Mexico Open 2023 score: Jon Rahm, Tony Finau hunt as Austin Smotherman leads after Round 1

VALLARTA, Mexico (AP) — Austin Smotherman has been named to the Mexican Open trophy. He ended his round on Thursday like he’d love to see it there again, finishing with four birdies in a row for an eight under 63 and trailing Erik van Rooyen and Tano Goya. one time.

Masters champion Jon Rahm, who won the Mexican Open at Vidanta for his only PGA Tour title a year ago, had five birdies in his final 11 holes to overcome a slow start to 67 points. .

Smotherman is indecisive on the PGA Tour. He won the Mexican Open in 2018 on a different course — it was held in Tijuana that year — and when it was part of the PGA Tour Latinoamerica schedule.

Even so, the Mexico Open dates back to 1944. His name is on the trophy along with Ben Crenshaw, Billy Casper, Lee Trevino, Bobby Locke and Roberto De Vicenzo.

“I mean, it’s still a little goosebumps thinking about it,” Smotherman said. “Just the reception, winning such an event, the Mexican Open, the tournament has such a deep history. There are names on that trophy that are in the Hall of Fame.

“An open country anywhere is very special.”

Smotherman plays no bogey at Vidanta Vallarta. He only missed three greens on a clear morning. The most recent was on his last hole, the ninth par-3, and he scored the eighth birdie of the round.

Van Rooyen also had a great finish, playing his last five holes under 4. That includes an eagle on the 15th par-4 hole as he dashed out from 141 yards. He also has a pair of birdies at par 5 of the latter nine.

His best moment may be par on the 10th. Standing on the 4-iron shot, the South African stepped back and said: “Bee! Bee! Bee!” Not long after, Chez Reavie and Francesco Molinari and their ball pickers hit the field to avoid a swarm of bees.

“I just say to my caddie, ‘Bee, bee, bee.’ And he looked at me like I was crazy,” van Rooyen said. “So I fell, then he saw them, he fell. Frankie and Chez, they looked at me like I was crazy and then 30 seconds later the bees rushed at them. It’s funny, but certainly doesn’t want to be burned by bad boys.”

Goya played without a bogey and finished with a birdie from the left of the green on the 18th par-5.

Tony Finau is among five players aged 65, and one of them feels as good as Smotherman. Mexico’s Raul Pereda, who played college golf at Jacksonville University, made his PGA Tour debut as a sponsor exemption in his National Open.

Pereda missed a 4-foot birdie putt at par-5 on day 18 but had no complaints about his first time playing on the PGA Tour.

His coach at Jacksonville, Mike Blackburn, sent him a message before the first round to enjoy every shot as it arrives. He followed the plan perfectly.

“I’m going to have a cold beer after this round today with my parents and keep it simple,” Pereda said. “I don’t think I need to get ahead of myself. For me, it’s like any other sanctioned travel event. It’s 18 holes a day and only 18 chances to score a birdie and only need to commit to taking every hit.”

Rahm will compete for the second time in three weeks since winning the Masters. His start was not ideal in the best of weather conditions. He twice failed to get up and down from just off the green, missing six-foot equals.

But his half began to change when he took an aggressive line across the water and left the post about 7 feet on the 17th par-3 and hit the ball for one of the only two birdies on the hole. That’s in the first round.

He finished with a 25-foot birdie putt, his third birdie put of 15 feet or more.

“The first 13 holes we had almost no wind, in the easiest conditions possible. I wish I could take advantage of it more,” Rahm said. “I’m glad I played as well as I did on the last nine and ended up hitting the ball on the last hole.”

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