Alotenango, Sacatepequez, Guatemala (March 29, 2014) – A spectacular run of two eagles and one birdie on the final four holes, vaulted Argentina’s Rafael Echenique into a share of the 54-hole lead with Mexico's Armando Favela at the Stella Artois Open.
Echenique carded a 7-under 65, while Favela, who entered the day holding a two-shot lead, posted a 68. The co-leaders are at 13-under 203 entering the final round of the third event of the 2014 NEC Series-PGA TOUR Latinoamérica season -- the tour’s first event ever contested in Guatemala.
“What matters the most is to have a shot going into Sunday,” said Echenique after charging to the top with an eagle on 15, a birdie on 16 and another eagle on 18 at the demanding Fuego Maya Golf Course at La Reunión Golf Resort.
His second shot at the 510-yard par-5 18th was among the best shots of the day.
“It was movie like!” said the 33-year old who played on the Web.com Tour last season. “When we heard the gallery react to it, we knew it was close.”
The shot came to rest just two feet from the pin for an easy eagle.
In general terms Favela was pleased with his performance, but he couldn’t hide his disappointment after paring the last four holes. On 18 he missed a seven-footer for birdie that would have kept him as the outright leader for the second straight day.
“I played really well," Favela said. "However, it’s bittersweet to finish the way I did over the last four holes. I gave myself many scoring opportunities throughout the day and I have to keep doing the same tomorrow, staying aggressive and making as many birdies as possible.”
On Sunday, Echenique and Favela will be paired together in a twosome scheduled to tee off at 12:10 p.m. local time from the first tee.
Trailing the co-leaders by two is Martin Trainer of Palo Alto, Calif. He fired a course record 9-under 63 to move up from a tie for the 24th spot into the solo third.
Mexico’s Mauricio Azcué, 69, Puerto Rico’s Rafa Campos, 70, and the USA’s Brad Hopfinger, 70, finished the day in a three-way tie for the fourth spot and trail the leaders by four.
Weather. Mostly cloudy. A high of 84-degrees. Winds ENE 8 mph. The lack of wind turned this into a very humid day.
Second round completed early in the day. Saturday began with twelve groups back in position to resume round two at 7 a.m. Play had been suspended due to darkness on Friday afternoon. The second round finished at 8:40 p.m.
Cut. The cut for the top 55 and ties came at even-par 144 and it was made by 58 players.
Trainer’s record round. Thanks to a spectacular finale of birdie-birdie-birdie-birdie-eagle California’s Martin Trainer posted a course record setting 9-under 63 to move up from a tie for the 24th spot into solo third. The 22-year old who turned pro last summer made one eagle, eight birdies and only one bogey in Saturday's third round in which he took just 23 putts. Such a terrific round got him in contention on a week in which he entered the field by finishing in a tie for the third spot at the Monday qualifier.
“I just made a lot of putts and to be frank I was very lucky as well,” said the young man whose highlight of the year was qualifying for the PGA TOUR’s Sony Open in Hawaii in January. “Obviously, to have a round like that you have to play well and be lucky and that’s exactly what happened.”
His great execution on the greens at the Fuego Maya Golf Course helped him save several pars on the difficult front nine. On 14 he chipped in for birdie to get to 4-under for the day and at the point he thought that finishing at 5-under for the day should be good enough. That birdie on 14 turned out to be the start of a run of 6-under par over the last five holes.
“I was lucky to make all those birdies down the stretch, he said. "I mean, just the 18th hole, I practically hit it out-of-bounds and it kicked back in the middle of the fairway and I ended up making a ten-footer for eagle. I mean, that’s just luck.”
Trainer, a PGA TOUR Latinoamérica conditional member, missed out on the Monday qualifiers of the Tour’s first two events of the season but looks poised to cash in this week.