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  • BUPA CHALLENGE

    Late surge gives Blanchet win in São Paulo

  • Chandler Blanchet, University of West Florida, graduate began the week at No. 75 on the Order of Merit. (Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR)
    Chandler Blanchet, University of West Florida, graduate began the week at No. 75 on the Order of Merit. (Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR)
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  • SÃO PAULO, Brazil—Chandler Blanchet was in a battle with Augusto Núñez on the back nine at the São Paulo Golf Club Championship. But two late birdies by Blanchet was enough to break free from Nunez, giving the Florida native his first PGA TOUR Latinoamérica title as the surprise winner of the first event of the Tour’s second half of the season. Núñez, meanwhile, was a hard-luck runner-up here for the second consecutive season.

    Trailing by a shot after Blanchet (pronounced BLON-chay) bogeyed No. 13 while Núñez was birdieing the hole, the duo fell back into a tie with Núñez’s bogey at the 15th. From there, Blanchet took control, rolling in birdie putts of 15 feet and 25 feet on Nos. 16 and 17, respectively. He then survived a second consecutive bogey on 18 to secure the title when Nunez’s birdie effort from the fringe missed.

    “I came into this week hoping I would finish first or second so I could stay down here and skip first stage (of Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament). That was the goal, and I’m unbelievably happy to pull that off and accomplish it,” Blanchet said following his victory. “We had a good time out there going back and forth. I got it up to two shots (advantage) at the turn, but then he made three really good birdies—hitting a couple close—and he was one up at one point. It was good battling back and forth, which is all you can ask for. You can’t ask for anything more than that.

    The University of West Florida graduate began the week at No. 75 on the Order of Merit, his previous-best finish this season a tie for 24th at the season-opening Buenaventura Classic. He moved into the 13th slot and can now begin thinking seriously about finishing in the top five and the 2020 Korn Ferry Tour, the membership benefit that goes to the five top money-winners at season’s end. As a consolation, Núñez, who fell by a stroke a year ago to Nicolás Echavarría at São Paulo Golf Club, took over the No. 1 position on the Order of Merit with his $18,900 payday. Núñez supplanted Tom Whitney, who dropped to No. 2 in earnings, with Nunez taking an $8,760 lead over Whitney.

    Blanchet, who finished the tournament at 18-under, was seemingly cruising along as he made the turn to the back nine, holding a two-shot lead following birdies at Nos. 7 and 8. Things tightened considerably when Blanchet made four consecutive pars while Nunez was making birdies at 10, 11 and 13, leaving Blanchet to wonder if his elusive first victory would come. It did, as his clutch putting down the stretch led the way. Even better news for Blanchet is he is a mere $2,667 behind No. 10 Drew Nesbitt on the tightly packed money list. 

    Finishing alone in third was PGA TOUR Latinoamérica veteran Eric Steger, making his 2019 Tour debut. After opening 70-67-69, Steger had the round of the day, a 7-under 64, to slide up 25 places on the leaderboard. Steger has primarily played on PGA TOUR Series-China this season.

    Did you know at the University of West Florida, Chandler Blanchet was teammates with PGA TOUR Series-China’s Henry Westmoreland IV and the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada’s Christian Bosso?

    Key Information

    • Evan Harmeling continued his solid 2019 campaign. His tie for third this week earned him $10,150 and moved him to fifth on the Order of Merit. Earlier this year, Harmeling won the BMW Jamaica Classic. In his two top-10s this season, in São Paulo and in Jamaica, Harmeling is a combined 35-under.

    • Between 2015 and 2018, Eric Steger played 53 PGA TOUR Latinoamérica tournaments, recording three runner-up finishes. After three tournament appearances on PGA TOUR Series-China this season—his best performance a tie for 37th at the Sanya Championship in April—Steger recorded his best PGA TOUR Latinoamérica finish since losing in a playoff to Tyson Alexander at the 2018 Costa Rica Classic.

    • Eric Steger’s final-round 64 Sunday was his lowest score since he closed with a 63 at the 2018 Neuquén Argentina Classic that led to a tie for sixth last November.

    • In only his third PGA TOUR Latinoamérica start, Holland’s Rowin Caron turned in a career-best performance with his tie for fifth, with Argentina’s Jorge Fernandez-Valdes. Caron earned $6,650 and moved up 18 positions, to 38th, on the Order of Merit.

    • The tie for fifth was also Rowan Caron’s second consecutive top-10. In his last start, at the BMW Jamaica Classic, Caron shot a final-round 65 to tie for eighth. With his four under-par rounds this week, Caron has recorded eight consecutive under-par rounds and nine in a row at par or better.

    • Jorge Fernández-Valdés’ tie for fifth this week was his 18th career top-10 in 79 total PGA TOUR Latinoamérica appearances. In his eight seasons on the circuit, Fernández-Valdés has had at least one top-10 in every year except 2015. This was his first top-10 of 2019.

    • American Dalan Refioglu began the day three strokes behind 54-hole leader Chandler Blanchet, but Refioglu went backward on the final day, shooting a 3-over 74 to fall 11 spots, into a tie for 14th. Refioglu still moved up five spots on the Order of Merit, to No. 45.

    • The top finisher from Brazil this week was Alex Rocha, who tied for 32nd despite beginning the day tied for 19th. Other Brazilians to make the cut included Rafael Becker (tied for 40th), Herik Machado (tied for 49th), Felipe Navarro (tied for 57th) and Axell Gustavo Balestre (tied for 62nd). Rocha (1-over 72), Machado and Balestre (74s) and Navarro (77) all had over-par rounds Sunday. The Tour remains in Brazil for next week’s 66 JHSF Aberto do Brasil at Fazenda Boa Vista in Porto Feliz, about an hour’s drive from São Paulo Golf Club.

    Order of Merit Standings

    Pos.

    Player (Country)

    Earnings

    1

    Augusto Núñez (Argentina)

    $62,715

    2

    Tom Whitney (U.S.)

    $53,955

    3

    Jared Wolfe (U.S.)

    $46,855

    4

    Mito Pereira (Chile)

    $45,465

    5

    Evan Harmeling (U.S.)

    $45,048

    6

    Ryan Ruffels (Australia)

    $42,241

    7

    John Somers (U.S.)

    $41,828

    8

    Cristóbal Del Solar (Chile)

    $40,983

    9

    Andreas Halvorsen (Norway)

    $38,537

    10

    Drew Nesbitt (Canada)

    $38,085

    • With his tie for 21st this week, Cristobal Del Solar maintained his advantage in the Bupa Challenge. He holds a $2,909 lead over No. 2 Jared Wolfe. With his win, Chandler Blanchet moved to No. 3 in the standings and is only $3,396 behind Del Solar’s position.

    Bupa Challenge Standings

    Pos.

    Player (Country)

    Earnings

    1

    Cristobal Del Solar (Chile)

    $37,209

    2

    Jared Wolfe (U.S.)

    $34,300

    3

    Chandler Blanchet (U.S.)

    $33,813

    4

    Augusto Nunez (Argentina)

    $27,895

    5

    Mito Pereira (Chile)

    $20,858

    Quotable

    “It was great. I really enjoyed it, and I’m obviously happy to come out on top.” –Chandler Blanchet

    “There were not a lot of great shots, but I made do with what I had.” –Chandler Blanchet

    “I was hitting it really good toward the end of the round. I hit a good tee shot, and, honestly, I hit a pretty good second shot. It just took a big bounce and went over into that bunker. I couldn’t get too cute with that one. I played it out to the side, hit it really good and maybe got a little too excited on the (par) putt and hit it too hard.” –Chandler Blanchet

    “That was big. That got the ball rolling late in the round. I was like, All right, let’s go.” –Chandler Blanchet on his birdie putt on No. 15

    “I hit a really good shot on 15 to about 20 feet. That’s a pretty good par-3. I didn’t make [the putt], but it was good to see that ball go close.” –Chandler Blanchet

    “Now I have to re-evaluate, right? Hopefully I can get into the top 10 or the top five. I will play the rest of the season down here.” –Chandler Blanchet

    “It’s amazing. It’s such an adventure. Everybody should, if they could, come down here. It’s so exciting. There’s something going on every week. It’s a little different, and you have to adapt to it. In the end, you’re going to become a better player. You’re dealing with different courses, different greens, different languages.” –Chandler Blanchet

    Final-Round Weather Report

    Mostly cloudy and cool. High of 61. Wind S at 10-13 mph.