Benítez coasts to VISA Open de Argentina victory
November 18, 2018
By Communications, PGATOURLA.COM
- November 18, 2018
- Isidro Benítez of Mexico holding the tournament trophy after his victory at the 113 VISA Open de Argentina presentado por Macro. (Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR)
PILAR, Argentina—It was a virtuoso performance by Isidro Benítez at the 113th VISA Open de Argentina presentado por Macro. Holding the lead at the 36- and 54-hole marks, a third-round, five-stroke advantage, Benítez won his first professional tournament and did so in record-breaking fashion, defeating Canadian Russell Budd and American Harry Higgs by three shots. The victory by Benítez at age 19 years, 9 months, 21 days makes him the youngest winner in Tour history, supplanting Argentina’s Jorge Fernández Valdés, the previous record-holder. Fernandez Valdez was almost a full year older (20 years, 9 months, 13 days) than Benítez when he won the 2013 Mundo Maya Open in Mexico.
The added bonus of the victory was the invitation Benítez received from the R&A to compete in the 2019 Open Championship in Northern Ireland. He received his invite just a few hours after countryman and PGA TOUR player Abraham Ancer won the Australian Open on PGA Tour of Australasia and received an identical invitation due to his victory in that country’s national open.
Benítez was never really in fear of losing, once again avoiding any big numbers on his scoreboard and only recording one bogey against three birdies for his 2-under 70 that left him at 18-under for the tournament. A quick start, with birdies on Nos. 1 and 3, helped steady Benitez’s nerves.
“From the moment I stepped on the tee on No. 1, I felt very comfortable,” Benitez said. “I let the golf dictate the day and letting whatever would happen happen.”
Budd could only manage one birdie on his opening nine, and even a late flurry of four birdies over his final nine holes left him well short. Higgs also started slowly, parring his first five holes at Pilará Golf Club. He made a move late on his opening nine, with three birdies. But a bogey on No. 7 offset his momentum. His eagle at the par-5 14th was a case of too little too late.
Besides capturing the title, Benítez easily qualified for the season-ending Latinoamérica Tour Championship – Shell Championship, open to the top-60 money-winners this season. Benítez began the week No. 89 in earnings but jumped to the 19th position with his U.S. $31,500 payday. Budd also qualified, improving from 93rd to 40th with his high finish. The only other player to move into the top 60 after beginning the day outside was Fernández Valdés, going from 62nd to 60th.
Isidro Benitez wins at Argentina Classic
Only three players were able to record four under-par rounds this week at Pilará Golf Club. They were winner Isidro Benítez (67-66-67-70) and runners-up Russell Budd (71-68-67-67) and Harry Higgs (69-66-70-68).
In his last three starts, Harry Higgs has a win (Diners Club Peru Open), a third-place finish (Neuquén Argentina Classic) and this week’s tie for second. He’s pocketed U.S. $58,800 in those tournaments, 67 percent of his season earnings of $93,636. Higgs improved to second on the Order of Merit and trails No. 1 Nicolas Echavarría by $6,831 with one tournament remaining.
In Harry Higgs’ last five tournaments, he’s had two over-par rounds (both 73s) and one even-par round. Everything else has been under-par, and he’s a combined 62-under during that span—with 13 of his scores in the 60s.
Isidro Benítez finished the week 9-under on the par-5s, with nine birdies and seven pars. Benítez birdied the par-5 first hole all four days.
Isidro Benítez only had three bogeys all week, and he scattered those bogeys over three rounds (second, third and fourth) and three different holes (sixth hole in the second round, 11th hole in the third round and 17th hole in the final round).
Russell Budd’s two-week stay in Argentina started poorly when he shot a 5-over 77 in the first round of the Neuquén Argentina Classic. After the 77, Budd shot rounds of 70-69-70 to tie for 38th. This week, his 15-under 273 courtesy of four under-par rounds that earned him the tie for second.
Jared Wolfe didn’t start well on his return to PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, missing the cut at the Sao Paulo Golf Club Championship in September. He’s been solid ever since. Wolfe had a tie for ninth at the JHSF Brazil Open, a win at the Volvo Abierto de Chile, a tie for 16th at the Diners Club Peru Open and weekend rounds of 69-67 that led to a sixth-place finish at the 113 VISA Open de Argentina presentado por Macro. In only four starts, Wolfe is 15th on the Order of Merit.
Austin Smotherman earned his fifth top-10 of the season with his seventh-place showing this week. Smotherman’s 7-under 65 in the third round was his key score of the week, as he was only 2-under in his other three rounds. Smotherman moved to third on the Order of Merit with his finish.
The Zurich Argentina Swing ended Sunday, with the 113 Visa Open de Argentina presentado por Macro the fourth of four events. Although he missed the cut this week, Clodomiro Carranza, the winner of the Neuquén Argentina Classic, won the initiative by a little less than $6,000 over Isidro Benítez.
FINAL ZURICH ARGENTINA SWING STANDINGS
Clodomiro Carranza (Argentina)
Isidro Benítez (Mexico)
Thomas Baik (Argentina)
Cristóbal Del Solar (Chile)
Harry Higgs (U.S.)
Matt Gilchrest (U.S.)
MJ Maguire (U.S.)
Marcelo Rozo (Colombia)
Nicolo Galleti (U.S.)
There were 52 natives of Argentina playing this week, with 18 of them making the cut. Of those players, Paulo Pinto had the best finish, with his fifth-place showing. Ricardo González and Leandro Marelli, both tied for eighth, also turned in top-10 performances in their national open. Here are all the players’ results:
Jorge Fernández Valdés
Jaime López Rivarola
a-Mateo Fernández de Oliveira
The only amateur of the eight in the field to make the cut was Argentina’s Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira. He began the final round tied for 32nd but fell to a tie for 50th after shooting a Sunday 79.
“It was hard to fall asleep last night. I slept like five or six hours.” –Isidro Benítez
“The third hole was playing really difficult, into the wind. I believe I hit my best shot of the tournament there and I left [my approach] only two paces from the pin and made the putt. That was the birdie of the tournament for me. To get off to a start like that takes a lot of the pressure off.” –Isidro Benítez on his birdie-par-birdie start to the final round
“I’m very happy to be able to play the Open Championship and to know Abraham Ancer will be in the event by winning the Australian Open. I think the two of us are going to have a lot of fun playing there.” –Isidro Benítez
Fourth-Round Weather Report
Mostly sunny and mild, with a high of 74. Wind SW at 5-7 mph.