Three-tied for the lead at El Rincón
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Written by Gregory Villalobos @PGATOURLA
CAJICÁ, Colombia—Argentina’s Andrés Gallegos, New Zealand’s Charlie Hillier and Canada’s Myles Creighton posted rounds of 6-under 66 early in the day Thursday to share the opening-round lead at the Inter Rapidísimo Golf Championship presented by Volvo. The co-leaders are coming off solid efforts last week, as all three finished inside the top 10 at the Colombia Classic in Bucaramanga, where Gallegos and Hillier tied for fourth and Creighton was seventh.
Seven other players carded 67s to open the 10th event of the 2022-23 PGA TOUR Latinoamérica season. Those in a tie for fourth are Hillier’s younger brother, Harry, Sweden’s Linus Lilliedahl, the Argentine duo of Julián Etulain and Jaime López Rivarola, and the U.S. duo of Brendon Doyle and Fred Meyer.
Starting the day under light rain, the co-leaders didn’t have much to complain about regarding the conditions on a cloudy day with mild-to-cool conditions. “It was a matter of staying loose and accepting that those were the conditions we had to play in. Luckily, I struck it really well and never got in big trouble, and whenever I missed a green I was able to make the up-and-down. I’m really happy with today’s round,” said Gallegos, who started off No. 10 at 6:50 a.m.
Gallegos shot 1-under on his first nine and then caught fire on his last nine, going birdie-birdie-birdie off No. 2 and adding two more birdies in succession, on 7 and 8. “Hitting fairways is crucial here because of the grass. The Kikuyu grass rough gets quite dense, especially when it’s raining a bit and it gets wet. It gets difficult, so it’s key to hit fairways,” said the 27-year old from Lobos, Argentina, who made a good job keeping his ball in the short grass at El Rincón de Cajicá Golf Club.
Ranked 92nd in the Totalplay Cup standings before last week’s tie for fourth in Bucaramanga, Gallegos could move as high as ninth with a win this week. “I need good results, and finishing in a tie for fourth last week gave me a lot of confidence, knowing that I’m in a good spot. I’m happy with my swing and trying to do my best this week,” added this former PGA TOUR Latinoamérica winner, looking to make his return to the Korn Ferry Tour.
Paired together in a threesome playing behind Gallegos, both Charlie Hillier and Creighton played just as well. “I thought in the beginning, with the rain, it would be a bad tee time, but we had seven or eight holes, maybe 10 holes, that it was pretty calm. (I was) playing with Charlie, who played great as well. We fed off each other all day,” said Creighton.
The Canadian was the only player in the co-leading trio to go bogey-free in the opening round. He had a really nice stretch halfway through his round, making birdies on holes 16, 17, 1 and 2. “I did most of my work (in that stretch). I hit a lot of fairways, drove it great and just played well all day,” said the 27-year old who entered the week ranked 16th in the Totalplay Cup standings.
Only 42 points off the Totalplay Cup lead, Hillier has been playing well lately. He has had three top-five finishes in his last five starts, including his win at the JHSF Brazil Open at the beginning of April and last Sunday’s tie for fourth in Bucaramanga.
“I’m really comfortable where my game is at. I’m chipping and putting it really well, and if I hit it well, then I have days like today,” said the 26-year-old who opened birdie-bogey-birdie-birdie and then added back-to-back birdies on 1 and 2 and an eagle on 7.
With a Korn Ferry Tour card within sight with only three events left to play this season, Hillier is also focused on having his head in the right place. “I have been working with a brain coach, so all of the outside stuff that is going on—if you are going to make the Korn Ferry Tour or not—just keeps me in check with my emotions. I’m not saying that [the emotions] are not there, just recognizing them and moving on. If I start bottling stuff up in between, stuff might start sideways,” said the Te Puke, New Zealand native.
The following is a look at the different performance rewards available for the players who finish the season inside the Totalplay Cup top 60:
For the second consecutive season, the Tour will be enhancing the race for the Totalplay Cup, providing a U.S. $100,000 bonus pool for the top-10 finishers in the standings at the end of the 2022-23 season. The winner of the Totalplay Cup will receive $20,000 in addition to his 2024 Korn Ferry Tour membership. The following is the bonus pool breakdown:
With Charlie Hillier leading the way in the tie for the lead, this is how the players inside the Totalplay Cup top 10 started the tournament at El Rincón de Cajicá Golf Club:
|Points List Pos.||Player||Position||Score|
|1||Walker Lee (U.S.)||T109||75 (+3)|
|2||Conner Godsey (U.S.)||T109||75 (+3)|
|3||Charlie Hillier (New Zealand)||T1||66 (-6)|
|4||Chandler Blanchet (U.S.)||T11||68 (-4)|
|5||Cristóbal Del Solar (Chile)*||--||--|
|6||Toni Hakula (Finland)||T52||71 (-1)|
|7||Linus Lilliedahl (Sweden)||T4||67 (-5)|
|8||Matt Ryan (U.S.)||T98||74 (+2)|
|9||Marcos Montenegro (Argentina)||T35||70 (-2)|
|10||Jake McCrory (U.S.)||T35||70 (-2)|
*Korn Ferry Tour player, not playing this week
In an opening-round, 2-under 70, Sandy Scott had a hole-in-one on No. 14, his fifth hole of the day. “I was trying to land it about 10 yards short of the pin, because it was a back pin, and just let it release, and it came off right on line and landed in the middle of the green. The pin was on the back of the green, so I wasn’t sure if it went over the back of the green or if went in the hole. When I got there, it was a good feeling to see it in the hole,” said the young Scot of his shot on the 206-yard par-3 that had wind coming off the right. “Really good wind for that club (a 7-iron) and that number, and (I) just hit it perfectly.”
Sandy Scott is the ninth player to record a hole-in-one this PGA TOUR Latinoamérica season. Thursday’s ace was his first as a pro but his third overall. The 24-year-old made his professional debut at the season-opening Visa Argentina Open last December and has finished inside the top 25 in each of his six made cuts this season. He currently holds the 19th spot in the Totalplay Cup standings.
Tied for 35th after a 2-under 70, RicardoCelia of Barranquilla is the leading Colombian through the opening round. A total of 21 Colombians started the tournament, and the following are the three of them currently inside the top 55 (and ties), who will make the cut after Friday’s second round:
|T35||Ricardo Celia||70 (-2)|
|T52||Daniel Zuluaga||71 (-1)|
|T52||Juan F. Mejía||71 (-1)|
María José Bohórquez’s hopes of becoming the first woman to make a cut on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica took a hit this morning, as she carded a 4-over 76 in the opening round. She had three birdies and seven bogeys to finish the day tied for 122nd. The 21-year old professional became the third female to make a PGA TOUR Latinoamérica start this season and the fourth in history. Last week, fellow Colombian Mariajo Uribe, shot 73-69 to miss the cut by five shots at the Colombia Classic presented by Rocha Brothers in Bucaramanga. Although she missed the cut, Uribe’s performance in the event is the best by a female on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.
First-Round Weather: Cloudy. High of 65. Wind ESE at 6-19 mph. Light rain throughout the day.