Van Rooyen Makes Two Eagles in 63, Leads Valimaki by One Stroke in Mexico

Erik van Rooyen of South Africa was lifted to the top of the leaderboard by two eagles.

The 34-year-old Van Rooyen posted a score of eight-under-par 63 to take a one-stroke lead over Sami Valimaki of Finland after the first round of the 80th Mexico Open at Vidanta at Vidanta Vallarta Golf Club in Nuevo Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico.

“Greedily, I feel like I left a few out there,” said Van Rooyen, who has won six times as a pro, including twice on the PGA Tour. “Then again, a shot like on No. 6, the 3-iron I had into that par-five turned out great. I’m not planning to hit it to within six feet from that flag. A give-and-take in golf, and I’m really happy with the round. Two eagles are pretty rare, right?

“If I think about Chapultepec a few years ago, the WGC we had there was Kikuyu grass, bent grass greens, that’s what I grew up on. I don’t know what it is — got to be the food, the people, the whole shebang. But I like it here.”

Van Rooyen, who won the 2023 World Wide Technology Championship in Los Cabos, Mexico, sank a seven-foot eagle putt at No. 6 and holed out from 70 feet on the 12th hole in addition to adding five birdies against a single bogey in his 63.

Valimaki, who has won seven times as a professional but his seeking his first PGA Tour victory, birdied five of his first nine holes and made a 12-foot eagle putt at No. 7 while shooting 64.

“Sometimes, I have the same issue like in my backswing, just sometimes feel it like it’s hurting a little bit, like a little pain and then I get a bit scared of it,” said Valimaki, who injured his right wrist on the second shot of the day and played through the pain. “Hopefully (the wriest) is good tomorrow.”

David Lipsky of La Canada Flintridge collected nine birdies in a 65 and was tied for third with Henrik Norlander of Sweden, who made three straight birdies on the back nine before closing with a 15-foot eagle putt, MJ Daffue of South Africa had five birdies on the back nine and sponsor’s exemption Cristobal Del Solar of Chile, who made four birdies on the back nine.

Cameron Champ of Sacramento sank a 19-foot eagle putt on the 14th hole en route to a 66 and his in a huge tie for seventh with Patrick Rodgers of Stanford, Andrew Novak, Thorbjorn Olesen of Denmark, Lanto Griffin of Mt. Shasta, Joseph Bramlett of Palo Alto and Stanford, Matt Wallace of England and Cham Kim.

Defending champion Tony Finau made four birdies, but drove into the water on his next-to-last home to make a double-bogey 6 on his way to a 69 and is tied for 29th.

For complete results and second-round tee times, visit:  

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