Erik van Rooyen rides front-nine 29 to Mexico Open lead

February 24, 2024

VALLARTA, Mexico: Erik van Rooyen shot an 8-under-par 63 to take the first-round lead at the Mexico Open at Vidanta on Thursday.

Erik van Rooyen of South Africa plays his shot from the third tee during the first round of the Mexico Open. — AFP/File

Scorching the front nine at Vidanta Vallarta with an eagle on the par-5 sixth hole and birdies on Nos. 3, 4, 7 and 9, van Rooyen went out in 29. The South African mixed in an eagle, a birdie and a bogey with his six pars on the back nine.

He established a one-stroke lead over Finland’s Sami Valimaki, who secured second place by himself with a 7-under 64. The last time van Rooyen played an event in Mexico, he picked up his second career PGA Tour win at the World Wide Technology Championship last November in Los Cabos. “I don’t know what it is about Mexico,” van Rooyen said. “The food is amazing. This resort especially, it’s pretty laid back. We’ve got great facilities here, beautiful hotel, so it’s just quite a relaxing place and we have a good golf course to boot, so it’s always just sort of good vibes.”

Playing one day after his 34th birthday, van Rooyen stuck his second shot at No. 6 less than 7 feet from the pin and made the ensuing eagle putt. When he got to the 12th, he showed off with his wedge, chipping from 70 feet away and watching his ball roll around the entirety of the cup before falling for his second eagle.

“Yeah, 12’s a funky one because we played it into the wind in the practice round and you obviously can’t get there for two,” he said. “So today was downwind, smash 3-wood and just a beautiful little pitch. It’s something I’ve been working really hard on and to see that goes in, it feels good.”