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  • Weiss grabs lead with record start in Chile

  • Alex Weiss during the opening round of the 2019 Abierto de Chile presented by VOLVO in Santiago, Chile. (Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR)
    Alex Weiss during the opening round of the 2019 Abierto de Chile presented by VOLVO in Santiago, Chile. (Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR)
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  • SANTIAGO, Chile—It’s been an interesting start to the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica season for Alex Weiss. Scheduled to play in the Buenaventura Classic Monday qualifier, the Tour’s season-opening tournament, the former Marshall University Athlete of the Year contracted food poisoning, and he returned to the U.S., without ever teeing up his ball. Last week, Weiss did successfully Monday qualify at the Molino Cañuelas Championship and then did the same this past Monday to gain entrance into this week’s field.

    Thursday, at the Abierto de Chile, Weiss made history, shooting a course-record, 8-under 63 to take a one-shot lead over home-country hero Joaquin Niemann and Order of Merit leader Jared Wolfe. Brazil’s Alex Rocha is only two behind among the players who finished all 18 holes.

    Not all players were able to complete their first rounds, with officials suspending play at 6:12 p.m., with 26 players still on the course.

    Weiss was bogey-free Thursday at Club de Golf Mapocho, off to a fast start in only his fifth official PGA TOUR Latinoamérica round. He birdied the first and second holes—both par-5s—and added three more birdies before making the turn. It was there where he encountered his only problems of the day. With Weiss’ threesome falling behind the groups ahead of them, he felt rushed a bit on the 10th and 11th holes. On both holes, he had to get up and down from off the green for par, two chips and two putts he said we’re key to his first-round success. “That got me through to keep the round going,” he explained.

    Not surprisingly, Wolfe is again in the mix. He’s not only the current Order of Merit leader and already a winner this season (Buenaventura Classic), but he’s also the Abierto de Chile defending champion. In nine rounds this season, Wolfe’s worst score is the 73 he shot in the third round of last week’s Molino Cañuelas Championship.

    Did you know there are four players in the field this week who have World Cup experience? Angel Cabrera has represented Argentina nine times (1998-2006), while countryman Ricardo Gonzalez has played in the event four times (1996, 1998, 2005 and 2007). Chile’s Felipe Aguilar has represented his country twice at the World Cup —in 2003 and again in 2008. In 2008, his partner was Mark Tullo. Through 18 holes, Gonzalez is tied for fifth, Cabrera and Tullo are tied for 18th and Aguilar is tied for 83rd.

    Key Information

    • Alex Weiss considered his last three shots on the par-4 11th some of his best of the day. After hitting his drive into the fairway bunker, the ball nestled close to the lip, he hoisted a 7-iron approach shot about 10 yards short of the hole and got up and down for par from there. “That’s where I knew I could really keep [the round] going,” he said.

    • Brazil’s Alex Rocha is off to a fast start for the second week in a row. Rocha shot a 6-under 65 to open the tournament and is alone in fourth place, two shots behind Alex Weiss. Last week at the Molino Cañuelas Championship, Rocha fired rounds of 69-71-68-70 to tie for eighth—his 12th career PGA TOUR Latinoamérica top-10.

    • Chile’s Mark Tullo only has one other PGA TOUR Latinoamérica start to his credit. A year ago, in this same tournament, he tied for 47th. He has three European Challenge Tour wins—two in 2010 and one in 2014—and he has twice won this tournament when it wasn’t part of the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica schedule (2005 and 2006).

    • The featured threesome of Order of Merit leader Jared Wolfe, two-time major championship winner Angel Cabrera and Chilean and PGA TOUR member Joaquin Niemann was a combined 17-under in the first round. Wolfe and Niemann both shot 7-under 64s, while Cabrera, who turns 50 in September, drained an 18-foot birdie putt on his closing hole to post a 68.

    • Angel Cabrera is a week removed from playing at the Masters Tournament, a tournament he won in 2009. Last week, Cabrera missed the cut at Augusta National golf Club.

    • While Alex Weiss and Joaquin Niemann were both bogey-free Thursday, Jared Wolfe had two bogeys. He also had 10 birdies, the most of anybody in the field.

    • Australian Ryan Ruffels recorded his seventh consecutive under-par round with his opening 67. Since he shot a second-round 75 at the Buenaventura Classic in Panama, Ruffels has shot scores of 68-71-69-71-67-67-67. He is a combined 21-under during the stretch.

    • Joaquin Niemann leads the Chileans this week after opening with a 7-under 64. Other Chileans inside the top 50 through 18 holes: Mark Tullo (tied for 18th) and Cristobal Del Solar (tied for 35th).

    • Past champions playing in the Abierto de Chile this week include Jared Wolfe (2018), Felipe Aguilar (2002, 2008, 2016 and 2017), Wil Bateman (2015), Jorge Fernandez-Valdez (2014), Mark Tullo (2005 and 2006) and Ricardo Gonzalez (1996).

    Quotable

    “It was as a good as you could ask for, to tie the course record this morning.” –Alex Weiss

    “When I went out, I took advantage of some holes early while the wind was down. I just kept it rolling through the back nine. It was nice to post 8-under, and I hope to keep it rolling for the rest of the week.” –Alex Weiss

    “Today was a lot of fun. I haven’t hit the ball this well in a while.” – Jared Wolfe

    “It was a very fun day in the company of Jared and El Pato. I did not know Jared, but he is a player who hits the ball quite hard. I’m sure he’s going back to the Web.com Tour. Today he played very well, and I wish him well in the future.” –Joaquin Niemann on his playing partners Jared Wolfe and Angel Cabrera

    “It was just a lot of good ball-striking today. I hit a lot of shots close.” –Alex Weiss

    “I was pretty solid from the tee, and that’s why I was able to give me so many birdie opportunities. If you fail with the fairway on this course, you can pay dearly because the rough is quite high.” –Joaquin Niemann

    “It was incredible to have the support of the public here in Mapocho. Despite being a week of rest for many, they took the time to come and watch the tournament. I am very happy to be here with all my friends, my family and my girlfriend.” –Joaquin Niemann

    “It is an extra plus not to make bogeys in a field like this. I have a pretty good game plan for the week, and I hope to continue like this for the rest of the tournament.” –Joaquin Niemann

    “It will not be easy because on this Tour there are very good players. It shows that the level of play continues to grow.” –Joaquin Niemann

    “I saw the ball move toward the hole instead of away from it, putts were going in and it was a lot of fun hitting the fairways, which is beyond important out here because the rough is really tall.” – Jared Wolfe

    “I’ve been hitting it well. But there are times when we know we’re really hitting it well, and that was today.” – Jared Wolfe

    “I felt I could go after a lot of pins and take better lines today. It’s not that I’ve been hitting it bad. But some days you just feel a little more confident than others.” – Jared Wolfe

    “I like the way the tee shots set up. They match what I like with my eyes. I also know how rewarding it is to hit the fairways. Maybe that helps me to focus a little bit more or to put some better swings on it. It’s just a course that I enjoy playing.” – Jared Wolfe

    “It was a lot of fun. Down here—and really anywhere in the States—I haven’t had many people come out to watch. So it was neat to have them lining the fairways a little and having them cheer on some of their good shots and my good shots, it’s always fun to have a bit of a crowd and a bit of an atmosphere.” – Jared Wolfe on playing with Joaquin Niemann and Angel Cabrera

    “I played great today, but there are still 54 holes to play and a lot of great players in the field. I know a lot of people down here are not going to be pulling for me at the end of the week.” –Alex Weiss

    Tournament Fast Fact

    This tournament dates to 1927, making it one of the oldest events in Latin America. World Golf Hall of Famers who have previously won this tournament are Roberto De Vicenzo (1961) and Gary Player (1980).

    First-Round Weather Report

    Overcast and mild in the afternoon after a cool start to the day. The high reached 70. Wind N at 5-7 mph.