Merida, Mexico (May 14, 2013) – After taking a week off the NEC Series PGA TOUR Latinoamérica is set to resume its 2013 season at the Mundo Maya Open, an event that begins this Thursday in Merida, Mexico.
This marks the first time the Tour returns to a course played last season, as the first five events this year were played at new venues.
“El Jaguar” at the Yucatan Country Club hosted the Tour’s inaugural event last September and it was here that Tommy Cocha began his quest to the Web.com Tour. The Argentine won with a record of 22-under 266 for the lowest 72-hole score on Tour.
Designed by Jack Nicklaus, this course provides several challenges, with plenty of water and sand to deal with over its 7,282-yards. It features five par-5s that will be key for those aiming at the title. Last year Cocha shot 15-under on the par-5s and didn’t make bogey on any of those holes.
Taking into consideration these characteristics and the way our players have done over the first few weeks of the season, the following are ten players with a shot at the title this week:
1. José de Jesús “El Camarón” Rodríguez, México
A winner in Montevideo, runner-up in Guadalajara and solo third in Pereira for three top 3s in his last three Tour starts, our current Order of Merit No. 1 is always a strong contender. Things look especially good for him playing at “El Jaguar,” a course where he has won twice on the Mexican Tour. He is coming off a runner-up finish on the Mexican Tour last Friday and finished T8 at the 2012 Mundo Maya Open, where he carded an opening 65.
2. Oscar Álvarez, Colombia
The Colombian has collected two top 10s and four top 25s in five starts this season. He is one of the best performers on par-5s and that should be critical at the Yucatán Country Club. Called “El Mono” because of his blond hair, Álvarez owns a scoring average of 4.63 strokes on the par-5s he has played this year on Tour.
3. Oscar Serna, México
An impressive total of three top 5s in five starts and 13 out of 20 rounds under par turn Serna into one of the strongest players on Tour this season. Playing in his home country could mean a big advantage for him to finally claim his first NEC Series PGA TOUR Latinoamérica victory. The only doubt surrounding him is a left hand injury he sustained last Friday at a local Tour event.
4. Julián Etulain, Argentina
The Argentine won a 54-hole Mexican Tour event last Saturday in Mazatlán, defeating “El Camarón” Rodríguez by one stroke. “Tula” has shown some improvement over the past few weeks and will try to make a run for his first career win on Tour.
5. Timothy O’Neal, USA
O’Neal will try to keep his great momentum in Mérida following a victory at the 66th Arturo Calle Colombian Open in Pereira, Colombia and a playoff loss at the Roberto De Vicenzo Invitational Copa NEC in his last two starts. He has shot in the 60s in seven of his last eight rounds and leads the Tour with 97 birdies in five starts.
6. Rafael Campos, Puerto Rico
Although he only has one top 15 so far this season, Campos is a solid player who can make many birdies and could find his good rhythm very soon. He had a great performance here last year, finishing in a tie for fourth with four rounds in red numbers.
7. Sebastián Vázquez, Mexico
A victory on Tour last season in only his second start as a professional spoke tons about the talent this young man owns. He promises to be a force this week at “El Jaguar,” a course where he carded a record-tying 64 (-8) in the third round last year before finishing in a tie for fourth and still holding amateur status.
8. Samuel del Val, Spain
The strong Spaniard is one of several players who are performing better every week, as they get adjusted to competing in Latin America. His best finish this season was T17 in Uruguay and he has a chance to do a lot better in Merida. His scoring average on par-5s is at 4.59 strokes.
9. Gunner Wiebe, USA
This is another Tour “rookie” who is finding his ways in Latin America. Son of Mark Wiebe, a two-time winner on the PGA TOUR and a three-time winner on the Champions Tour. Gunner has only missed one cut this season. Once he finds his consistency he will be battling for top spots each and every week.
10. Manuel Villegas, Colombia
Following his win in Guadalajara last March, Villegas missed two cuts in a row, but after playing well in Pereira he seems to be back in form. He is another one of the players who excels on the par-fives. He enters the week ranked fifth on the Tour’s Order of Merit and he surely doesn’t want to give up his spot amongst “Los Cinco”.