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Brazilian Philippe Gasnier opens three-shot lead in Rio

Gasnier carded two eagles, four birdies and only one bogey to begin the 60th Aberto do Brasil presented by Credit Suisse Hedging-Griffo

Brazil's Philippe Gasnier had two eagles in his opening round today. Enrique Berardi/PGA TOUR

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil (October 17, 2013) -- Coming home to compete at the historic Gavea Golf, a course he has known since he was a little kid, really played to the advantage of Rio de Janeiro’s own Philippe Gasnier on Thursday.

The 34-year old carded an impressive 7-under 62 early in the day to take a three-shot lead that nobody was able to catch during the opening day of the 60th Aberto do Brasil presented by Credit Suisse Hedging-Griffo.

“This is like my second home,” he said of Gavea’s unique 5,915-yard par-69 – a new venue on the NEC Series-PGA TOUR Latinoamérica schedule.

“I grew up playing at Itanhangá (a club located only five minutes down the road), but I have known this course since I was a little boy. I know it quite well, so it’s probably an advantage to be playing here this week. I’m sleeping at home also, so it couldn’t be any better,” added the ‘Carioca’ who has been living in Florida for the past few years. Watch his interview.

The opening round was suspended due to lightning in the area at 4:54 p.m. local time but Round 2 will begin as scheduled at 6:30 a.m. on Friday.

Gasnier, who was paired with his countryman Alexandre Rocha and Mexico’s José de Jesús Rodríguez in one of the threesomes to watch, got off to a hot start in an overcast opening day.

After collecting three birdies in a row early (holes 11, 12 and 13), he carded his only bogey of the day on the 16th. Then he made two eagles on Nos. 18 and 3 to open some room at the top.

“On my ninth hole (18) I holed out from a bunker and then at the third (his 12th) I was hoping to make two putts and sank my first for another eagle. It was a very good round. You know, this course is not easy. It might be short, but not that easy. I believe this could be a good score by the end of the day,” added Gasnier, who made it 7-under for the day with one last birdie at the 5th.

A PGA TOUR Latinoamérica member for the past two seasons, the 5-foot-3 Gasnier successfully advanced the first stage of the Web.com Tour’s Qualifying Tournament last week in Lakeland, Fla.

By the end of the day no other player managed to go lower than 4-under 65, giving Gasnier a shot at the largest opening round lead ever in the history of the Tour.

Those four at 65, sitting in a tie for second, are Colombia’s Manuel Villegas, Chile’s Nicolás Geyger and Brazil’s Ronaldo Francisco and Rafael Barcellos.

NOTES:

Weather. Cloudy skies. Average temperature 75 degrees. Winds South at 13 mph.

Play suspended. The day began at 6:30 a.m. and finished at 4:54 pm when some rumbling in Rio’s sky forced Tour officials to suspend play.

Friday. The second round will start at 6:30 a.m., just as originally scheduled. The 21 players who were unable to finish the first round will need to be in position to resume play at 7 a.m.

Manuel Villegas. The Colombian got off to another good start, playing on the groups that teed off at 6:30 a.m. “On the front nine I made a couple of good saves for par and then I struck the ball a lot better on the back and holed a couple of putts. I’m happy with the way I’m playing. I just need to keep doing the same, just as last week,” commented the 28-year old who played the Copa Los Andes about a decade ago at Gavea.

Nicolás Geyger. His round of 65 was the only bogey-free round of the day. He started off the tenth and made his birdies on 11, 13, 2 ​​and 3. Geyger has had three top-25 finishes on his last six starts on Tour and says that he worked really hard to be in good shape for this second half of the season.

Alexandre Rocha. The top local player had a fairly decent start of four birdies and one bogey to finish the day in a group of five players tied for sixth. A PGA TOUR member in 2011 and 2012, and currently competing on the Web.com Tour, Rocha is playing the Aberto do Brasil for the first time since 2010. He is also looking for his first career win in the event.

Gavea’s Par-69. Gavea Golf & CC has a very unique par-69 that is only 5,915 yards long and provides some stunning views of this part of Rio. It features six par-threes, nine par-fours and three par-fives. The 18-hole record belongs to Hall of Famer Gary Player who carded the first 59 ever made in South America to win the 1974 Aberto do Brasil – at the time the course played as a par-68.

W/D. Odair Lima withdrew before of back pain and was replaced in the field by Carlos Eduardo Sá. Luis Carlos Pinto withdrew at the end of the round due to an ankle injury.

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