Rodríguez claims second playoff win, extends lead as Tour No. 1
Bogota, Colombia (November 3, 2013) – Last week Mexico’s José de Jesús Rodríguez, better known by his nickname of “Camarón” (Shrimp), made a big decision. He gave up his spot in the ISPS HANDA World Cup of Golf to focus on the final stretch of the NEC Series-PGA TOUR Latinoamérica season.
“It was a tough decision to make, but we decided to make PGA TOUR Latinoamérica our priority. I believe we made the right decision,” said the 32-year-old when he made it to Bogota at the beginning of the week to defend his position as the Tour’s Order of Merit No. 1. He could not be more right.
Had he chosen to complete his visa request to Australia, in order to play the $7 million event in late November, Rodríguez would have missed four of the final five events on the Tour schedule. The first of those was the Arturo Calle Colombian Classic presented by Avianca, which he won Sunday afternoon.
His success at the Robert Trent Jones Jr. designed San Andrés Golf Club, where he defeated Colombia’s Manuel Villegas in a sudden death playoff that took two holes, was another great demonstration of his strength to come from behind.
Rodríguez was coming off two of his worse performances this season, finishing T37 in Puerto Rico and T23 in Brazil. He started the Colombian Classic carding a 67 and a 73 to trail by ten halfway through the tournament. Although a bogey-free 65 in the third round rekindled his hopes, he entered the final round eight strokes behind South Carolina’s Corbin Miller, the overnight leader by three.
Rodríguez began his the day with an early bogey on 4, but quickly started his charge with seven birdies over the next nine holes. He was suddenly tied for the lead with Corbin with five holes left to play. The U.S. player got to 17-under with a birdie on 2, but gradually lost his good pace and opened the door to several contenders.
“The birdie I made on 9 was critical. It increased my confidence and you know how it works in golf. I said to myself ‘This is your time and you have to take advantage of it.’ Thank God, all those putts started to drop,” Rodríguez said about the streak that got him in contention.
Although a bogey on 14 slowed him down, he kept fighting to find a birdie on 18 to post his second-straight 65 and claim the clubhouse lead at 14-under 270. “I was on a roll and I went for the eagle on 18… I hit it way past the hole, but I managed to make the save for birdie. I was confident I could put it away.”
Playing in the last threesome, two groups behind Rodríguez, Villegas had a chance to secure the win in regulation at the 567-yard par-5 18th. He made a terrific save from a green side bunker and then missed a 5-footer for the birdie and the win to run into a two-way tie with the Mexican.
“In a way, when he missed that short putt (at the 72nd hole), it worked in my favor. Whenever something like that happens, you are not at full strength. I believe it helped me and I’m excited about the playoff win because we have worked very hard for it,” commented Rodríguez, who improved his Tour playoff record to 2-1.
After both competitors made par on the first playoff hole on 18, their battle for the title moved to No. 9, a difficult 233-yard par-3 that proved decisive. While Rodríguez hit the green, 35 feet short of the pin, Villegas missed his tee shot right into the rough. He failed to make the up-and-down and missed an 8-footer for par. Rodríguez, who had missed his birdie try, did not hesitate to make his par for the win.
With the winner’s check for $27,000, the Order of Merit No. 1 improved his season earnings to $96,308.75 in nine starts in which he has posted five top-3 finishes. His lead over the second place holder Ryan Blaum has increased to $ 30,000. The Web.com Tour card is closer than ever for the very likable “Camarón.”
“It’s very nice, it’s a dream we’ve always had, being in this type of event. The most important step is still ahead of us, which is advancing to the Web.com Tour and then to the PGA TOUR. That’s the dream all golfers have,” added a grateful champion.
Two strokes outside of the playoff, Colombia’s José Manuel Garrido, 67, USA’s Timothy O'Neal, 67, and Mills, 75, finished in a three-way tie for third.
Weather. Mostly cloudy. Temperature in the fifties. Wind W at 7 mph.
José de Jesús Rodríguez. He earned his second victory and his sixth top-10 finish of the 2013 season on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica... This was also his 19th career start on the Tour… His $ 123,743.54 in earnings in those 19 starts makes him the Tour’s All-Time money leader… He became the second two-time winner this season, behind Florida’s Ryan Blaum who won the Dominican Republic Open in June and the Aberto do Brasil two weeks ago… Rodríguez had won his first Tour title at the Roberto De Vicenzo Invitational Copa NEC in a playoff involving three players last April in Montevideo, Uruguay... Rodríguez and Blaum are joined by Argentina’s Ariel Cañete and Ángel Cabrera in the list of four two-time winners in the Tour’s history… Rodríguez is the only player who has won both of his Tour titles in playoffs and he is also the player who has been in the most playoffs at three. Last year he lost the Aberto do Brasil in a playoff to Clodomiro Carranza… Trailing the leader by eight shots at the beginning of the day, he also managed to set a Tour record for the largest comeback to win a tournament. The largest comebacks prior to this were by Clodomiro Carranza at the 2012 Aberto do Brasil and by Ángel Cabrera at the 2013 Abierto OSDE del Centro, who overcame six shot deficits before their playoff wins.
Los Cinco. Aside from Rodríguez extending his lead over Ryan Blaum, there were no changes in the top 2. Despite his playoff loss Colombia’s Manuel Villegas was able to move from the fifth into the third spot, moving past Argentina’s Jorge Fernández-Valdés, who fell into the fourth spot after missing his second straight cut. Although he dropped into the fifth spot, USA’s Timothy O’Neal gained valuable points to extend the gap between him and sixth place holder Oscar Serna of Mexico. At the end of the season, Los Cinco, the Tour’s Order of Merit Top 5 players, will gain access to the Web.com Tour.
Manuel Villegas. Beyond the frustration of letting his opportunity to win at home slip away, Villegas should leave the San Andrés Golf Club focusing on the positives. He kept playing solid, carded four rounds under par, was in contention right until the very end and collected his fourth top 10 of the season to move from fifth to third in the Order of Merit. Winner of the TransAmerican Power Products CRV Open last March in Mexico, Villegas made 20 birdies this week and with the 64 he posted last Friday also claimed the OHL-Round of the Week Award.
Low rounds of the day
64 (-7) Jhared Hack, USA
65 (-6) José de Jesús Rodríguez, Mexico; José Manuel Garrido, Colombia
66 (-5) Tano Goya, Argentina; Juan Pablo Luna, Colombia
Omar Beltrán, Colombia (69)
Exempt into the Final Stage of the Web.com Tour’s Qualifying Tournament. In addition to “Los Cinco”, there were five other players who secured exemptions into the Final Stage of the Web.com Tour’s Qualifying Tournament. They are Oscar Serna, Ted Purdy, Ryan Sullivan, Ángel Cabrera (who does not need it) and Andrés Echavarría. The latter managed to climb into the tenth spot in the Order of Merit by making a birdie at the 72nd hole for an eighth place finish this week.
Exempt into the Second Stage. Players who finished the Colombian Classic ranked 11 through 20 in the Order of Merit went on to secure exemptions into the Second Stage of the Web.com Tour’s Qualifying Tournament, set to be played in two weeks. Those who claimed the spots were Sebastian Saavedra, Alan Wagner, Maxi Godoy, Armando Favela, David Vanegas, Samuel Del Val and Rafael Gómez.
Next tournament. The NEC Series- PGA TOUR Latinoamérica is now headed to Lima, Peru where the Lexus Peru Open is scheduled to begin on Thursday. It will be the eleventh event of the season and will be held at Los Inkas Golf Club.