LIMA, Peru (Nov. 10, 2013) – On a day of fierce competition for the title of the Lexus Peru Open, Argentina’s Julian Etulain closed strong on Sunday to defend the overnight lead and win his first NEC Series-PGA TOUR Latinoamérica title.
The leader by one shot at the beginning of the day at Los Inkas Golf Club, the 25-year-old from Buenos Aires carded a 70 to finish the tournament at 13-under 275. He defeated U.S. players Ryan Blaum, 68, and Bronson Burgoon, 71, by one.
“I still I can not believe that I have won my first tournament on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica. I came here with a lot of confidence and I told my coach that I would win this week and I was able to do it,” said the player who is better known as “Tula” Etulain.
The young Argentina had been knocking on the door for several weeks, playing the final round in the final group for the third time in his last five starts on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.
On a day in which six players led the tournament at different times throughout the day, Etulain managed to remain calm despite getting off to a slow start of three bogeys and only two birdies on the front nine.
“It was pretty even all day and I had a round quite similar to the one I had yesterday. I had to be patient because things really started to happen on the 14th hole. I knew patience was going to be key and I felt very comfortable with my game,” he said.
His comeback began with a birdie on 11 and continued with a string of three birdies over between 14 and 16. He reached the 16th tee tied for the lead with Burgoon, who made bogey at that par 5 for a critical two-shot swing.
The tough 17, a 217-yard par-3 which kept players quite busy all week, also got the leader in trouble. After missing his tee shot he failed to make the up-and-down. The bogey cut his lead to one and when his second shot on 18 rested in a bunker behind the green he seemed to be in trouble again.
“It was a difficult save to make, the second shot came out very strong from the rough but my sand save was great. I knew that if I hit it to hard it could end up in the water, so I just wanted to fly three yards and luckily it went well,” said the champion about a shot that secured him the win.
A winner of five tournaments during his career as a pro, four of them on the Tour de las Americas between 2010-12, Etulain took some time to show his great potential on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica. This victory came on his 21st career start on Tour.
“It's never easy to win, but since the arrival of PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, where all of us are fighting to make it to the Web.com Tour it has been even tougher,” said the young Argentine, who moved into the sixth spot of the Order of Merit after winning $27,000.
Watch: Final Round Recap
Weather. Cloudy morning, sunny and clear skies in the afternoon. A high of 77° F. Moderate winds from the South.
Bronson Burgoon. "I felt the nerves on the back nine,” admitted the 26- year old from Texan after finishing in a tie for the second spot. “I played well and when I eagle on 14 I thought I had a good shot ... I was playing with Julian so I knew what was going on, but I was unable to pull it off.”
Despite letting this one slip away, the runner-up finish was a career best for Burgoon on this Tour. With a tie for third earlier in the season and another top-10 finish he has moved into the eleventh spot in the Order of Merit.
Ryan Blaum. The 30-year from Florida, winner of the Dominican Republic Open and the Aberto do Brasil, flirted with the possibility of winning for the third time in his last five starts on the Tour. An eagle on 14 gave him the outright lead, but the closing bogey on 18 proved costly, as he finished one behind the winner.
“It wasn’t my cleanest ball striking day today, but I chipped the ball phenomenal. I thought I hit a good chip on 18, but it came way short of what I was expecting. You know, 17 and 18 were playing hard. You want to par those holes, but they are not easy pars,” said Blaum, No. 2 on the Order of Merit.
Timothy O’Neal. With a run of four birdies between holes 11 and 15, playing six groups ahead of the final trio, Savannah, Georgia, resident Timothy O’Neal was able to get in a great position. “I missed a short putt on 16. It was a though putt, but it was maybe three and a half feet. It broke a lot and I left it short. It was one I couldn’t be aggressive with. I thought I needed that one, I thought I needed to get to 13, that was my goal going into today,” said O’Neal, who then bogeyed No. 17.
Despite not winning, O’Neal finished strong for a second week in a row. Last week he tied for third in Bogota and with today’s solo fourth finish he managed to move from the fifth spot into the fourth in the Order of Merit. “Last week I finished third and I lost ground, because Manny (Villegas) passed me. Players are very good out here, so you have to play good every week,” added the 41-year old.
OHL Round or the Week Award. Argentina’s Gato Zarlenga claimed the OHL Round of the Week award because of his terrific round of 9-under par 63 that matched the Los Inkas Golf Club’s course record on Friday. The 23-year old from Tucuman had two eagles and six birdies to take a $1,000 check courtesy of OHL.
Rodríguez’s worse finish this season. After his victory at the Arturo Calle Colombian Classic last Sunday, Mexico’s José de Jesús Rodríguez closed the tournament with an unlikey score of 4-over par 76. He matched his highest score of the season and finished in a tie for the 45th spot for his worse Tour result this season. “I struck the ball poorly today,” said the 32-year old who finished the day hitting balls at the driving range.
Despite the slip he remains a strong No. 1 in the Order of Merit. However, his lead over Ryan Blaum shortened from $30,000 to under $18,000 with three tournaments left to play this year. While PGA TOUR Latinoamérica takes a week off, Rodríguez will go back to Mexico to play in the PGA TOUR’s OHL Mayakoba Classic, a $ 6 million that awarded him a sponsor's exemption.
Los Cinco. Scores and final positions for the leading five players in the Order of Merit:
T2. Ryan Blaum, USA 71-70-67-68-276 (-12)
4. Timothy O’Neal, USA 70-67-73-67-277 (-11)
7. Jorge Fernández-Valdés, Argentina 74-68-69-68--279 (-9)
T45. José de Jesús Rodríguez, México 69-71-73-76--289 (+1)
--- Manuel Villegas, Colombia 74-71--145 (+1) MC
Peruvians. Scores and final positions of the four Peruvians who made the cut:
T33. Luis Graf 71-71-72-73--287 (-1)
T33. Sebastián Salem 74-69-70-74--287 (-1)
T47. Patricio Salem 72-71-74-73--290 (+2)
T49. Daniel Antúnez 73-69-73-76--291 (+3)
Best rounds of the day:
67 (-5) Timothy O'Neal, USA ; Jhared Hack, USA ; Sebastián Vázquez, Mexico .
Hack Jhared, USA (67), Sebastián Vázquez, Mexico (67).
Next tournament. After the Lexus Peru Open, the NEC Series-PGA TOUR Latinoamérica will take a week off. The season will continue with the Abierto de Chile, the Tour’s first event ever in Chile. The tournament will be played at Los Leones Golf Club, Nov. 18-24. The event in Santiago, Chile will be followed by the final two events of the season: the Personal Classic presented by BlackBerry and 108th VISA Open de Argentina presented by Peugeot, both in Buenos Aires, Argentina.