PUERTO PLATA, Dominican Republic — The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted PGA TOUR Latinoamérica players in many different ways. For Argentina’s Alejandro Tosti, it was a blessing in disguise as the lack of playing opportunities allowed him to focus on earning his Spanish
language and literature degree from the University of Florida.
Tosti had his last final exam a week ago and will receive his degree during a virtual graduation ceremony this coming Saturday. Carrying on the excitement of having achieved a major personal goal into this week, Tosti fired a bogey-free, 8-under 63 Thursday to hold the outright lead in the opening round of the Puerto Plata Open.
“This year I was able to take advantage of such an unfortunate situation as the one we are living with COVID-19. It was incredible to be able to complete my college education,” said the 24-year old who leads by one over last week’s Shell Open winner, MJ Maguire, who birdied the last four
Five players—Mexico’s Oscar Fraustro and Americans Brandon Matthews, Neil Gannaway, Brendon Doyle and Patrick Newcomb—trail Tosti by two shots in a tie for the third spot.
After walking away with a par at the par-5 first, where he had an eagle chance, a birdie at the par-3 No. 2 boosted Tosti’s confidence. “I hit a great shot and made the putt, and I had this feeling that something good could happen today. It was just a matter of keep trying, pushing and staying on pace,” said the Rosario, Argentina, native who birdied four of the last five holes on the front nine to make the turn at 5-under.
He birdied No. 10 to start the back-nine and closed his round with birdies on 15 and 17. His tee shot at the par-3 17th, where he hit a 6-iron into the wind, was so pure that his playing partners and his caddie thought it was going in. “The ball was still up in the air, and I said, ‘What a nice shot.’ I hit a really nice one there, and it felt so good. My caddie started yelling, ‘You made it, you made it’, but I didn’t think it was in. I have never made a hole-in-one, and I didn’t feel this was it. It would have been nice, but when we got there the ball was three feet short of the hole,” said Tosti, who kept his scorecard clean by sinking a four-footer for par at the last.
Coming off a win last Sunday and having recorded a runner-up finish at this same event only two years ago, Maguire feels as confident as anyone. The University of North Florida alum provided proof of his good momentum with a birdie-birdie-birdie-birdie finish.
“I think it’s just a matter of being comfortable on these greens. The paspalum (grass) is a different kind of art, it takes a different style to read the greens here and I’m comfortable because I play a lot on this type of grass in Florida. I think that gives me a little bit of an advantage,” says the 28-year old, who moved into the second spot of the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Order of Merit after his triumph.
This was also a good day on the local front, with two players from the Dominican Republic making the top 25. Juan José Guerra leads the way in a tie for eighth, at 5-under 66, while Willy Pumarol holds a piece of the 17th spot at 67.
Did you know Alejandro Tosti has recorded three rounds of 63 or better in only seven rounds he has played this PGA TOUR Latinoamérica season? In addition to Thursday’s 8-under 63, he recorded a 10-under 62 in the first round and a 9-under 63 in the second round at the Estrella del Mar Open last March in Mazatlan, Mexico.
Starting the day on No. 10, Brandon Matthews shot par on his first nine holes, making two birdies and two bogeys. The Temple University alum bounced back with six birdies on the front nine, including a string of five in a row from No. 3 through No. 7.
The last time Oscar Fraustro played a PGA TOUR Latinoamérica tournament in the Dominican Republic, he took home the trophy, at the 2012 DR Open, in Punta Cana. He is hoping for a similar outcome after a promising round of 6-under 65. The 38-year old got off to a terrific start, birdieing five of the first seven holes. He recorded only one more birdie the rest of the way. Fraustro, a two-time PGA TOUR Latinoamérica champion who played one full season on the PGA TOUR, in 2015, joined this week’s field via his Korn Ferry Tour category.
Brendon Doyle has yet to make a cut this PGA TOUR Latinoamérica season, so his bogey-free 65 gives him a very good chance to make it into the weekend. The Indiana University alum kept his game sharp this fall competing in the LOCALiQ Series, where he recorded three top-six finishes,
missing only one cut in five starts and recording 11 of his 15 rounds in the 60s.
After successfully navigating this week’s Monday qualifier to make his PGA TOUR Latinoamérica debut, Neil Gannaway carded a solid 65 that featured eight birdies. The 27-year old joined the Tour last January, earning conditional status with a tie for 22nd at the Mission Inn Q-School.
Gannaway played football at Tennessee Tech, where he was a wide receiver. He had 16 career receptions, and he scored his first touchdown on a 20-yard pass reception from quarterback Darian Stone against Austin Peay. He joined the golf team in the spring of 2015 as a senior and then played in the fall season as a graduate student.
Patrick Newcomb probably had the best start to the tournament, going eagle-birdie on the first two holes. He was 5-under through seven but added only one more birdie on a bogey-free opening-day performance. A winner on both PGA TOUR Latinoamérica and the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada, Newcomb had a busy LOCALiQ Series season. He played all eight
tournament, missing only one cut and tying for eighth at the season-ending LOCALiQ Series Championship four weeks ago.
Playing this event as an amateur last year, Juan José Guerra of the Dominican Republic fired an opening 63 to hold a three-shot lead before tying for 23rd. Thursday, he made his return as a PGA TOUR Latinoamérica rookie and posted a 5-under 66 to tie for the eighth spot.
The other local player inside the top 25 is Willy Pumarol, who shot a 4-under 67 to tie for 17th.
Making his 99th career PGA TOUR Latinoamérica start, the 31-year old is hoping to build on last year’s success, when he entered this event’s final round holding the lead before tying for third for his best career Tour finish. Last September, Pumarol was the only local player to make the cut at the PGA TOUR’s Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship on his way to a tie for 65th at 2-under. That was his first made cut in two PGA TOUR career starts.
Chile’s Cristóbal Del Solar started his Puerto Plata Open title defense with a 3-under 68 to move into a tie for 32nd. The Florida State University alum was at even-par through 14 holes, but put together a trio of birdies between Nos. 15 and 17.
Brazil’s Alexandre Rocha, the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Order of Merit leader, with 529 points collected in two starts this season, carded a bogey-free 68 to tie for the 32nd. Rocha won the season-opening Estrella del Mar Open, shooting a 72-hole record of 29-under par.
This is how the players inside the Order of Merit top-10 did today at Playa Dorada Golf Course:
|Alex Rocha (Brazil)
|T32, 68 (-3)
|MJ Maguire (U.S.) 2nd, 64 (-7)
|2nd, 64 (-7)
|Álvaro Ortiz (Mexico)
|T87, 71 (par)
|Andrés Gallegos (Argentina)
|T17, 67 (-4)
|Raúl Pereda (Mexico)
|T49, 69 (-2)
|Rowin Caron (Netherlands)
|T63, 70 (-1)
|Chris Wiatr (U.S.)
|T87, 71 (par)
|Leandro Marelli (Argentina)
|T32, 68 (-3)
|Joshua Lee (U.S.)
|T63, 70 (-1)
|Brad Schneider (U.S.)
|T32, 68 (-3)
“I struck the ball really well and made some key putts, like the one I made at the last, a fourfooter to save par to close a bogey-free round. The putter was really important.”—Alejandro
“My year started really well in Mazatlan, where I had two really good rounds. I had a 10-under
and a 9-under, and now I have an 8-under. I haven’t had the consistency that you need because
of the lack of rhythm for not playing; hopefully I catch some rhythm this week.”—Alejandro
“Obviously, winning last week gave me some confidence, so I felt good coming into this week,
where my game is at and everything.”—MJ Maguire
“I made the turn in 3-under, parred 10 and 11 and the had a really clutch up-and-down out of a
plugged lie on 12 that kind of kept the momentum going. I then birdied the last four coming in
to get to 7-under.”—MJ Maguire
“If you keep the ball in play off the tee you’ll have a lot of wedges and short irons into the
greens. With the greens playing as soft as they are, there are many birdie chances, but you have
to stay patient because the greens are not rolling with consistency.”—Oscar Fraustro
First-Round Weather Report
Sunny and clear, with a high of 81.