing his first full PGA TOUR Latinoamérica season. He is ranked 86th on the Order of Merit and needs to earn somewhere around $7,000 this week to move inside the top 60 and qualifying for the season-ending, limited-field tournament in Miami.

    Did you know Isidro Benítez had never had more than two under-par rounds in any PGA TOUR Latinoamérica tournament until the Diners Club Peru Open, when he opened with an 8-under 64 and followed with three more sub-par scores.

    Key Information

    The cut came at 1-over 145, with 58 players making it to the weekend.

    While Harry Higgs, No. 4 on the Order of Merit, is in the thick of contention this weeks, it’s a mixed bag for the other leading money-winners as the season winds down. Leader Nicolás Echavarría is tied for 28th, with Austin Smotherman (No. 5), while second-ranked Marcelo Rozo missed the cut. Andrés Gallegos, in third place, is tied for 36th in Pilar.

    Harry Higgs noted two holes that were key in his round Friday. Both good results came courtesy of his 56-degree wedge. On No. 7, his approach shot landed and rolled to within a foot of the hole. On his next hole, in a bunker 30 yards from the green, Higgs hit another approach shot to tap-in range. “That was a bonus. I would have accepted a bogey there,” he said.

    Friday, Evan Harmeling had his second career PGA TOUR Latinoamérica hole-in-one. He made an ace at the par-3 11th hole on his way to a second-round, 8-under 64. “I had 157, 158 (yards). I hit a little 7-iron,” Harmeling said. [The ball] one-hopped maybe a foot short of the hole. It felt pure. I looked up, and the thing was right at it. Sometimes you never know if the wind is going to take it. It held its line. At first, I couldn’t exactly tell it was in. I thought it went in, but I couldn’t tell if it was hanging on the lip. Then I saw a guy behind the green throw his hands up.”

    Evan Harmeling makes a hole in one in at 113 VISA Open de Argentina
    • Highlights

      Evan Harmeling makes a hole in one in at 113 VISA Open de Argentina

    At the 2016 Avianca Colombia Open, Evan Harmeling made his first PGA TOUR Latinoamérica ace. He drained his tee shot in the opening round on No. 4. On the first four holes of a round where he shot 68, Harmeling made a bogey, birdie, double bogey and a hole-in-one.

    Evan Harmeling’s 8-under 64 matched the course record set by Daniel Barbetti earlier this year at the Argentina Qualifying Tournament. Barbetti shot a 64 in the first round of the event at Pilará on his way to a tie for fifth with Andrés Gallegos.

    Michael McGowan came into this tournament on a hot streak after winning the second stage Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament in Brooksville, Florida, last week. McGowan, the son of PGA TOUR veteran Pat McGowan, shot three consecutive 67s at Southern Hills Plantation Club before closing with a 6-under 66. He defeated Jack McGuire by two strokes, qualifying for the final stage of the Qualifying Tournament in Arizona.

    Harry Higgs did himself a lot of favors last week with his high finish at the Neuquén Argentina Classic. In contention again this week, Higgs has a shot at winning the Zurich Argentina Swing—especially with seven of the top-10 players in the standings missing the cut. Higgs began the week No. 10 in the standings, approximately U.S. $26,000 behind leader Clodomiro Carranza. With Carranza missing the cut, along with Thomas Baik and Cristóbal Del Solar, Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, in the standings, Higgs has a chance. No. 4 Andrés Gallegos and No. 5 Matt Gilchrest both will play on the weekend, putting themselves in solid position to win the Zurich Argentina Swing.

    Zurich Argentina Swing Standings

    (Through the Neuquén Argentina Classic)


    Player (Country)


    Argentine Open Position


    Clodomiro Carranza (Argentina)




    Thomas Baik (Argentina)




    Cristóbal Del Solar (Chile)




    Andrés Gallegos




    Matt Gilchrest (U.S.)




    MJ Maguire (U.S.)




    Marcelo Rozo (Colombia)




    Nicolo Galleti (U.S.)




    Benjamin Alvarado (Chile)




    Harry Higgs (U.S.)



    There were 52 natives of Argentina playing this week, with 18 of them making the cut. Here are those players positions through 36 holes:




    Ricardo González


    Tano Goya


    Facundo Villanueva


    Paulo Pinto


    Leandro Marelli


    Augusto Núñez


    Matías Simaski


    Julio Zapata


    Jaime López Rivarola


    Sergio Acevedo


    Andrés Gallegos


    Jorge Fernández-Valdés


    a-Mateo Fernández de Oliveira


    Francisco Bidé


    Santiago Bauni


    Daniel Altamirano


    Francisco Ojeda

    There are eight amateurs in this week’s field—six from Argentina and one each from Peru and Brazil. The low amateur through 36 holes is Argentina’s Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira. He fired his second consecutive 72 and is tied for 36. He was the only amateur to make the cut. Jesús Montenegro, who opened with a 4-under 68, struggled to a 79 Friday and will miss the weekend.


    “I felt very comfortable on the greens, I hit my driver solidly and I just kept going.” –Isidro Benítez

    “There was a lot of wind, and I like to play in windy conditions. I felt very comfortable all day. I’m comfortable on this course, and it helped to play these first two rounds with my good friend David Faraudo.” –Isidro Benítez

    “It’s all about being in contention. That’s all I want to do. The weather changes on every hole, so you have to grind.” –Michael McGowan

    “To be honest, I saw where I was at (on the Order of Merit) going into the week, and it didn’t affect me either way. I’ve been fortunate to make the Tour Championship every year that I’ve played this Tour. I just figured this is an opportunity to win a golf tournament, and I just made that my mindset from the first round.” –Brad Gehl

    “There weren’t any holes that had no wind. It’s hard to judge. You look at the flags and the signage to get your points. It helps you judge the wind. But that’s the thing. You’re still judging.” –Michael McGowan

    “I hit it in the water off the tee. I’ve bogeyed that hole two times. Hopefully I’ll get some revenge on that Saturday and Sunday.” –Harry Higgs on his struggles on No. 18 in both the first and second rounds

    “Even though I didn’t advance, I took confidence in my preparation and how I put myself in a position to get through. I knew I was playing well and doing the right things, so I wanted to do that same thing down here.” –Brad Gehl on not getting through Web.com Tour second-stage qualifying

    “I was fortunate to get comfortable with the wind. I putted very well today. I holed a lot of putts for birdie, and then a couple for par that kept the day going for sure.” –Harry Higgs

    “In these conditions, if it gets going in the wrong way, it’s hard to catch up. You’re going to force it in this wind, and that’s not a recipe for success. I was fortunate to get off to a good start and keep it going, as well.” –Harry Higgs

    Second-Round Weather Report

    Fair and cooler, with a high of 69. Wind E at 10-15 mph, with gusts to 20 mph.