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  • Celia ends drought, wins playoff in Argentina

    The win vaulted Celia from 55th on the Order of Merit to No. 13 and earned him a playing spot in the 2020 Open Championship at Royal St. Georges Golf Course in England.

  • Ricardo Celia of Colombia holding the tournament trophy after his victory at the 114th VISA Open de Argentina presented by Macro. (Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR)
    Ricardo Celia of Colombia holding the tournament trophy after his victory at the 114th VISA Open de Argentina presented by Macro. (Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR)
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  • BUENOS AIRES, Argentina—It had been four years since Ricardo Celia had won his lone PGA TOUR Latinoamérica title. The wait is over, and the Colombian can now call himself a multiple-tournament champion. Celia rolled in a 32-foot birdie putt on the third extra hole to defeat American Brandon Matthews to win the 114th playing of the Visa Open de Argentina presentado por Macro.

    The win vaulted Celia from 55th on the Order of Merit to No. 13 and earned him a playing spot in the 2020 Open Championship at Royal St. Georges Golf Course in England. 

    This win was a bit different than Celia;s first triumph, capturing the title in come-from-behind fashion on the final day. In his lone PGA TOUR Latinoamérica win, Celia held the 54-hole lead at the 2015 All You Need is Ecuador Open and ended up winning by three shots. Sunday, he began the day chasing the leader, tied for sixth, four shots behind Augusto Núñez. 

    Celia gave no indication early that he had a win in him when he promptly double-bogeyed his opening hole. Through four holes, he was still 2-over. That’s when the birdies started, at No. 5, the, sixth and ninth holes, along with a bogey at No. 8.

    That got him back to even-par. Just when it looked like he would really get rolling, with an eagle at No. 10, Celia bogeyed the 12th and 13th holes to again fall back to even-par for the round. But a four-birdie rally over his final five holes was enough to get him into the playoff with Matthews. 

    In the overtime, Celia and Matthews both made par on the first and second extra holes, playing No. 18 twice. They moved to the par-3 17th, where the tricky hole finally decided the proceedings

    It was unbelievable! The playoff and the way I played the final holes is something that I will remember for the rest of my life, because this is the biggest win of my professional career. I had already won in Quito, but this one means more because of the history of the Argentine Open and because I’m getting a spot in the British Open,” said Celia, a 25-year old from Barranquilla.

    For Matthews, who had only played one previous tournament this season after seeing action in 10 tournaments in 2017, couldn’t secure his second career win to go with his Molino Cañuelas Championship, also in Argentina. With back-to-back top-five finishes, though, Matthews moved from 91st on the Order of Merit to 33rd, securing a playing spot in the season-ending Shell Championship in Miami in two weeks.

    “I played really nicely, I plotted myself around the golf course like I said I was going to do,” Matthews said. “I played incredibly intelligent golf today. I made sure that I didn’t make any mental errors, and I did not, and it really paid off in the end. I have no complaints.”

    Jared Wolfe could never quite capture the momentum he displayed in the opening two rounds, when he moved five strokes ahead at the halfway point. After a 2-over 72 Saturday, Wolfe endured a miserable front nine Sunday, with four bogeys and a double bogey. He kept hanging around, though, with birdies on Nos. 2 and Nos. 6, and an eagle at the 10th put him right back in contention. With Celia and Matthews posted at 11-under in the clubhouse, Wolfe faced a 14-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to join the playoff, but he missed, relegated to a third-place finish.

    “This one is tough. I let this one go and it hurts a little bit. I had the tournament and then I just made so many bogeys,” said Wolfe, who held a five-stroke lead thru 36 holes. This was his second time in three years finishing one shot outside a playoff for the title at the Jockey Club.

    Order of Merit Standings

    Pos. Player (Country) Earnings
    1 Augusto Núñez (Argentina) $117,234
    2 Tom Whitney (U.S.) $85,789
    3 Evan Harmeling (U.S.) $67,727
    4 John Somers (U.S.) $66,888
    5 Jared Wolfe (U.S.) $64,350
    6 Shad Tuten (U.S.) $59,958
    7 Ryan Ruffels (Australia) $59,548
    8 Leandro Marelli (Argentina) $56,874
    9 Patrick Flavin (U.S.) $56,230
    10 Mito Pereira (Chile) $53,776

    Did you know this was the fifth edition of the Zurich Argentina Swing? American Kent Bulle won the first Swing. Spain’s Samuel Del Val won in 2016, followed by American Jared Wolfe, Argentina’s Clodomiro Carranza a year ago and Tom Whitney this year.

    Celia_FESTEJO

    This was the 25th playoff in PGA TOUR Latinoamérica history and the second in succession. A week ago, Puma Domínguez outlasted Tom Whitney to win the Neuquén Argentina Classic.

    This was the third playoff during the eight-year PGA TOUR Latinoamérica history of the VISA Open de Argentina. The last playoff came in 2017, also at the Jockey Club, when Brady Schnell needed one extra hole to defeat Matt Ryan and Andreas Halvorsen. In 2016, Kent Bulle edged James Beck III and Nate Lashley in a playoff at Olivos Golf Club.

    Despite missing the cut this week, Spain’s Mario Galiano only dropped four spots on the Order of Merit, and that allowed him to keep his membership card for 2020 and earn the 60th and final playing spot in the limited-field, season-ending Shell Championship in Miami. Just missing that tournament and losing his card was Mexico’s Nicholas Maruri, who finished in the 61st position. Maruri tied for 49th this week in Argentina after beginning the final round tied for 33rd. He shot a Sunday, 2-over 72. It was another tough-luck year for Maruri, who had experienced close-call heartbreak in the past. In 2017, he finished 62nd on the Order of Merit.

    Aram Yenidjeian finished as the low amateur, thanks to his final-round, 2-under 68. Yenidjeian tied for 42nd. Yenidjeian previously played in two other tournaments on this Tour, both coming this year. He missed the cut at both the Diners Club Peru Open and the Termas de Rio Hondo. Two other amateurs also made the cut. Vicente Marzilio matched Yenidjeian’s 68, and he finished 69th. Abel Gallegos fired an even-par 70 Sunday to tie for 54th.

    Justin Suh kept alive his streak of top-10s on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica. Playing in his fourth career event, Suh shot a final-round 65 to move from a tie for 29th into a tie for seventh. Suh tied for fourth in his Tour debut, at the Diners Club Peru Open, was the runner-up two weeks later at the Termas de Rio Hondo Invitational and then tied for 10th a week ago, at the Neuquén Argentina Classic.

    Jonathan Garrick picked up his fourth top-10 of the year this week with his tie for fourth in Buenos Aires. Playing on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada, Garrick had a pair of runner-up finishes then tied for fourth at the season-ending Canada Life Championship to finish 10th on that Tour’s Order of Merit and qualify for the final stage of Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying Tournament.

    Argentina’s Augusto Núñez had a disappointing final day, shooting a 5-over 75 to fall from contention. The 75 also ended Núñez’s remarkable par-or-better streak that stretched to the third round of the JHSF Aberto do Brasil and went for 21 rounds over six tournaments. Núñez tie for seventh, his 10th top-10 of the season in 15 starts. In that 21-round stretch, the native of Tucuman had 20 under-par scores (he shot an even-par 72 last week at the Neuquén Argentina Classic), with 15 of his rounds in the 60s. Núñez will go into the final tournament of the year atop the Order of Merit.

    Tommy Cocha had never played particularly well in his national open since the VISA Open de Argentine became part of the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica schedule. In his six previous starts (he did not play in 2014), Cocha had two missed cuts, a withdrawal and a tie for 25th as his best finish, in 2017. Sunday, Cocha began the day tied for 19th but fashioned a Sunday 65 to tie for fourth.

    With his tie for fourth, Tommy Cocha was the low Argentine finisher. Others to finish inside the top 20 were Augusto Núñez (tied for seventh), Paulo Pinto (tied for ninth), Clodomiro Carranza (tied for 13th) and Jaime López Rivarola (tied for 18th.

    Guatemala’s Jose Toledo had the best round of the day, a 6-under 64, which allowed him to improve 34 places on the leaderboard. He tied for 13th.

    Canada’s Taylor Pendrith came to Argentina and took full advantage of the opportunity, playing in his first PGA TOUR Latinoamérica tournament. The second-place finisher on the 2019 Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada Order of Merit, shot a final-round 67 to tie for ninth.

    Mexico’s Isidro Benítez was hoping for a top-10 finish in defense of his 2018 title. On the final day, Benitez struggled, shooting a 3-over 73 to drop from seventh place when the day began into a tie for 18th.Finland’s

    Toni Hakula made his second eagle of the week, this one a hole-in-one at the par-3 17th, his 71st hole of the week. “It was a pretty good feeling. I’m not gonna lie,” Hakula said following his 1-under 69 that left him tied for 18th. “I wasn’t playing that great all day. I really needed it. I didn’t make a single putt all day, so I guess that’s how it had to happen.” Hakula hit a 9-iron from 174 yards. “It was a pretty good number for a normal 9-iron for me.” The hole-in-one was Hakula’s fifth career ace and it earned him a car, a brand new Ford Kuga courtesy of tournament sponsor Ford Argentina.Toni Hakula’s ace was the 12th of the season. No player has had more than one.

    Quotable“I made a 25-footer on No. 14 and then I made two 10-footers on 15 and 15. My putting was fundamental for me to get this victory. I made some unbelievable putts under pressure. The one I made to win the playoff was a crazy one. It was a downhill putt breaking from left to right. It was a very difficult one and it was over 30-feet long.” –Ricardo Celia

    “When I made that putt on the third playoff hole, I knew it was going to be difficult for him to make his (15-footer). Seeing that putt go in was so exciting and it’s something that I will never forget.” –Ricardo Celia

    “This is a huge win! To earn a spot on the British Open it’s quite an impressive reward. Thinking that I’ll be playing my first major championship, playing in the same field with players such as Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy makes me extremely happy. This is unbelievable!” –Ricardo Celia

    “I played great. I definitely let a couple of opportunities slip by today.” –Brandon Matthews

    “I hit such a good putt on the second playoff hole. It was crazy. That was maybe the most-perfect putt I’ve ever hit. I couldn’t really draw it up much better.” –Brandon Matthews

    “I have no complaints. The things I did today, that I could control, I’m really proud of myself.” –Brandon Matthews

    “He played so good today. He was making putts from everywhere. I saw it all today.” –Brandon Matthews on Ricardo Celia’s play

    “I’ve battled my back for the past two years. Two years-plus. I’ve worked really hard to get it stronger. I’ve been fortunate enough to get it to the point where I can play on a daily basis, the way I used to practice, and feel good.” –Brandon Matthews

    “My game feels as good as it ever has right now.” –Brandon Matthews

    The last two weeks I’ve played great. I gave myself some opportunities last week. Like I said, I thought I had it this week. I couldn’t have hit a better putt on that second playoff hole. Unfortunately, it didn’t go in.” –Brandon Matthews