MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (April 26, 2013) –Timothy O'Neal of the United States has been a birdie machine this week at the Alister MacKenzie-designed Club de Golf del Uruguay, with 18 birdies through 36 holes of play at the Roberto De Vicenzo Invitational Copa NEC.
Yesterday he combined eight birdies with three bogeys and a double bogey, but on Friday limited his mistakes to just one bogey on the first hole, followed by seven consecutive birdies between the second and eighth hole, plus two more on the 11th and 17thholes. He started on the 10thhole.
He was denied an eighth consecutive birdie when his ball was left hanging on the lip at the ninth his last hole. His 9-under 63 tied the course record and left him atop of the leaderboard.
He leads the NEC Series - PGA TOUR Latinoamérica’s fourth event of the 2013 season at 12-under 132. Despite his strong performance he only leads by one ever Colombia’s Marcelo Rozo, who posted a 65 in the morning.
“Today was a good day with the putter. I hit it well, I didn’t miss one green, I had one bogey and that was a three-putt on No. 1. I’m satisfied with my round today. I think I’m going to need a few more rounds like that to have a good chance to win,” said O’Neal, 40, from Savannah, Ga.
In his remarkable run of seven birdies in a row O'Neal’s longest birdie putt was 12 feet.
"I think the most (birdies in a row I ever) I had before in a competitive round was six, but it was a long time ago," said the American, who came only two strokes short of matching his career low round of 61.
O'Neal has played worldwide over nearly 16 years as a pro. He has plenty of experience on the Web.com Tour, with over 100 starts. This year he joined the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica after tying for 11th at the Tour Qualifying Tournament in Sebring, Fla., last February.
Just two shots off the lead, in third is Chile’s Christian Espinoza, who made five birdies in a row from No. 3 to No. 7 to shoot 67 for the second day, and the United States’ Liam Logan, who had a bogey-free 68.
With immaculate and terrific weather conditions it was a perfect day to score low. As a result, with only one threesome left to finish the second round, the cut is all but set at 4-over 140. It will be the Tour’s lowest cut ever.
Friday was another sunny day with clear skies in Montevideo. The wind was not a factor and did not blow past 10 km / h. The day’s high was at 23° Celsius.
Play was suspended because of darkness at 6:20 p.m. local time with only one threesome unable to finish the second round. That trio features Argentina's Augusto Nuñez (-3), American Chris Gilman (-4) and Uruguayan amateur Federico Levinsky (+7). These three finished the day on the 17th tee and will resume play at 7:30 a.m. on Saturday. Their performance won’t affect the cut, only the number of players who will be able to make it.
Third-round Tee Times
The third round will begin approximately at 9 a.m. on Saturday, with players teeing off from the first hole in threesomes. The last group, led by tournament leader Timothy O'Neal, will tee off at about 12:30 p.m.
The 23-year-old Colombian, a pro since October, made eight birdies and a bogey for a 65 that propelled him into second place. "I've only made three bogeys, three-putted three greens, but overall I hit the ball very well. The short game this week was great, "said Rozo, who last November finished solo second at the Dominican Republic Open in Punta Cana.
"I came with a distrust in my short game around the green, but I took a class before traveling to Argentina (the previous week's tournament in Cordoba) and it came out great. I feel very confident around the green and played without making any big mistakes in this tournament.”
Thanks to a run of five consecutive birdies from No. 3 to No. 7, the Chilean repeated a round of 5-under 67 and is two shots off the lead. The native of Puerto Montt began on the 10th hole and found his first birdie on the 14th, but then bogeyed the 15th. Espinoza has made three of the four cuts this season and is 39th in the Order of Merit.
The 24-year old American posted a bogey-free 68 to tie for third with Espinoza. In the first 12 holes (starting on No. 10) he made just one birdie, but then birdied Nos. 4, 5 and 8. "I struck the ball better than yesterday but my putt cool off , anyway I'm very happy with the position I am,” Logan said.
Argentina's Wagner, the defending champion and tournament outright leader after a 64 in the first round, had a bad start with three bogeys in his first six holes. In his second nine he made birdies at Nos. 1 and 4 and eagled No. 5 to recover but could not close at the same pace. "I came back, but it was a bitter finish for me. I three-putted the eighth for par and then bogeyed the ninth, my last two holes today. Anyway, a round of par (72) and total of 8 under will probably keep me in position for a good weekend," said the 23-year-old who finished the day tied for eighth, four shots back.
Juan Ignacio Lizarralde
On a day where he bogeyed his first three holes, Uruguay’s Lizarralde, the only local on Tour, followed his opening 70 with a hard-fought 69 that helped him make the cut in a tie for 31st. Lizarralde is seven behind the leader and is the only Uruguayan to make the cut.
Paraguay's Carlos Franco retired for allergy symptoms while playing the second round.