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  • BUPA CHALLENGE

    Lee looks for national open win, shares 36-hole lead with Newcomb

  • Rodrigo Lee entered this week 15th on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Order of Merit. (Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR)
    Rodrigo Lee entered this week 15th on the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Order of Merit. (Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR)
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  • PORTO FELIZ, Brazil—Brazil’s Rodrigo Lee has played in the JHSF Aberto do Brasil six times since it became a part of the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica schedule. His best finish came a year ago, when he tied for 14th at Fazenda Boa Vista. Lee has never truly contended in his national open, yet after a 65-65 start to this year’s tournament, he’s right in the middle of the action as Lee moved into a first-place tie with American Patrick Newcomb with 36 holes to play. Two players, Argentina’s Tano Goya, and American Patrick Flavin, are a stroke back and tied for third as PGA TOUR Latinoamérica finishes its two week run in South America’s largest country.

    Lee wasn’t flawless, as his three back-nine bogeys showed, however his front nine set the tone for the position he’s in at the tournament’s halfway point. Playing the back nine first, Lee, birdied his opening hole, added another birdie on No. 14 then went birdie-eagle to finish that nine—making the turn at 5-under. While he cooled off, with a variety of mistakes that led to bogeys at Nos. 2, 5 and 7, Lee also made four birdies on his closing nine holes.

    Newcomb, a seventh-year pro who has considerable experience on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada (he finished fourth on the 2017 Order of Merit and moved to the Korn Ferry Tour), went bogey-free Friday, extending his no-bogey streak to 28 holes. Since making bogey on his eighth hole of his opening round, Newcomb is 10 under. His second-round birdies came at Nos. 3, 8, 9, 16 and 18. He is 7-under on the course’s 11 par-4s and 5-under on the three par-5s.

    Newcomb also took advantage of some good fortune. Playing No. 8, a hole he calls “the hardest hole out here,” he was trying to hit his approach to the middle of the green. But he pulled his shot, and with the flag on the left of the green, the ball landed and rolled to about a foot for his easiest birdie of the day. “I had some good breaks. I wasn’t trying to hit it there, and it ended up going close to the hole things are going well, breaks tend to happen,” Newcomb explained.

    Lee entered this week 15th on the Order of Merit, while Newcomb, who played in Canada during PGA TOUR Latinoamérica’s break, is 34th in earnings, a high finish going a long way toward helping him reach his goal of returning to the Korn Ferry Tour.

    Did you know Patrick Newcomb has two wins on the Mackenzie Tour and one on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica? In 2017, he won the Syncrude Oil Country Championship in Edmonton and the Cape Breton Open in Nova Scotia. Newcomb also picked up his only PGA TOUR Latinoamérica win that same year when he captured the Honduras Open at Indura Beach and Golf Resort.

    Key Information

    • The cut came at 3-under, with 55 players making it to the weekend.

    • On No. 8, Shad Tuten hit his tee shot into a fairway bunker, he hit his second shot into greenside bunker then blasted out to a foot for a par that he called crucial to finish his round without a bogey.

    • Steven Fox’s second-round 65 is his low PGA TOUR Latinoamérica round this season, bettering the three 67s he shot at the Abierto OSDE del Centro (third round), Puerto Plata Open (third round) and BMW Jamaica Classic (fourth round). Fox’s best finish this season his his tie for 18th at the BMW Jamaica Classic.

    • This year, Steven Fox is playing his second full PGA TOUR Latinoamérica season but his first since 2015. Four years ago, Fox made 15 starts, posted four top-10s and finished 15th on that season’s Order of Merit. In 2016, Fox played in 20 Korn Ferry Tour events, finishing 145th on the money list.

    • Going low back to back is something Rodrigo Lee is acquainted with in 2019. At the Abierto Mexicano de Golf in Tijuana in May, he shot a third-round 63 and a final-round 66 to tie for fourth.

    • José Toledo opened 68-64 and is tied for fifth heading to the weekend. This season, the Guatemalan has a pair of top-10s, at the Buenaventura Classic (tied for sixth) and the BMW Jamaica Classic (tied for eighth).

    • Rodrigo Lee has clearly been the class of the event of the Brazilians playing this week. There were 25 additional players from Brazil in the field—with seven of them making the 36-hole cut. They are Felipe Navarro (tied for 10th), Alex Rocha and Herik Machado (tied for 14th), Rafael Barcellos and Ronaldo Francisco (tied for 31st) and Gustavo Teodoro and Odair Lima (tied for 47th).

    • Argentina’s Tano Goya has yet to post a top-10 this season, his tie for 21st at the Molino Cañuelas Championship his best stroke-play performance (he also won two matches at the Bupa Match Play to tie for 17th). With 36 holes remaining, Goya is a stroke off the lead, two strokes behind Patrick Newcomb and Rodrigo Lee.

    • The second-round leader has gone on to win five of the previous eight stroke-play events this season. The last to do so was Chandler Blanchet last week at the São Paulo Golf Club Championship. The others who turned halfway-point leads into wins are Jared Wolfe (Buenaventura Classic), Andrés Echavarría (Molino Cañuelas Championship), Cristobal Del Solar (Puerto Plata Open) and Evan Harmeling (BMW Jamaica Classic.

    • Every winner of the previous nine tournaments on the schedule is playing this week. Leading the way is Patrick Flavin, tied for third after his 63-68 start. Tom Whitney is tied for 10th (65-68), Cristobal Del Solar is tied for 19th (67-68), Jared Wolfe is tied for 23rd (60-66), Evan Harmeling is tied for 23rd (65-71), Andrés Echavarría is tied for 31st (71-66), Chandler Blanchet is tied for 40th (66-72) and John Somers is tied for 47th (68-71). Of the 2019 champions, only Drew Nesbitt (73-68) missed the cut.

    Quotable

    “It was a lot like yesterday. The wind didn’t blow as much. There were some tougher flags today, but it was the same game plan: Keep the bogeys off the card.” –Patrick Newcomb

    “I’ve just been making too many bogeys. I’ve been playing well but making too many bogeys.” –Patrick Newcomb

    “It was a clean card today, which was nice in the wind.” –Patrick Newcomb

    “I didn’t expect it. I holed a couple of nice par putts, but that was the game plan. I knew this place fit me well, that I was going to make plenty of birdies.” –Patrick Newcomb on having only one bogey through 36 holes

    “I’m hitting it so well in stretches—not all day—but in general, even in rounds when I don’t play that well, I still have a good stretch of golf where I hit it well and get it close.” –Patrick Newcomb

    “I got off to a slow start. I just felt like it was going to be a normal day, and I really tried to stay patient in the round.” –Shad Tuten

    “It is tough, but it’s tough for everyone and everyone has to play through it. I’ve played in enough wind now that I think I can manage myself around better than normal. I feel comfortable in wind, and I like tough conditions. It makes me focus more.” –Shad Tuten

    “Last week I had a lot of pressure on me to secure the top 25 (on the Order of Merit). Now, the pressure is gone. I got what I needed during the deadline. All the pressure is basically off me. I can go out and play free golf and be as aggressive as I can.” –Shad Tuten

    “I think it’s just more of the same, just keep the pedal down. The guy who stays aggressive and hits the shots off the tee that he needs to stay in position will make the most birdies.” –Shad Tuten

    Tournament Fast Fact

    The highest finisher at the 2018 Aberto do Brasil who is in the top 10 through 36 holes is Rodrigo Lee. A year ago, Lee tied for 14, with weekend rounds of 67-71. After two rounds, Lee holds a share of the lead, with Patrick Flavin.

    Second-Round Weather Report

    Mostly sunny and windy. High of 72. Wind SSE at 16-20 mph.