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  • Fischer takes control, leads Visa Argentine Open

  • Zack Fischer finished with his third consecutive round in the 60s. (Media/PGA TOUR)
    Zack Fischer finished with his third consecutive round in the 60s. (Media/PGA TOUR)
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  • NORDELTA, BUENOS AIRES, Argentina—In Friday’s second round, Zack Fischer did not make a par on his back nine, counting five birdies, three bogeys and an eagle. Saturday, playing those same holes, he made a birdie on No. 10 then reeled off eight consecutive pars.

    “It’s been a wild ride. Golf’s weird like that,” he said.

    Wild and weird, perhaps, but also very good as Fisher finished with his third consecutive round in the 60s, this time a 5-under 67, that moved him atop the Visa Argentine Open presented by Macro leaderboard. At 14-under overall in the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica season-opener at Nordelta Golf Club, Fischer leads first- and second-round leader Linus Lilliedahl by three shots and is four clear of countryman Chandler Blanchet. Two Argentines—Augusto Núñez and Santiago Bauni—are lurking, five back and tied for fourth.

    Fischer has been battling flu-like symptoms all week but said Saturday is the best he’s felt since Argentina’s national open began Thursday. Following his second-round 66, he returned to his hotel and went to bed at 7 p.m. He slept for about six hours until someone started playing loud music. He was able to fall back asleep and then turned in a bogey-free round. His is a streak that stretched to 22 consecutive holes without a blemish on his scorecard.

    “Normally when you don’t make a bogey, you really don’t make many mistakes. There were only a couple of times, maybe on the par-5s, where I made a bad swing with a wedge or didn’t hit a good pitch shot,” Fischer said of his morning-that-turned-into-afternoon stroll around Nordelta. “This is probably the sharpest round of the week. I didn’t leave a lot of shots out there.”

    He pointed to holes 6 and 18 as pivotal. “They are golf holes. They are man-sized holes,” he added. Although he hit a good putt for birdie on 18, the ball stayed straight once it reached a ridge and stayed out of the hole. On No. 6, he rolled in a 12-footer from under the hole after a 7-iron approach.

    “If you can make pars on those holes, they are basically birdies,” he added.
    Lilliedahl matched Fischer’s par on No. 18, but he was a little more excited about his score there. After leaking his drive to the right on the par-4 and hitting his approach short of the green, giving himself a good angle to the left-side pin position, he hit an indifferent chip. That left the native of Sweden with a 19-footer for par, a putt he promptly drained.

    “Huge,” he said when asked about the importance of that make. “I’ve been battling my swing all day. I’m actually extremely happy to come in at 1-under. I’m happy that putt went in, happy my putter has stayed consistent today as it has been the two days prior.”

    Alone in third is Blanchet, a Korn Ferry Tour member the last two seasons. Blanchet posted his second bogey-free round in three days. His 66 was the low round of the day and tied Fischer for the best score of the tournament.

    “You have plenty of (birdie) opportunities throughout the front and the back (nines). There are a few holes where you can gain some shots if you play well. Today there wasn’t much wind out. You could attack it if you were hitting it well. You could go for some pins.” Blanchet’s birdies came at Nos. 3, 4, 9, 10, 13 and 16.

    Did you know Chandler Blanchet’s lone PGA TOUR Latinoamérica victory came at the 2019 Sao Paulo Golf Club Championship, with “Big Tony” serving as his caddie? “Big Tony” is Antonio Brazil, from Sao Paulo who will be on Blanchet’s bag for the first three events of the season—including next week at the Neuquén Argentina Classic and at the Scotia Wealth Management Chile Open presented by Volvo, a week after that. “He’s a legend,” Blanchet said of Brazil.

    Key Information

    The winner of this tournament not only takes an early lead in the Totalplay Cup, PGA TOUR Latinoamérica’s season-long points chase, but he will also receive an invitation from the R&A to play in the 2023 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in England.

    The Visa Argentine Open presented by Macro is also the first of four tournaments that make up the Zurich Argentina Swing. The Zurich Argentina Swing rewards the player who performs the best in the four Argentina tournaments with a U.S. $10,000 bonus. Players’ Totalplay Cup points accumulated in the four tournaments are compiled, with the player with the most Totalplay Cup points declared the winner. The other Swing tournaments are next week’s Neuquén Argentina Classic and back-to-back tournaments in March 2023, the Termas de Rio Hondo Invitational and the Zurich Argentina Swing-ending Roberto De Vicenzo Memorial 100 Years, also in Buenos Aires.

    This is the 150th PGA TOUR Latinoamérica tournament in history.

    There were 50 Argentines playing in their national open, with 14 making the cut. The top players through 54 holes are Augusto Núñez and Santiago Bauni, both tied for fourth. Here is how all 14 sit with 18 holes to play.

    Pos.

    Name

    Scores

    T4

    Augusto Núñez

    207 (-9)

    T4

    Santiago Bauni

    207 (-9)

    T6

    Nelson Ledesma

    208 (-8)

    T9

    Abel Gallegos

    209 (-7)

    T9

    Alejandro Tosti

    209 (-7)

    T14

    Fabian Gómez

    210 (-6)

    T14

    Alan Wagner

    210 (-6)

    T26

    Puma Dominguez

    212 (-4)

    T37

    Ignacio Marino

    215 (-1)

    T37

    Martin Contini

    215 (-1)

    T45

    Jaime Lopez Rivarola

    216 (E)

    T45

    Matias Simaski

    216 (E)

    T52

    Juan Benitez

    217 (+1)

    T54

    Marcos Montenegro

    218 (+2)

    The best weather of the three days descended on Nordelta Golf Club on Saturday, and the scores reflected the benign conditions. Of the 63 players who made the cut, 41 shot under-par rounds, with an additional four players at even-par. Only 18 players fired over-par scores Saturday.

    This week, Argentina’s Nelson Ledesma is a cumulative 6-under on holes 13 through 15. In Saturday’s third round, he reeled off three consecutive birdies on that trio of holes. He’s birdied the par-5 13th hole in every round, and he has two birdies on the par-4 14th.

    This is Chandler Blanchet’s 18th career PGA TOUR Latinoamérica appearance, and the native of Florida is no stranger to winning. In 2019, he earned a victory at the Sao Paulo Golf Club Championship in Brazil’s capital city, using a second-round, 10-under 61 to edge Augusto Núñez by a shot. Blanchet has also spent considerable time on the Korn Ferry Tour, making 53 starts between 2020 and 2022. His top showing on that circuit is a tie for fourth at the 2020 LECOM Suncoast Classic.

    The Open Championship invitation is on all the players’ minds this week and has moved front and center for those who are in contention on the leaderboard. “Obviously it’s a special event. I can feel the pressure sneak up a little bit. I’ve been able to keep my cool and stay comfortable,” Linus Lilliedahl admitted. Zack Fischer also acknowledged The Open in his post-round remarks. “That was one of the main priorities for me coming down here, the exemption into The Open. It would be awesome. I’ve never gone to Europe in my entire life.”

    Danny Ochoa didn’t have his best stuff in the third round, settling for a 1-over 73. He did end his round with a flourish, though. In the right fairway bunker on No. 18 at Nordelta Golf Club, Ochoa hit his approach shot to a foot for an easy, tap-in birdie. At 8-under overall, Ochoa, a California native, is tied for sixth—with Evan Knight and Nelson Ledesma, six shots behind leader Zack Fischer.

    Quotable

    “I am not in any mood to go do anything. I’ll probably just lay around. I’m just trying to get where I can walk 100 percent. We got timed once but got three warnings because I’m not walking fast. I have to conserve every ounce of energy. I’m hoping [Sunday] I can be full speed ahead and walk instead of meander around.” –Zach Fischer on his ongoing health issues

    “Those were good tee shots. Those were probably two of the best tee shots I hit all day.” –Zach Fischer

    “That is the golden question.” –Linus Lilliedahl on what the issue was with his swing Saturday

    “Obviously there are a few shots I would love to re-hit from today. But this is the situation you want to be in. There’s only one better position.” –Linus Lilliedahl

    “The game has felt good all year. I’ve been hitting the ball nice, and the short game has gotten a little more dialed in recently. I missed a few greens today, but I was able to get it up and down and make pars.” –Chandler Blanchet

    “I’m excited to be down here. It’s the first time I’ve ever had full status on a Tour, where I can set a schedule. I’m playing 12 events all the way through.” –Chandler Blanchet

    “I played on the Korn Ferry Tour the last three years, and I played in most of the events, but it was Mondaying in early and then reshuffling. There was always a little bit of doubt. It’s nice to know I have a full season. I put 12 events on the calendar, and now I can buckle down.” –Chandler Blanchet

    Third-Round Weather: Sunny and hot, with a sunshine and few clouds all day. High of 80. Wind E at 5-8 mph.