Jared Wolfe began the Shell Championship in something of a precarious position. Wolfe is No. 5 on the Order of Merit but only $4,392 ahead of No. 6 Shad Tuten. Wolfe gave every indication Thursday that he has no intention of giving up his money-list spot. Meanwhile, Argentina’s Augusto Núñez did what he seemingly has done all year: he played great golf. Both Wolfe and Núñez fired 5-under 66s to take a share of the first-round lead at PGA TOUR Latinoamérica’s season-ending tournament. The duo leads American MJ Maguire by a shot, with a quintet of players two strokes back—Tuten one of them.
Secure in his Order of Merit position, all but assured of finishing No. 1 for the season, Núñez went out and fired his 11th score of 66 or better of 2019. It was also his 39th sub-70 round of the 57 he’s played this season. Wolfe, knowing he had some work to do to maintain his position, responded well, with a clean front nine. He had three birdies and six pars, adding a birdie on No. 13 and a late eagle at the par-5 16th to go with his lone bogey of the day, at the 10th.
“I kind of kept it steady throughout most of the day. I made a really long putt on hole 8 for birdie, so that was nice,” said Wolfe of the 30-footer he canned. “The front nine was playing tough.”
Núñez got off to a bit of a slow start, with his swing coach, former PGA TOUR Latinoamérica and European Tour member Sebastián Fernández serving as his caddie. Núñez was even-par when he made the turn, with a disappointing bogey at No. 9. No matter, though, as the Tucuman, Argentina, native rolled in four birdie putts in five holes to start the back nine then added one more birdie, at the 16th, to get to 5-under, where he finished.
“Being in contention is always good, and I’m happy about the way things worked out today,” Núñez said. “Coming in this position helps a lot. My thoughts heading into this week is to have fun, and that’s exactly what I’m doing. I’m here to have a good time with my team, and having Sebastián on the bag is just great.”
Did you know Jared Wolfe played four Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada events this summer during the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica break? He made the cut in all four starts, posting three top-10s, a tie for fourth at the Players Cup in Winnipeg his best performance.
MJ Maguire gave no indication early on that at day’s end, he would be near the lead. After a 1-over front nine, Maguire put together a strong final nine holes to shoot a 4-under 67. Even shooting in the 60s seemed somewhat unrealistic early on, considering Maguire was only 1-under overall standing on the 16th tee, the difficult, par-3 17th and par-4 18th in front of him. All Maguire did was finish birdie-birdie-birdie. His birdie streak began with a two-putt on the par-5 16th from 25 feet, followed by a 24-foot, downhill, left-to-right putt that he made after he hit his 6-iron approach to the middle of the green. Maguire finished the birdie run with a gap-wedge approach to five feet, sinking that short, uphill putt.
A pair of ties for 10th are MJ Maguire’s best PGA TOUR Latinoamérica finishes this season. He earned those top-10s at the JHSF Brazil Open and the Neuquén Argentina Classic.
MJ Maguire made the cut in both Korn Ferry Tour events he played this season. His best finish was a tie for 44th, at the TPC Colorado Championship in Fort Collins.
Order of Merit leader Augusto Núñez shares the first-round lead with Jared Wolfe. Núñez merely needs to finish this tournament and cash a check (there is no cut) and he will win the Order of Merit title and Player of the Year honors. Núñez holds a $31,455 lead over No. 2 Tom Whitney. With $31,500 going to the winner, even if Whitney were to win, Núñez would still walk away with the money title.
John Somers survived an interesting front nine to get to 3-under for his round and a share of fourth with 54 holes to play. After parring his first two holes, Somers, winner of the Abierto de Chile earlier this season and No. 4 on the Order of Merit, made a triple bogey-7. He turned right around with an eagle at the par-5 fourth hole and then made a birdie at No. 5. Following a par at No. 6, Somers birdied the seventh, bogeyed the eighth and made par at No. 9 for an even-par 36. His back nine was less adventurous, consisting of three birdies and six pars.
Justin Suh began the week 30th on the Order of Merit and was hoping for a big week. He opened with a 6-over 77. The last time Suh shot an opening-round 77, he came back the next day with a 65 at the Neuquén Argentina Classic to make the cut on the number. Two more 68s followed on the weekend and he tied for 10th. Suh is hoping for a similar turnaround this week.
Tom Whitney, No. 2 on the Order of Merit, fired an even-par 71 Thursday. He’s tied for 23rd with seven other players.
Guatemala’s José Toledo is tied for fourth through 18 holes. Although he has five top-10s in 13 starts this year, he’s yet to post a top-five in 2019. His top finish is a tie for sixth at the season-opening Buenaventura Classic in Panama.
Five players eligible for the tournament are not playing this week: Isidro Benítez, Mario Galiano, Rafael Becker, Will Collins and Camilo Aguado.
“I made a pretty bad bogey on No. 9, but I bounced back hitting two solid shots and a nice putt for birdie on No. 10. I did the same on No. 11. On No. 12 I made another good shot and misread my putt, but I hit a good putt. Putting is key here, and if you are showing good touch with the putter, you can make a good score.” –Augusto Núñez
“I struck it nicely right from the start. I hit a great tee shot at the first and hit it close with my approach before missing the birdie putt.” –Augusto Núñez about the beginning of his round
“I made another good one at the second and then made birdie on the third. After that it gets tough with the wind and all that water, so have to play safe too. I hit the ball nicely all day long.” –Augusto Núñez
“It’s always great to start out that way.” –Jared Wolfe on his opening-hole birdie
“I had a little hiccup on hole 10, made birdie on 13 and an eagle on 16. It was a pretty solid day.” –Jared Wolfe
“There’s just as good a chance that I stay at 5 as there is that someone passes me as there is me passing somebody else. Too many scenarios and too many people to worry about. If I go play my game, and I’m playing really well right now, things will take care of themselves.” –Jared Wolfe
“My mindset is to basically go out and play the best I can and not worry about the results. I’m trying to use this as a good building blocks going into the next few weeks coming up. I’m going to play the Jamaica Open next week, and I’ll be playing some mini tours in Florida to stay sharp. I really have nothing to lose; just go out there and free-wheel it and try to make a bunch of birdies.” – MJ Maguire on the fact he cannot mathematically move inside the Order of Merit top 10 regardless of how he finishes this week
“I had a so-so front nine with a couple of three-putts and a couple of bad swings. I really turned it around on 11.” –MJ Maguire on his chip-in eagle
“The wind is tricky, and the greens are firm and fast. You have to hit good shots to hold the greens. The pin locations were a little tricky, so, yeah, I’m definitely pleased with a 4-under today.” –MJ Maguire
“I didn’t see it go in the hole. I kind of flopped it up there. It landed in a good spot, where I wanted it, it caught a nice ridge and rolled. I get up there, I see only one ball on the green and think, Oh, it must be in the hole. That was a nice, little surprise there.” –MJ Maguire on his 11th-hole, chip-in eagle
Tournament Fast Fact
The four previous winners of this tournament—three events in Florida and one in Puerto Rico—are all Americans. Daniel Mazziotta won in Puerto Rico in 2015, Nate Lashley captured the tournament in 2016, Brady Schnell took home the hardware in 2017 and Michael Buttacavoli won in his backyard in 2018.
First-Round Weather Report
Mostly sunny and mild. High of 69. Wind N at 5-8 mph.