Lovemark wins Mexico Open in playoff over Staten

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Jamie Lovemark won his first Nationwide title in Mexico and looks like a lock to earn his PGA TOUR card in 2011.
June 27, 2010
Adam Wallace, PGA TOUR staff

LEON, GUANAJUATO, Mexico. -- Rookie Jamie Lovemark fired 4-under par 68 on Sunday at El Bosque Country Club to emerge from a packed leaderboard and finish regulation play at the Mexico Open Bicentenary tied with third-round co-leader B.J. Staten at 12-under 276. Lovemark and Staten went back to the 18th hole where Lovemark would only need three strokes to seal the deal and capture the $108,000 first-place check.

Both players found the fairway off the tee but Lovemark hit his second shot on the 567-yard, par-5 finishing hole to three feet left for eagle. Once Staten's second shot came up short in the hazard and scrambled for par Lovemark only needed two-putts to close him out but he rolled it in anyway to claim his first win on the Nationwide Tour.

"It was definitely the best shot I've hot in a really long time," he said. "My caddy and I figured the ball would go twelve percent farther due to elevation and another eight percent because of adrenaline. I hit a perfect six-iron from 235-yards. I think it was half luck, half skill."

Lovemark jumped from No. 10 to No. 2 on the money list with $246,351, which should be more than enough to guarantee him his 2011 PGA TOUR card by finishing among THE 25 leading money winners.

"I haven't won since 2007 so I can't tell you how special it is for me to win out here," said the 22-year old who turned professional in 2009. "I've knocked on the door a few times this year and to seal the deal feels so good."

Guanajuato residents Efren Serna, Jr. (69) and Jose Rodriguez (68) gave the locals something to cheer about as they lurked at the top of the leaderboard all afternoon. Serna, Jr. had an eagle and five birdies on Sunday but two bogies on the final three holes left him one shot back of the playoff and solo third at 11-under. Rodriguez reached 11-under par by the tenth hole but a bogey on the par-3 12th hole and six closing pars put him two strokes back in fourth place.

Lovemark started the final-round one shot back of co-leaders Staten (69) and Peter Tomasulo (65) but quickly grabbed the lead with a birdie on the first hole and an eagle on the driveable par-4 second hole. When he birdied number eight and nine to reach 13-under it appeared the tournament was his for the taking.

"This is a great course where you can make a lot of birdies but you have to stay patient out here," said Lovemark. "I knew it was going to be tough out here today but I had to try really hard to not let any bad thoughts come into my head."

Lovemark has experienced a plethora of success in his young career. In 2007, he won the 2007 NCAA Individual Championship as a freshman at the University of Southern California, becoming the eighth freshman to ever accomplish the feat. At the Open in October of last year on the PGA TOUR he posted weekend scores of 65-64 to finish at 18-under par and get into a three-man playoff with Rickie Fowler and Troy Matteson. He appeared to be headed for elimination on the first extra hole when his approach shot landed in the water but the ball bounced out and into the greenside rough. Lovemark got up and down for par to continue but eventually lost when Matteson birdied the second extra hole.

"On Friday night I started thinking about what might have been," said Lovemark, who is having Lasik eye surgery next week. "Obviously it would have been nice to win the Open but I'm not sure I'd be the player I am today. Losing that playoff motivated me to get better. It was for the best because now I am going to be on the PGA TOUR next year with a better swing and more experience. This is the second best Tour in the world and there's no substitute for playing at this level of competition."

It's hard to see why he's having eye surgery since he saw himself going to the PGA TOUR next year all along.

Final-Round Notes:

Andrew Svoboda of Larchmont, NY and Kevin Chappell fired a final-round 65s on Sunday, the low rounds of the day. Svoboda slid into a T14 finish while Chappell finished T9. Svoboda began the day at 1-over par T43 and made six birdies, one eagle and one bogey en route to shooting the low round of his career. This is Svoboda's fourth top-25 finish of the year. Chappell started the day at even par T40 and moved to T9. This is Chappell's fifth top-10 finish this season.

Fabian Gomez led the field in birdies this week with 23.

• The final-round scoring average for the par-72 layout was 72.757. The cumulative average for all four rounds was 73.139.

• The Nationwide Tour is idle next week then heads north the following week for the Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic. The tournament will be played at Georgian Bay Club and Raven Golf Club July 8-11.