Finau leads Mexico Open at halfway point; Rahm 6 shots back
VALLARTA, Mexico (AP) — Tony Finau kick-started what had been a disappointing 2022 with a runner-up finish in the Mexico Open at Vidanta. He moved into position for an even better result on Friday, shooting a 7-under 64 to take a one-shot lead through two rounds.
Finau, the second highest-ranked player in the field behind world No. 1 and defending champion Jon Rahm, made five birdies on his front nine — none from longer than 11 feet. After four straight pars, he holed a 30-footer on the par-3 fifth hole for the first of three consecutive birdies.
The 33-year-old Finau was at 13-under 129 at Vidanta Vallarta, one better than Brandon Wu — who finished alongside him in a tie for second last year — and Erik van Rooyen. Wu closed with three straight birdies for a 64; van Rooyen shot 66.
Playing for the second time since his win at the Masters, Rahm hit a snag in windy afternoon conditions when his tee shot on the 142-yard, par-3 ninth hole came up short and found the water, leading to double bogey. He bogeyed the long par-4 10th, but rallied with four birdies in his final eight holes to shoot 68. Rahm was six shots back.
“We played eight holes decently easy compared to how windy it can get here and after that it got quite windy at a tough spot, right? Nine and 10 are not the easiest holes on the golf course and we caught the switch right there. I wish I could have handled that a little bit better,” Rahm said.
“It’s how the golf course is supposed to play, I think. I think it was built to have some wind and thus that’s the defence.”
Finau didn't have a top-15 finish last year before his tie for second at Vidanta. He later won in back-to-back weeks at the 3M Open and the Rocket Mortgage Classic, then picked up another win at the Houston Open last fall for his fifth PGA Tour victory.
Since then, he hasn't missed a cut but hasn't seriously contended, with his best finish a tie for seventh at Kapalua in January. He is 16th in the world.
“Sometimes you've got to ride the waves with your putter throughout a season. I haven't putted it great statistically over the last couple months, but things change fast,” Finau said. “This was a place where a lot of things changed for me last season.”
Raul Pereda, a Mexico City native making his PGA Tour debut on a sponsor exemption, holed a 3-wood from 249 yards, the longest hole-out on tour this season, for an eagle on the 511-yard 16th. His shot landed on the front of the green and was rolling fast when it crashed into the flagstick and dropped.
Pereda couldn't see the result from the fairway and high-fived a camera operator when he got confirmation his ball was in the hole. He shot 70 and was six shots back.
Andrew Putnam (66), Will Gordon (66), Eric Cole (69), first-round leader Austin Smotherman (70) and Akshay Bhatia (65) were four shots off the lead.
Taylor Pendrith of Richmond Hill, Ont., is tied for 12th at 7-under. Michael Gligic of Kitchener, Ont., is tied for 62nd at 2-under.
Wu is 25 under in his last four rounds at Vidanta.
"I really enjoy the course, there’s plenty of birdies out there, so if I can just focus on staying within myself, not getting too caught up in trying to win my first time or whatever, I think I can have a good weekend," Wu said.
Van Rooyen, a South African seeking his second PGA Tour victory, birdied three of his last four holes and was feeling comfortable at this resort course off the Banderas Bay on Mexico's Pacific coast.
“Awesome little food trucks by the beach there, it’s beautiful at night. A lot to love about this place,” he said.
Van Rooyen took three months off last year to deal with nagging injuries, including neck and lower back spasms.
“It’s taken me a while to find my flow again and find some momentum and get on the front foot. Things seem like it’s starting to turn, which is great,” he said.
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The Associated Press