MAZATLÁN, Mexico—With the Estrella del Mar course playing tougher this afternoon, Mexico’s Alvaro Ortiz was surprised to learn he was the outright leader after posting a 4-under 68 in the second round of the 61st Abierto Mexicano – his national open championship. The 25-year old who carded a 64 to trail by one Thursday, is now the halfway leader at 12-under 132. Ortiz holds a one-shot lead over Jorge Fernández Valdés of Argentina, who fired a bogey-free 64 for the low round of the day, and Ben Cook of the U.S., who shot 67.
A trio of players trailing by two in a tie for fourth includes Alexandre Rocha of Brazil, the man who shot 29-under to beat Ortiz by three shots a year ago at the season-opening Estrella del Mar Open. The other two at 10-under are Hunter Richardson and Roland Massimino of the U.S. There’s another trio sitting at 9-under, with tournament defending champion Drew Nesbitt of Canada joining Luis Gagne of Costa Rica and Joshua Rackley of the U.S.
“I saw a lot of low scores yesterday morning. I didn’t check any scores before going out today, but I thought that one of the guys who shot 6-7 under yesterday afternoon was going to shoot a low one. I though the lead would be at 14-under by the end of the day, so I’m happy to move into the top,” said Ortiz after learning he was the new tournament leader.
“It was tough right from the start,” said Ortiz, who opened the day with three pars and a bogey at the fourth. “The pins weren’t too friendly over the first few holes, so nobody was hitting it close. Anyway, I stayed patient and I had a good stretch from holes 6 through 11 that helped me get the score for the day. I’m pleased for the way I hung in there. It was a tough day and getting a score in the sixties was quite good under the circumstances.”
Ortiz got things going with back-to-back birdies on 6 and 7 to make the turn at 1-under for the day. Then he went birdie-eagle off No. 10 and shot even the rest of the way, with a bogey on 13 and a birdie on 14. His last four pars coming in, included a steal on 17.
“I stole a shot from the course at the par-four 17. I hit the driver into the bunker and then I chunked it. I had 50 yards to the pint and I hit a low shot and left it within inches of the cup. I thought I was going to make bogey or have a long putt for par there, so that par tasted pretty sweet,” said the Guadalajara native, who is scheduled to start the third round at 11:50 a.m. local time Saturday, paired with Fernández Valdés and Cook.
Did you know Ben Cook has made two major championship career starts? Currently tied for second at this event, the 27-year old from Caledonia, Michigan, is a PGA of America teaching pro who made it into the PGA Championship field in 2019 (Bethpage Black) and 2020 (TPC Harding Park) because of his performance at the PGA Professional Championship. He missed the cut in both starts.
The 61st Abierto Mexicano de Golf is supported by Unifin, CONADE and the Government of the State of Sinaloa.
The cut for the top-55 and ties through 36 holes came at 3-under 141 and it was made by 60 players.
There were 73 players in red numbers Thursday at the Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed Estrella del Mar course, where the scoring average came at 71.36 (-0.64). On Friday, the total of sub-par rounds came at 71, with the scoring average at 72.
Leading the tournament at 12-under, Álvaro Ortiz improved his cumulative score to 38-under par in his last six PGA TOUR Latinoamérica rounds at Estrella del Mar. Alexandre Rocha, tied for fourth at 10-under, is still a shot better over the same span at 39-under. Rocha edged out Ortiz by three shots a year ago at the season-opening Estrella del Mar Open.
The low round of the day, a bogey-free 8-under 64, belonged to Jorge Fernández Valdés, who moved him into a two-way tie for second. The 28-year old from Cordoba, Argentina, made his first birdie of the day at the third and then put on a show from the sixth through the fourteenth, going birdie-birdie-birdie-par-birdie-birdie-birdie-par-birdie in that stretch.