PUERTO VALLARTA, Mexico (AP) — Jon Rahm is the biggest star at the Mexican Open and he lived up to his billing on Thursday, participating in a birdie and making a late putt for a 7-under 64 and a five-part lead in the first lap.
Jonathan Byrd, Brendon Todd, Trey Mullinax and Monday qualifier Bryson Nimmer were also at 64. Nimmer played his last five holes under 5, including a bunker shot he fired for the Eagle on the sixth hole par-5.
The Mexican Open is part of the PGA Tour schedule and inherits the history of a national open dating back to 1944. It replaces the Mexico Golf World Championship which was held in Chapultepec in Mexico City for four years. until 2020.
Rahm knew very little about the Vidanta Vallarta course except that he felt comfortable off the tee, and it showed. The Spaniard only missed one fairway and three greens.
He started with a 15-foot birdie putt on the par-5 12th hole, but it was the 30-foot chip-in on the 13th that really got him going. He had to save the par on the 10th and 11th holes at the start of his course.
“I didn’t hit my best irons early on,” Rahm said. “This one was chipped from an uncomfortable and difficult lie. It was a huge bonus. I think a lot of people would obviously watch the eagle on the 7th, but that one at the start was a huge booster.
The Eagle on the 311-yard seventh hole was set up by a big drive to the middle of the green on the par 4 and a 40-foot putt that gave him a share of the lead.
Rahm also birdied each of the three par-5s on the back nine, and perhaps his best shot was his 206-yard approach to just inside 4 feet for a birdie on the par-4 fourth. .
Nimmer finished with a series of good shots. After a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-3 fifth, he drilled for the eagle, shot 2-foot on the accessible seventh and made a 12-foot birdie putt on the par-3 ninth to close. his turn.
Aaron Rai, Aaron Wise and Sahith Theegala were at 65. Rai and Theegala could use the better results this week to move up the PGA Championship points and try to secure a spot at Southern Hills in three weeks.
Next week is the last event for players to qualify in points, which are PGA Tour earnings.
Rahm and Abraham Ancer are the only players in the world’s top 20 at the Mexican Open. This allowed players like Byrd, who has former champion status, to come in.
He enhanced his status with a pair of cuts made in the fall. He finished tied for ninth at Pebble Beach, which took him to the Phoenix Open. Byrd has managed to participate in 10 tournaments so far and feels he is gaining momentum.
“I started the year thinking I could get 15, it looks like I could get more than 20. I’m just happy to have starts,” Byrd said. “And my game is good, so I try to stay aggressive and see what I can do with it.”
Byrd came out for 29 and hit 7 under for the round with a birdie on the par-5 12th. He added a bogey and a birdie the rest of the way.
Patrick Reed won the Mexican championship in Chapultepec two years ago. He had six birdies in his round of 68, which left him three shots behind.
The Pacific wind started blowing as Rahm and the other starters had about an hour left in their rounds, so the Spaniard will have to deal with that on Friday.
“We had no wind for 13, 14 holes. It’s very, very impactful,” Rahm said. “Once the wind starts blowing at 20, 30 miles an hour, this golf course starts to show teeth.”
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