BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (December 8, 2013) – Marcelo Rozo became the first Colombian to win the oldest tournament in Latin America on Sunday when he claimed the NEC Series-PGA TOUR Latinoamérica season-ending 108th VISA Open de Argentina presented by Peugeot.
Rozo’s victory was never in question during a warm Sunday afternoon at Nordelta Golf Club. He entered the final round leading by five shots and managed to extend that lead to seven with a pair of early birdies.
He bogeyed holes 14 and 18 down the stretch but closed with a 70 for a 10-under 278 and a two-shot victory over Jeff Gove of the United States.
In addition to winning the prestigious title at the age of 24 and just 13 months into his professional career, Rozo was able to get in touch with his golfing roots. His late grandfather Vicente Falaschini, a native of Mar del Plata, was also a professional golfer.
“He would have been very proud,” Rozo said with his voice breaking.
“I feel very happy, very satisfied because the hard work has paid off. The birdie on 1 was a huge relief and it allowed me to stay loose and strike the ball well throughout the day.”
Several players tried to challenge him, but none could overtake Rozo. Texas’ Bronson Burgoon and Argentina’s Emiliano Grillo were the first to make moves and then came Argentina’s Emilio Domínguez who got within four shots. Finally the one who got the closest was Gove, who moved within three by carding a bogey-free 67 late in the day. With Rozo bogeying the 72nd hole, Gove’s runner-up deficit was reduced to just two shots.
“I took a look at the leaderboard on 16 and I knew that I only needed to keep the ball on the fairway to settle it,” said Rozo, who gained confidence by winning a 54-hole event on the Chilean Tour for his first victory as a professional three weeks ago.
After being in contention in two events earlier in the season, Rozo was not that happy with his attitude at the start of the second half of the season. “I put a lot of pressure on myself during the events in Brazil and Colombia, getting very upset whenever I made a mistake. After that I made a decision to enjoy my time out there on the course. I focused on enjoying my work and you were able to see the results of that attitude change here this week.”
The final round of the NEC Series-PGA TOUR Latinoamérica season was also decisive in the race for Order of Merit top honors. Throughout the day, the battle for No. 1 between Florida’s Ryan Blaum and Mexico’s José de Jesús Rodríguez got as close as it could have been. In the end, Blaum pulled away with three birdies on the back nine to claim the Roberto De Vicenzo Award and full exempt status on the Web.com Tour next season.
Watch: Final Round Highlights
Weather Clear skies during the first half of the day and mostly cloudy during the second half. A high of 95 degrees turned this into the hottest day of the week. Moderate winds didn’t play much of a factor.
About Marcelo Rozo He won this event at age 24 years, 3 months, 2 days to become the fifth youngest player ever to win on NEC Series-PGA TOUR Latinoamérica… Collected the win on his 18th career start on Tour… Bounced back from an opening round of 73 with an 8-under 64 that matched the course record, set a year earlier by Ángel Cabrera during the final round of this event… His bogey-free 64 in the second round was the lowest score of the week and secured him the OHL-Round of the Week Award… Carded a 69 on the third round to open a five-shot lead, the second largest on Tour heading into a final round… The victory helped him finish the season ranked No. 10 in the Order of Merit with $42,154 in earnings… Had one top-10 finish, four top-15 finishes and made 11 cuts in 14 starts… His previous best finish on Tour was runner-up at the 2012 Dominican Republic Open, an event in which he was making just his second start as a professional.
Ryan Blaum takes No. 1 honors Florida’s Ryan Blaum completed his charge to the top of the Order of Merit with a final round of 70 that helped him finish the tournament in a two-way tie for fifth place. A check for $ 5,700 moved him past Mexico’s José de Jesús Rodríguez, who finished in a six-way tie for 23rd to slip into the second spot of the Order of Merit. Blaum finished the season with $ 99,135 in earnings, only $752 ahead of Rodríguez.
“This is huge,” Blaum said. “There is a big difference between first and second on this Tour in terms of status, so I get to map out all the events I want to play in. I’m now guaranteed every event, so that’s a big deal and I’m looking forward to playing next year on the Web.com Tour,”
Blaum, a 30-year old from Duke University, won the Dominican Republic Open in June and the Aberto do Brasil in October.
About his battle for No. 1 with Rodríguez, who had entered the week leading by $3,500, Blaum went on to say: “I heard throughout the day that it got pretty close. I had no idea how José was playing, so I was just trying to play my own game.”
In addition to his two wins, Blaum collected two-runner up finishes and a total of seven top-10 finishes in 13 Tour starts this season.
Rodríguez comes up short After making a hole-in-one at the 12th, where he hit a 224-yard 4-iron, Mexico’s José de Jesús Rodríguez was in position to defend his spot as the Order of Merit No. 1. However, he went on to make costly bogeys on 15 and 18 to finish behind Blaum.
The humble man best known by the nickname of “Camarón” (Shrimp) dominated most of the season, with wins at the Roberto De Vicenzo Invitational Copa NEC in April and at the Arturo Calle Colombian Classic in November. He slowed down on the final stretch, carding unlikely scores and failing to make the cut in his two previous starts.
“I'm not mad at all. I’m just sad for the inconsistent way I have been hitting the driver lately,” he said. “The way I played at the end of the season is not a reflection of my play. I think that fatigue was a factor over the last few weeks. After the event in Chile I considered to go back home, but I came to Argentina to have a shot at finishing No. 1.”
Los Cinco Along with the race for No. 1, the race for the top 5 spots of the Order of Merit came to an end as well, with players from four different countries securing Web.com Tour cards for 2014. There were no further changes among Los Cinco, with the five players who entered the final stage of the season ranked in the top 5 managed to defend their positions. The following are the positions and earning of Los Cinco who have graduated to the Web.com Tour.
Pos / Player / Country / Earnings
- 1. Ryan Blaum, USA $ 99.135
- 2. José de Jesús Rodríguez, Mexico $ 98.383
- 3. Timothy O'Neal, USA $ 90.015
- 4. Jorge Fernández Valdés, Argentina $ 65.178
- 5. Manuel Villegas, Colombia $ 60.671
More Web.com Tour Final Stage spots The number of NEC Series-PGA TOUR Latinoamérica members exempt into the final stage of the Web.com Tour Qualifying Tournament increased to 19 on Sunday. By breaking into the season ending Order of Merit top-10, Julián Etulain, Bronson Burgoon and Sebastián Saavedra secured the last few spots available on the field that will play the six-round event at PGA West starting on Thursday.
Best rounds of the day
67 (-5) Jeff Gove (USA), Santiago Russi (Chile)
68 (-4) Bronson Burgoon (USA), Emiliano Grillo (Argentina), Mauricio Azcué (Mexico)
Jeff Gove, USA (67)
The road to the 2014 season begins In preparation for its 2014 season, which is scheduled to begin in February, the NEC Series-PGA TOUR Latinoamérica will stage three qualifying events. The first among those will be the Copa Samsung Developmental Series Final to be played at the Country Club La Planicie in Lima, Peru – December 18-21. The best players from the Developmental Series events of the season will gather in Lima to battle for five full cards and five conditional cards for the 2014 season of NEC Series-PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.
The Tour will also stage two Qualifying Tournaments at the beginning of the year. The first one will also be played at the Country Club La Planicie in Lima, Peru – January 13-17, while the second one will take place at the Sun 'N Lake Golf Club in Sebring, Florida – January 20-24.