Núñez stays hot, goes low and opens lead in Porto Feliz
September 26, 2019
By Communications, PGATOURLA.COM
PORTO FELIZ, Brazil—Argentina’s Augusto Núñez is on a roll. A week after shooting four rounds in the 60s but coming up a stroke short at the São Paulo Golf Club Championship, the Argentine opened the 66 JHSF Aberto do Brasil with a sterling, 10-under 61 to take a two-stroke lead over American Patrick Flavin after the first round of Brazil’s national open. Núñez, No. 1 on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica’s Order of Merit, wasn’t flawless, but his round was about as good as any the Tour has seen this year.
The seventh-year pro from Tucuman, Argentina, started his day at Fazenda Boa Vista on the back nine, and he promptly birdied his first hole. Núñez added birdies on Nos. 12, 17 and 18 to make the turn in 4-under. He really turned it on from there, with four more birdies and an eagle, at No. 3.
“What better way to start a tournament than doing such a round,” Núñez said following his career-low round, bettering the 62 he shot in this tournament in 2014. “I do not think that I am the leader or the best on this Tour. I try to concentrate on playing all tournaments and go shot by shot. I think I am in a great moment of my career, and I’m trying to enjoy it.”
He was the best in the opening round and has been one of the Tour’s most-consistent players this season despite not yet winning.
With the way he’s playing, enjoying his rounds has not been difficult for Núñez. On his 14th hole (No. 5), he almost had a hole-in-one, leaving himself a tap-in birdie. On his final hole of the day, he nearly drained his second-shot approach for eagle, giving himself another easy birdie.
“The ball bordered the hole and could have been a great eagle,” Núñez said about what turned out to be his second-to-last shot of the day. “On almost every hole, I had the opportunity to make birdie or something else. I feel very happy with my round.”
Flavin looked like he would catch Núñez on his back nine. After making birdies on his final two holes of his first nine, he bogeyed the first three (Nos. 1-3) on his second nine. Following a par at No. 4, he birdied the fifth, sixth and seventh before a double bogey-6 at No. 8 ended his run. But he bounced right back with a closing birdie to narrow Núñez’s lead to two shots. A group of four players—Tommy Cocha, Patrick Newcomb, Horacio León and Michael Weaver—are all tied for third, three shots behind Núñez.
Did you know Samuel Stevens counted current PGA TOUR members Matthew Wolff, Kristoffer Ventura and Victor Hovland as teammates during his time playing for Oklahoma State University?
• Chandler Blanchet is off to a good start in his quest to win both Brazil tournaments this season. A week after winning the São Paulo Golf Club Championship, Blanchet opened with a 5-under 66 Thursday. He is tied for 15th, five shots off the lead.
• Augusto Núñez’s final round at this tournament a year ago resulted in a 5-over 76. Outside of that aberrant score, Núñez’s last 12 rounds in Brazil are as follows: 68-64-68-66-68-70-65-68-63-67-69-61. Even counting the 76, he is a combined 50-under par during that span.
• Tommy Cocha established his low 18-hole round of the year with his opening 64 at Fazenda Boa Vista. The last time he went this low in a PGA TOUR Latinoamérica tournament was in 2017, at the Roberto De Vicenzo Punta del Este Open in Uruguay, where he finished second behind winner Brian Richey.
• Sam Stevens’ opening 65 is his low PGA TOUR Latinoamérica round in this his rookie season. The former Oklahoma State Cowboy shot a pair of 66s in the second and third rounds of the Abierto Mexicano de Golf earlier in the year. His best finish this season is a tie for 18th at the BMW Jamaica Classic in mid-May.
• Fazenda Boa Vista is no stranger to low scores in its second year hosting this event. A year ago, Drew Nesbitt shot the only 59 in PGA TOUR Latinoamérica history, with his second-round 59, while Brazil’s Alex Rocha turned in a 61 in that same round. In 2018, the course’s overall stroke average was 70.471.
• American Patrick Newcomb is playing his 10th PGA TOUR Latinoamérica tournament this season and is back playing in Latin America after a nine-week stint on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada, where his best finish was a tie for 36th at the HFX Pro-Am in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Newcomb opened the 66 JHSF Aberto do Brasil with a 7-under 64 Thursday. He already has two top-10s this season—at the Molino Cañuelas Championship (tied for fifth) and the Bupa Match Play (tied for ninth). He is tied for third after 18 holes.
• There are 26 Brazilians competing in their national open this week. The low Brazilians after the first round are Rodrigo Lee and Felipe Navarro, who both opened with 6-under 65s and are tied for seventh. Ronaldo Francisco shot a 66 and is tied for 15th. Of those 26, five are amateurs. The low amateur through 18 holes is Guilherme Grinberg, at 2-under (tied for 45th).
• Brazil’s Felipe Navarro helped his cause Thursday with a hole-in-one on the 15th hole. He hit a 6-iron from 203 yards. It was his second hole-in-one as a professional. Later in the day, on the same hole, Navarro’s countryman Helio Cacimiro aced the hole using a 4-iron. This is the first time two players have aced the same hole in the same round in PGA TOUR Latinoamérica history.
• The last time there were two holes-in-one in the same round was in 2016, when Diego Vanegas and Evan Harmeling had aces in the first round at the 69 Avianca Open. Vanegas had a hole-in-one on No. 8 at Club Campestre de Medellin, and Harmeling’s came at No. 4.
• Ronaldo Francisco has played two full PGA TOUR Latinoamérica seasons, in 2012 and 2013. He’s made one tournament appearance in each of the last four years. His career-best showing came in this tournament in 2013, when he finished fourth.
• Every winner of the previous nine tournaments on the schedule is playing this week. Leading the way is Patrick Flavin, alone in second, after shooting a 63. Tom Whitney and Evan Harmeling are tied for seventh. The other 2019 winners are Chandler Blanchet (tied for 15th), Cristobal Del Solar (tied for 24th), John Somers (tied for 37th), Jared Wolfe (tied for 54th), Andres Echavarria (tied for 64th), and Drew Nesbitt (tied for 94th).
• Horacio León had an interesting set of holes after making the turn to his second nine Thursday. He made a par at No. 10, eagled No. 11, birdied the 12th and made bogey at No. 13, a 2-under stretch that led to his opening 64.
• In five 2019 PGA TOUR Latinoamérica starts, Horacio León has missed three cuts and withdrawn from two other tournaments. He also played 15 Korn Ferry Tour tournaments this year, recording one top-10 (a tie for seventh at the REX Hospital Open). Leon finished 118th on the Korn Ferry Tour points list. Although he missed the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, Leon made his final four cuts of the Regular Season and had 13 of his final 16 rounds at par or better—including a third-round 63 at the Ellie Mae Classic.
“With my caddie, I have been having a great time. We are working together since my tournaments in Colombia and the truth is that I feel very comfortable with him. It is ideal to work with someone who is a friend is more than your partner.” –Augusto Núñez
“It was an awesome day. I felt really good going into this week, feeling like my game is in a really good spot.” –Patrick Flavin
“To go out and play really well was awesome. I felt mentally I was in a really good place. I tried to picture myself at a match-play tournament, where I was focusing on one hole at a time.” –Patrick Flavin
“I felt like I kept my head down, focused on myself and didn’t get ahead of myself at all.” –Patrick Flavin
“To finish with a birdie was fantastic. I’m really excited. I’m looking forward to keeping it rolling.” –Patrick Flavin on the birdie finish to his round
“On No. 8, on my second-to-last hole, I had a pretty good number (yardage), with that pin back left. I was just trying to knock [my approach] in the middle of the green, and I kind of crushed it. I hit it right where I was aimed, it went long and long is no good. I hit it down into the bunker, hit a great bunker shot but unfortunately missed the (bogey) putt.” –Patrick Flavin on his 17th-hole double bogey
“It was a great day for the entire group. I even apologized to the guys at the end because my bogey was the only one in the group on the day—and [the putt] was a two-footer. It was embarrassing.” –Tom Whitney on his lone bogey of his opening round
“I finally figured out the greens for the first time because Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday I was kind of struggling trying to figure them out.” –Tom Whitney
“The pin locations were pretty accessible today, and I didn’t put myself in any bad positions.” –Tom Whitney
“My goal is to finish No. 1. The secondary goal is to continue to play well. I can’t effect how others play, and Augusto is on fire right now, so my goal is to make every single cut and to put myself into contention every week. If I do that, I’ll be in a good position by the end of the season.” –Tom Whitney
“I’ve been playing well but making too many silly bogeys. I just came in today trying to eliminate those.” –Patrick Newcomb
“It was on a great line, and I knew there was a backstop. It landed right on it. I didn’t see it go in—it’s blind—but it’s just lucky it fell in the back edge.” –Patrick Newcomb on his hole-out eagle from the fairway on No. 13
“My game’s been traveling well. I’ve been making a lot of cuts but not taking advantage of that because I’ve been making too many bogeys.” –Patrick Newcomb
“It’s been decision-making with the bogeys and not bad shots. That’s been the main thing.” –Patrick Newcomb
Tournament Fast Fact
The following Brazilians have won the Aberto do Brasil since it began in 1946: Mario Gonzalez (1946, 1948-51, 1953 and 1969), Priscillo Diniz (1975), Eduardo Caballero (1986 and 1993), Ricardo Mechereffe (1992), Eduardo Presenti (1995), Ruberlei Felizardo (1996), Philippe Gasnier (2004), Rafael Barcellos (2008), Rafael Becker (2014) and Alex Rocha (2015).
First-Round Weather Report
Mostly cloudy and pleasant. High of 75. Wind SSE at 3-6 mph.