PORTO FELIZ, Brazil—Last week, Charlie Hillier opened the Roberto De Vicenzo Memorial 100 Years by shooting a 66. Following his round, he said, “There’s still a lot of golf left to play.” He could have said that after his opening round of the JHSF Brazil Open Thursday, as well, only now he’s four shots ahead of where he was seven days ago. The New Zealand native fired a 9-under 62 Thursday at Fazenda Boa Vista, enough to lift him to a one-shot advantage over Fred Meyer and Chandler Blanchet, the latter looking for his second consecutive win after prevailing a week ago.
Officials suspended play due to darkness with 14 players failing to complete their first rounds.
Hillier had a clean scorecard at the sixth PGA TOUR Latinoamérica tournament of the season—nine birdies and nine pars—three birdies to finish his round enough to give him the early advantage at Brazil’s national open.
“I started burning some (hole) edges on the back nine then made a nice [putt] up the hill, went right in the middle, on 16. My caddie gave me a great read on 17 then I hit it on in two on 18,” said Hillier of his final birdies, a two-putt at the last. “I’ve hit it really good all three weeks,” he said of this opening stretch of the 2023 portion of the schedule. “I’ve just needed some putts to drop, and they dropped today.”
Meyer made four birdies in his last five holes, three of them in succession on his way to a season-best score of 63. He hit his wedge-shot approach on No. 14 to a foot, made a 12-foot birdie putt on 15 and then escaped on 16 after he pulled his tee shot, his ball landing two yards short of the hazard. From there, he hit a wedge to seven feet and drained the birdie putt. His streak ended on No. 17.
“That was probably my only bad tee shot of the day,” Meyer explained of his pulled 3-iron that landed on a sidehill lie. Facing a 132-yard second shot, he hit a full 52-degree wedge with his ball settling 10 feet from the cup. It was a putt he didn’t make, although he came back on the 18th, chipping to two feet and tapping in for his final birdie of the afternoon.
“I played really well. I got off the tee great all day, so I was in position on virtually every hole. I was able to attack the pins. I had pretty much short irons—wedges—in my hands all day and fortunately had a couple of putts drop,” Meyer said after his opening 63, bettered only in his career by the third-round 62 he shot a year ago in Bucaramanga, Colombia, at the Fortox Colombia Classic. That, too, was an 8-under score on the par-70 Ruitoque Golf and Country Club.
Blanchet has gone bogey-free in an every-other-round fashion in his last two tournaments, with no bogeys on his card in the first and third rounds last week and then in Thursday’s first round at Fazenda Boa Vista.
“It was a great opening round. I started off good right from the get-go,” said Blanchet of his birdie on his first hole. He added two more and then rolled in an eagle putt at his ninth, the par-5 18th. That eagle, a 15-foot putt, gave him three eagles in 14 holes going back to last week’s win in Argentina. That included his hole-out from 124 yards, his final stroke of the tournament he won by three shots.
Did you know this is Aaron Terrazas’ 27th PGA TOUR Latinoamérica start, and his 24th as a professional? He has two career top-10s to his credit, his best showing coming at the 2021 Visa Argentine Open, where he started slowly (3-over 75) then was 10-under the rest of the way to tie for fourth.
|2022-23 Final Totalplay Cup Position
|Will receive exempt status on the 2024 Korn Ferry Tour
|Will receive conditional status on the 2024 Korn Ferry
|Exempt into Final Stage of the 2023 PGA TOUR Qualifying Tournament
|Exempt into the second stage of the 2023 PGA TOUR Qualifying Tournament
Totalplay Cup Standings
(Through Roberto De Vicenzo Memorial 100 Years)
|Current Tournament Pos.
|Cristobal Del Solar
On a day he shot a 7-under 64, Aaron Terrazas still had a bogey. On No. 11, his second hole of the day, he hit two great shots on the par-4, leaving him a four-foot birdie putt. “I didn’t think it was that fast, the putt. I hit it a little firm, it caught the lip and I had a six-footer coming back. Missed that one,” Terrazas explained. That was really the only issues he had all day until he made it to his second-to-last hole of the morning, the par-4 17th. He faced a 14-foot par putt that he played about a foot outside the hole, a left-to-right breaker. “It was one of those putts where you had to be so precise with the line and the speed,” the former University of Texas El-Paso player said. “I would say it was the shot of the day, the putt for par, and it was a very nice turning point of the round because you come into 18 with a different mindset.” On his closing hole, Terrazas made birdie for a back-nine 29 that included four of his five consecutive birdies and 31 feet worth of birdie putts during that stretch.
In his final round at Ranelagh Golf Club on Sunday, Peru’s Luis Fernando Barco shot an 8-over 8 to go from a tie for 24th when the day began to a 56th-place finish. Thursday morning, Barco rebounded nicely, opening with a 3-under 68. At even-par through 12 holes, Barco birdied three of his of his final six holes to move into his tie for 25th.
One thing Charlie Hillier remembered vividly about the 2022 JHSF Brazil Open was his final hole of the tournament. “I made a mess of 18 last year,” he said of his double bogey-7 that dropped him from hovering around the top 10 into a tie for 26th. Thursday, Hillier birdied the 18th on his way to a 62.
Even with a stretch where he made three bogeys in four holes, Argentina’s Andres Romero maintained his solid play from a week ago, where he is tied for 14th. At 4-under through 12 holes, Romero finished bogey-bogey-birdie-bogey-birdie-birdie to shoot a 4-under 67. Romero is working on a streak of nine consecutive par-or-better rounds, eight of them under-par and seven in the 60s.
Brazil’s Axell Gustavo Balestre has been an infrequent PGA TOUR Latinoamérica player, primarily playing in the Tour’s Brazil events. In his previous eight Tour starts, Balestre has made only one cut—at the 2019 São Paulo Golf Club Championship. He tied for 62nd.
Stuart Macdonald of Canada is playing only his second Tour event of the season, having made his 2022-23 debut last week at the Roberto De Vicenzo Memorial 100 Years. Macdonald opened with a 5-under 66, giving him five consecutive par-or-better rounds. He fired rounds of 68-71-70-68 a week ago to tie for 16th.
Conner Godsey recorded his 11th consecutive par-or-better round with his opening, 1-under 70 Thursday. Godsey’s last over-par score came in the final round of the Neuquén Argentina Classic in mid-December when he fired a 1-over 73. Since then, he’s had nine under-par rounds and two at even-par—both of his even-par efforts coming a week ago (71-71) as he missed the cut in Argentina.
This is the second consecutive week a player has opened with a 9-under 62 to take the opening-round lead. In suburban Buenos Aires last week, Argentina’s Leandro Marelli made a late birdie to shoot his 62. He eventually went on to finish second, three strokes behind champion Chandler Blanchet.
This is the second consecutive week that U.S. player Briggs Duce has opened with a round in the 60s. He began last week’s Roberto De Vicenzo Memorial 100 Years with a 4-under 66 and eventually tied for 41st. Thursday, the former University of Arizona player began Brazil’s national open with a 3-under 68. This season, Duce is par or better in all six of his opening rounds, with five of those scores under-par. Besides his even-par open at the Neuquen Argentina Classic, Duce has Thursday scores of 69, 69, 70, 66 and now 68. He’s a combined 15-under in first rounds this season.
Besides Chandler Blanchet, the only other 2022-23 tournament winner in this week’s field is Jake McCrory, the Termas de Rio Hondo Invitational champion. He opened with a 1-over 72 and is tied for 92nd.
There are 21 Brazilians competing this week in their national open, with Axell Gustavo Balestre currently the best among them. He’s tied for seventh, four shots back.
“I really like this course. I’m looking forward to the next three days.” –Charlie Hillier
“I’m looking forward to the next three days. When there was wind, it was hard to tell where it was coming from. But when you hit it pretty good, the wind didn’t touch it anyway. I thought I did pretty well managing that.” –Charlie Hillier
“I had a lot of good looks at birdie. Everything clicked for a few holes. I hit the ball really solid all day.” –Chandler Blanchet
“Apart from that, I’ve played some really good golf on this trip down here. I’m just excited to keep going.” –Fred Meyer on his final-round 74 at the Termas de Rio Hondo Invitational, his only over-par round in his last 10 rounds
“Today was pretty much no wind, and pin positions, I wouldn’t say, were accessible, but they weren’t the hardest ones out here. There are for sure harder pin positions.” –Aaron Terrazas
“My initial thoughts are it was solid golf overall. I think I played solid off the tee and approach shots were very solid. My putting was great, I think. It was just one of those days where you don’t feel uncomfortable with anything.” –Aaron Terrazas
“I was like, All right. I got it going. Then I just had to finish strong, like I did.” –Aaron Terrazas on his birdie run on his back nine
First-Round Weather: Overcast and mild, with a slight drizzle at the end of the day. High of 78. Wind W at 1-3 mph.