MERIDA, Mexico (May 18, 2013) – After another excellent round, Jorge Fernandez Valdes expects that finally he can close with a huge smile at the Mundo Maya Open on Sunday.
A solid round of 4-under 68 on Saturday afternoon at the Yucatan Country Club improved his total to 12-under 204 and gave him the lead by two with one round to play.
Fernandez-Valdes, 20 years and a pro for only eight months, has been constantly in contention for the top spot during this season of NEC Series PGA TOUR Latinoamérica.
On Sunday it will be the third time since his debut in the Tour where he will play a final round in the last group. First it was in the Puerto Rico Classic last October and more recently in the Abierto Mexicano in March. In Mexico he was leading by one at the beginning of the last round and finished tied for third.
"Those two previous experience mixed in the fight for the title were very good. They have been valuable experience to keep fighting and hopefully I can take advantage of it," he said.
Fernandez-Valdes started the day tied for the lead with Colombian Manuel Villegas and practically did not hesitate. With birdies at 5, 8, 10 and 13, he took a three-shot advantage. His only bogey was on the 15th, a difficult par 3 into the wind, but he birdied 16 to go back to 12 under.
"I had a great start and that gave me lot of confidence for the rest of the round," the leader said. "The conditions were tough today, windy, and I had to think a lot but generally I hit good shots and made good putts.”
On Sunday at 12:50 p.m., the Argentine will be accompanied in the last group by American Liam Logan. Logan earned his place in the last twosome by making birdies on holes 16 and 18 to shoot 69. He is 24 years old and has two Top 10s in the last two tournaments.
"I like my chances, they are as good as the last two weeks (where I was close). What I need is to shoot a low score. It will be fun to play in the last group, it will be my first time, "said the Texan, who attended the University of Oklahoma and turned pro in 2011.
Partly cloudy. The wind blew about 20 km / h from the east and southeast, with gusts as high as 37 km / h. The maximum temperature was 37 ° Celsius.
A pro since May 2011 and competing on a sponsor's exemption, the Mexican is so far the surprise of the week. He started the day in a tie for 12th and finished tied for third. "I'm hitting the ball very well and I had an excellent speed on the greens. I'm ready to play the final round tomorrow," he said, excited after a round of 67 where he made four birdies on the back nine.
Villareal, 24, is from Sinaloa, Mexico, and currently resides in Dallas, Texas. His caddie this week is Rich Barcelo, an experienced player who won in 2009 the Cox Classic on the Web.com Tour and played in 84 tournaments on the PGA TOUR. His best finish was a fourth place at the Reno-Tahoe Open in 2007.
Villareal studied finance at Texas Wesleyan University. Last season he played in the National Pro Tour and this year is competing in the Mexican Tour. In February he tried to qualify for the NEC Series PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, but finished T63 at Qualifying Tournament held in Sebring, Florida.
The Colombian, the leader for the first 36 holes, attacked the lead with birdies at 11, 13 and 14 to move within one stroke of Fernandez-Valdes. "On 15, I hit one of the best irons of the day, but the wind just picked up and it cost me a double, but I'm not annoyed by the shot because I played it like I wanted, I just had bad luck," said the 28-year-old that carded a 71 to share second place with Logan.
"The course obviously played a little harder, the wind was quite strong, but it is still a course that provides opportunities for birdie on several holes. I think the key for me tomorrow will be to take advantage of the easiest holes. I think I played very well the difficult ones, but I have not taken (advantage) on the easiest, so let's see what happens tomorrow. "
Jose de Jesus Rodriguez
The Mexican "El Camaron" Rodriguez made five birdies in the first eleven holes, with a run of birdie-birdie-par-birdie-birdie from 7 to 11. His pace was cut at 12, where he made his only bogey of the day. "I missed two short putts the moment I thought I had the round going," said the 32-year old leader of “Los Cinco” after a 68.
“Tomorrow is the last chance and I have to be more aggressive than normal," he said about the final round where he will enter with a five-stroke deficit and tied for fifth with Venezuelan Otto Solis (70), Mexican Yoshio Yamamoto (71) and American Vince India (72). Rodriguez is the current No. 1 of the NEC Series PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Order of Merit, with a win and three top 3's in his past three events.
Best round of the day
67 (-5) Julian Etulain (ARG), Armando Villareal (MEX)
R1: Manuel Villegas, Colombia 65 (-7) Mauricio Azcué, Mexico 69 (-3)
R2: Liam Logan (USA) 67 (-5)
R3: Oscar Serna (MEX) 69 (-3)
Sunday Tee Times
The final round will begin at 8:15 a.m. with players teeing off from the first tee. The last group, Jorge Fernandez-Valdes and Liam Logan, will begin at 12:50 p.m.