Alvarado takes the early lead at Molino Cañuelas Championship

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina—If Chile’s Cristobal Del Solar can win on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, then apparently Benjamin Alvarado, as a fellow Chilean, feels it’s his turn. Four days after Del Solar became only the second player from Chile to win on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, Alvarado, from Santiago via Arizona State University, opened the Molino Cañuelas Championship with a 8-under 64 to take a one-shot lead over Finland’s Toni Hakula. Brazil’s Alexandre Rocha and Americans Michael Davan and Jonathan Sanders. 

Alvarado, a Web.com Tour veteran who counts a victory at the 2013 Brasil Classic on his career record, is playing in his 25th career PGA TOUR Latinoamérica tournament. His best finish came the same year he won on the Web.com Tour, when he tied for third at the Mexican Open. After 18 holes this week, the 32-year-old Alvarado looks like he’s ready to win again. On his front nine at Cañuelas Golf Club, Alvarado played flawless golf, making three birdies and an eagle to turn at 5-under 31. His back nine was a bit more interesting. He bogeyed the 10th and 16th holes, but recovered well, with birdies at Nos. 12 and 15 and then turned in the kind of finish any player would take—a birdie-eagle effort on the two closing holes. Both of his eagles Thursday came on par-5s, Alvarado hitting the greens in two on both and knocking in long putts. His eagle at No. 5 was thanks to a 25-foot putt. He drained a 15-footer for eagle on his final putt of the day. 

Did you know Toni Hakula 

was teammates at the University of Texas with, among others, 2017 Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada Player of the Year Kramer Hickok and PGA TOUR players Beau Hossler, Cody Gribble and Jordan Spieth? 

Key Information 

First-round leader Benjamin Alvarado has been battling pain in his left wrist. Prior to playing in last week’s 87th Abierto OSDE Del Centro, Alvarado received a cortisone shot at home in Chile and then traveled to Argentina, where he tied for 20th. 

Three players were still on the course when officials halted play because of darkness. The players—Argentines Sebastian Bergagna, amateur Andy Schonbaum and Cesar Agustin Costilla—will conclude their first rounds early Friday morning. 

After parring his first four holes of his back nine, Finland’s Toni Hakula birdied the 14th, 15th and 16th holes. He also birdied the par-5 18th. His round would have really finished with a flourish but for a bogey-5 at the par-4 17th hole. 

Benjamin Alvarado became the 13th player to record two eagles in one round this season. Of that group, Eric Steger has done it twice, at the Guatemala Stella Artois Open and last week at the 87th Abierto OSDE del Centro. 

No first-round leader has gone on to win on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica in 2018. Of the champions this season, Cristobal Del Solar at last week’s 87 Abierto OSDE del Centro had the highest position at the end of 18 holes. He was tied for fifth, two strokes behind the leader. 

Michael Davan is hoping for a better performance this year compared to last. After opening with a 3-under 69 in the first round of the 2017 tournament, Davan skied to an 8-over 80 and subsequently missed the cut. Back in Buenos Aires for a second consecutive year, Davan opened this year’s Molino Cañuelas Championship with a 7-under 65 and is tied for second. 

Benjamin Alvarado’s 8-under 64 easily established a personal, career-best 18-hole score on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica. His previous-low score was the 5-under 67 he shot in the final round of the 2012 TransAmerican Power Products Open in Monterrey, Mexico. 

This is Toni Hakula’s 14th PGA TOUR Latinoamérica start. He played in 10 events in 2016, was not exempt on any PGA TOUR-affiliated Tours in 2017 and returned to PGA TOUR Latinoamérica this year. He has yet to post a top-10, his tie for 30th at last week’s 87 Abierto OSDE Del Centro his best finish. 

Of the players who finished their rounds, 89 enjoyed under-par scores Thursday. By comparison, 25 had under-par scores in the first round last week in Cordoba. 

Tommy Cocha, Jorge Monroy and PGA TOUR veteran Andres Romero shot 5-under 67s Thursday, and they are the top-finishing Argentines after day one. They are tied for ninth. This is Romero’s fifth PGA TOUR Latinoamérica start. He played in two events in 2017. This is Cocha’s 78th tournament, and he counts three victories on his resume. Monroy is making his 58th career start, with five top-10s to his credit. 

Order of Merit leader Austin Smotherman opened the tournament with a 1-under 71, and he stands in a tie for 71st through 18 holes. 

Quotable 

“It was a very nice round. I think the clue today was on the greens. I putted very well today.” –Benjamin Alvarado 

“I have some pain in my left wrist. The (cortisone) shot made me feel a lot better. Last week, I didn’t have any pain. That’s a very nice feeling for me.” –Benjamin Alvarado 

“I made three really good putts of 20-plus feet. That doesn’t happen very often.” –Toni Hakula 

“To be honest, the first year I played on this Tour (in 2016), I played terrible. I only made a couple of cuts the whole year. I had a lot to learn, and I feel a lot more comfortable coming down here playing on courses I already know and know what to expect about travel and playing.” –Toni Hakula 

“I think in golf sometimes you get very fortunate with (distance) numbers you get out in the fairway. I had a lot of really good numbers for me today where I could be aggressive with shots and hit it close. This afternoon it was warm, and there wasn’t a whole lot of wind. With the shots I had good numbers on, I was able to hit it close.” –Michael Davan 

Tournament Fast Fact 

In the inaugural event a year ago, Rafael Becker was the first-round leader (7-under 65), and 54 players enjoyed under-par rounds. 

First-Round Weather Report 

Partly cloudy and warm, with a high of 81. Wind NE at 5-8 mph.

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