PUNTA CANA, Dominican Republic (June 1, 2013) - A score of 4-under 68, the best in the final round, helped American Ryan Blaum to come back and win the Dominican Republic Open on Saturday. The victory was the first of his career in the NEC Series PGA Tour Latinoamérica, in the event that closed the first half of the 2013 season.
The 29-year-old from Florida finished at 9-under, winning by two strokes. In second place was Argentine Maxi Godoy, who lost the lead with three consecutive bogeys between Nos. 13-15 to shoot 74.
Third place was shared by Chilean Nicolas Geyger and Colombian Santiago Rivas. Argentines Jorge Fernandez-Valdes and Julian Etulain finished a stroke behind in a tie for fifth.
"I had no idea how the leaderboard was and when I finished I had to ask my friends how were the numbers. Today I put my head down all day and I started to play my game and it seemed to work," said Blaum on a day when the wind on Hard Rock Golf Club at Cana Bay blew strongly and made difficult to score.
Blaum, who was two-time All-American at Duke University and turned pro in 2007, began the day tied for fifth place and four strokes off the lead. That deficit rose to six in just three holes, as Godoy had a solid start of birdie-par-birdie.
The Argentine led after the second round but on Saturday made seven bogeys and just two birdies. Three of his bogeys were in a row from Nos. 13-15 and ended his aspirations to win for the first time.
Playing in the second to last group, Blaum birdied Nos. 6, 7 and 13 to get close. "I feel like I stole a stroke at 13. It is a very difficult hole, 450 yards, into the wind and a difficult flag. There holed a putt from about ten meters. It was very important and I even made a fist pump and that's not usual for me -- I never show much emotion on the course," said Blaum, who tied for the lead when Godoy bogeyed the same hole.
Godoy bogeyed 14 and 15 and that made a two-shot difference. "I was not sure how it was, so when you get to 17 (a 571-yard par 5) I knew I needed to birdie. I hit a good driver, then the 3-iron and from the edge of the green I made two putts for birdie. After doing that I had the feeling that a par in the 18 would be enough," Blaum said.
With the victory, the ninth of his career after NGA TOUR victories and eGolf Tour wins, among others, Blaum climbed to the sixth place in the NEC Series PGA TOUR LatinoAmerica Order of Merit. "This means a lot, especially with the PGA TOUR being involved. The goal obviously at the end of the year is to be part of the top 5, winning the Order of Merit and be one of the five who will play on the Web.com Tour. You can not achieve that goal without winning, so this is a first step to achieve it," he said.
To make this an even more special moment, Blaum had his wife Ashley as his caddie this week. "Winning with her is very special. She is always with me, especially in a week like this. Cheering me up when I hit a great shot and staying positive. "
Partly cloudy day, with a high temperature of 30 degrees Celsius. The wind blew throughout the day from the east and southeast at about 16 km / h.
After seven tournaments in five countries the Tour ends the first half of the season. The first five players in the Order of Merit are Jose de Jesus Rodriguez (Mexico), Jorge Fernandez-Valdes (Argentina), Timothy O'Neal (USA), Oscar Serna (Mexico) and Manuel Villegas (Colombia). When the season ends in December, those who occupy these five positions will win status to play at the Web.com Tour in 2014.
NEC Series PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Champions
Seven of the eight champions from this year’s events played made the cut:
Jorge Fernandez-Valdes, Argentina 68-73-73-69 - 283 (-5)
Jose de Jesus Rodriguez, Mexico 74-70-66-74 - 284 (-4)
Timothy O'Neal, USA 73-71-73-71 - 288 (E)
Sebastian Fernandez, Argentina 73-70-73-76 - 292 (+4)
Manuel Villegas, Colombia 71-73-75-74 - 293 (+5)
Sebastian Vazquez, Mexico 69-73-75-79 - 296 (+8)
Alan Wagner, Argentina 78-68-79-77 - 302 (+14)
The only Dominican player that made the cut shot 74 in the final round to finish at 4 over and in a tie for 33rd.
Best round of the day
68 (-4) Ryan Blaum, USA and Oscar Serna, Mexico
R1: None; R2: Chris Evans, USA 69 (-3); R3: None; R4: None
The competition is now taking a break of four months to return in early October with the rest of the scheduled events. The season will come to an end during the first week of December in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The best five players in the Order of Merit at the end of this event get full exempt status at the PGA TOUR Canada 2013, if they are in the Top 20. If a player declines to take that benefit the exemption goes to the following.
So far Argentine Jorge Fernandez Valdes (No. 2), the Mexican Oscar Serna (No. 4), the Colombian Manuel Villegas (No. 5) and American Ryan Blaum (No. 6) took that option. Jose de Jesus Rodriguez, No. 1 of the Order of Merit, has already had fully exempt status in PGA TOUR Canada.
PGA TOUR Canada season starts this coming week (3 to 9 June) with the Times Colonist Island Savings Open at Uplands Golf Club in Victoria, British Columbia. The season will consist of nine tournaments and ends in mid-September.