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  • Núñez turns in dominant performance in Ecuador win

  • Argentina’s Augusto Núñez holding the tournament trophy after his victory at the Banco del Pacífico Open presentado por Alcaldía de Quito in Quito, Ecuador. (Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR)
    Argentina’s Augusto Núñez holding the tournament trophy after his victory at the Banco del Pacífico Open presentado por Alcaldía de Quito in Quito, Ecuador. (Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR)
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  • QUITO, Ecuador—Argentina’s Augusto Núñez left no doubt Sunday. Entering the final round of the Banco del Pacífico Open presentado por Alcaldía de Quito with a two-stroke lead, Núñez showed he wanted no part of a nail-biter as he cruised to a surprisingly easy, six-shot triumph over Clodomiro Carranza. For a while, it looked like Núñez might make PGA TOUR Latinoamérica history, at one point holding a nine-shot advantage. Núñez’s winning margin couldn’t quite match the Tour’s record held by current PGA TOUR player Nate Lashley, who won the 2016 Shell Championship by 10 shots. Six strokes was more than enough for Núñez, though. As the Order of Merit leader when the week began, Núñez moved into firm control of the top spot through 11 tournaments, leading No. 2 Tom Whitney by a comfortable $37,110.

    Sunday, Núñez may not have played his best golf of the week, but it accomplished the job as he quickly put additional distance between him and Clodomiro Carranza early in the round. With Carranza in second place, Núñez increased his lead to four shots when he made birdie to Carranza’s bogey at No. 1. Núñez moved five ahead after a birdie at No. 4, and while a bogey on the fifth hole—his first in 45 holes— Núñez recovered with birdies on Nos. 8, 9, 11 and 12, his lead ballooning to an insurmountable nine shots. Meanwhile, Carranza never established any momentum early, shooting a 1-over 37 on the front nine, although he salvaged the second-place finish by making a well-time eagle at No. 17 to shoot a 71 for his third career runner-up performance.

    “I was very nervous on No. 1, teeing off and then when I got to the green,” admitted Núñez  after the trophy ceremony. “But my mindset wasn’t just about being the leader. I was thinking about tying my record, which is 25-under, when I won in Nicaragua (2016 Flor de Caña Open). That was all that I was thinking of.”

    Although he didn’t get to 25-under, his final result, at 22-under, was sufficient. “I wasn’t thinking how the others were doing. The only thing I was doing was either trying to match or surpass my record. I was only playing for that,” he added. “I never asked how I was doing, and I only asked my caddie when I was about to hit my second shot on 17 where I was. He told me that Clodomiro was second, so I laid up and made par.”

    Besides Núñez, the player to watch Sunday was Colombia’s Camilo Aguado. After a 73-67-72 start, all Aguado did was match Carranza’s opening 63 for low-round-of-the-tournament honors. Aguado began the day in 24th place and tied for fourth with his 10-birdie, one-bogey performance.

    American Evan Harmeling continued his solid 2019 play with his final-round 68 that left him in third place and gave him his second top-five finish in three starts—his third overall, including his win at the BMW Jamaica Classic.

    Did you know Augusto Núñez has made 33 consecutive PGA TOUR Latinoamérica cuts in stroke-play events? His last missed weekend came in 2016, when rounds of 79-71 at the Guatemala Open left him outside the cutline. Since then, he has 18 top-10 finishes, and he is a cumulative 274-under par in his 135 rounds since that idle weekend in Guatemala.

    Key Information

    Clodomiro Carranza began the tournament 15-under (63-66) and was only 1-under (72-71) over his final 36 holes.

    Although the weekend was a disappointment to Clodomiro Carranza, he still moved up 15 spots on the Order of Merit, to No. 15 with five tournaments left on the schedule.

    Colombia’s Ricardo Celia had a solid weekend, shooting a final-round 71 to tie for fourth. When the week began, he was 110th on the Order of Merit, with three made cuts in six starts. Prior to his week in Ecuador, his best finish was a tie for 32nd. At No. 58 in the latest Order of Merit, Celia is in position to make the limited-field, 60-player Shell Championship at the end of the season in Miami.

    For the first time all week, Augusto Núñez did not birdie the par-5 third hole. He was a cumulative (10-under) on the par-5s for the week. Núñez also established the low score in relation to par this year with his 22-under finish.

    The previous-low winners in relation to par this year were Evan Harmeling and Shad Tuten, who both finished their victories at 21-under—Harmeling at the BMW Jamaica Classic and Tuten last week at the JHSF Aberto do Brasil.

    At age 26 (he turns 27 next month), Augusto Núñez is the eighth player in his 20s to win this season. The youngest is Patrick Flavin (23 years, 3 months, 17 days) at the Bupa Match Play, while Andrés Echavarría (31 years, 2 months, 6 days) is the oldest, winning at the Molino Cañuelas Championship.

    Tom Whitney, No. 2 on the Order of Merit, continued his consistent play this season as he had four under-par rounds on his way to a tie for seventh. It is his fifth top-10 of 2019.

    Shad Tuten kept alive his streak of par-or-better rounds alive with his Sunday even-par 72 in Ecuador. He has enjoyed 17 consecutive rounds without shooting an over-par score. Tuten has not experienced an over-par score since the third round of the BMW Jamaica Classic. That day, he fired a 1-over 73.

    Chandler Blanchet had a disappointing final day. After winning the Sao Paulo Golf Club Championship, he appeared poised to pick up another top-10 as he began the day alone in third place. Blanchet shot a 5-over 77 Sunday to drop into 15th place.

    Two players shot four rounds in the 60s this week: Augusto Núñez (68-67-64-67), and Evan Harmeling (69-69-68-68).

    Evan Harmeling is firmly inside the top five on the Order of Merit following his 68-68 weekend that earned him his third-place finish. Harmeling moved from seventh to third, knocking Jared Wolfe out of the top five. Wolfe began the week No. 4 and fell to No. 6 with his tie for 55th.

    Order of Merit Standings

    Pos.

    Player (Country)

    Earnings

    1

    Augusto Núñez (Argentina)

    $99,669

    2

    Tom Whitney (U.S.)

    $62,559

    3

    Evan Harmeling (U.S.)

    $59,660

    4

    Shad Tuten (U.S.)

    $56,178

    5

    Patrick Flavin (U.S.)

    $52,766

    6

    Jared Wolfe (U.S.)

    $51,575

    7

    Mito Pereira (Chile)

    $50,241

    8

    Ryan Ruffels (Australia)

    $47,456

    9

    John Somers (U.S.)

    $43,813

    10

    Andreas Halvorsen (Norway)

    $43,087

    Quotable

    “After that, I had birdie looks on pretty much every hole. I made a mistake on No. 5 and made bogey there. But this is golf, and I stayed patient, having fun inside the course. I think that was key.” –Augusto Núñez on his opening birdie and how it set the tone for his afternoon

    “With the altitude here in Quito, the ball flies a lot. The only thing I did was give the yardage book to my caddie and tell him he was in charge. I was going to follow his instructions and trust him.” –Augusto Núñez on his plan to deal with Ecuador’s altitude

    “I’m pretty happy to be No. 1 (on the Order of Merit). Everyone has been winning and getting close to me. I played well these past three weeks, and I began thinking when it was going to be my time to win.” –Augusto Núñez

    “When I woke up this morning, my thought was this is my day. I have a lot of faith in me, so I thought, Let’s go out and enjoy it and here we are.” –Augusto Núñez

    Tournament Fast Fact

    Winners of the Banco del Pacífico Open have come from the U.S. (three), Colombia (one), Argentina (one) and Chile (one).

    Fourth-Round Weather Report

    Overcast and cool, with light showers. High of 57. Wind NE at 7-10 mph.