PORTO FELIZ, Brazil—On a tight leaderboard late on a Sunday, the 66 JHSF Aberto do Brasil came down to the 16th hole at Fazenda Boa Vista. That was the turning point of the round—and the tournament—as Shad Tuten made birdie there while Patrick Newcomb double bogeyed. From there, Tuten coasted, making consecutive pars to finish at 21-under to secure his first PGA TOUR Latinoamérica title in his 37th career start. He defeated Patrick Flavin and Newcomb by two shots.
Locked in a battle all afternoon, Tuten and Newcomb arrived at the par-4 16th after going back and forth all day. Tuten had just taken a one-shot lead a hole earlier, breaking the deadlock. When the players walked off the 16th green, Tuten held a four-shot bulge on Newcomb as he rolled in his birdie putt while Newcomb was making double bogey—his first double of the tournament.
“It’s been an amazing road. It really has. I’ve suffered a lot. I have a lot of help behind me that has really picked me up. I really have enjoyed this so much. Everything about this week has been great,” Tuten said after hoisting the trophy. “After I hit the tee shot on 17, I felt the weight off of my shoulders. I don’t know what it is. I guess I had a lot of anxiety about that tee shot.”
The win catapulted Tuten into the top five on the Order of Merit, as he moved from No. 25 to No. 5 with five full-field events left on the schedule and the 60-player Tour Championship to end the season. Tuten is assured participation in that limited-player event. His goal now is to stay in the top five.
It was a solid performance all week for the Augusta, Ga., native who lives in Savannah, Ga. Trailing by six shots after the first round, Tuten quietly avoided big numbers all week on his scorecard, limiting his bogeys, making a bunch of birdies and then recording some well-timed eagles. He had three—one each over the final three rounds. It was a stellar showing for a player whose previous-best finish at a PGA TOUR Latinoamérica tournament was a tie for eighth that came this season at the Abierto Mexicano de Golf in Tijuana.
After starting the final round with a birdie at No. 1 Sunday, followed by a par, Tuten eagled the par-5 third hole to let everybody know that despite never having won in Latin America, he wasn’t going away.
“I hit a good shot on (No.) 1, and I had a putt that I knew exactly what the break was. I hit it exactly where I wanted to, so I think that calmed me down a lot and got me into the flow of the round really easily rather than having something else happen,” Tuten added. “I think the eagle I made on 3 was monumental for me.”
In a battle within a battle, Cristóbal Del Solar began the week holding a U.S. $2,909 lead over Jared Wolfe in the Bupa Challenge, a competition that awards a $10,000 bonus to the player who makes the most money in designated events. The 66 JHSF Aberto do Brasil was the final event of the Challenge, and Wolfe made a late charge, tying for 10th in the event and earning enough prize money to move past Del Solar (who tied for 34th) and win the Bupa Challenge by a mere $99. Shad Tuten was also in the mix, finishing third. His victory Sunday left him only $896 behind Wolfe. Chandler Blanchet and Augusto Núñez rounded out the top five.
Did you know Shad Tuten attended college at Armstrong Atlantic State University, graduating in 2014 with a healthcare administration degree? The school is now a satellite campus in Savannah, Ga., for Georgia Southern University.
• Argentina’s Jorge Fernández-Valdés made things interesting Sunday, posting an 18-under score early in the afternoon following his 10-under 61. He started in a tie for 20th when the day began and ended up tied for fourth with American Sam Stevens.
• Jorge Fernández-Valdés is on a roll. After establishing his season-best result a week ago at the Sao Paulo Golf Club Championship, a tie for fifth, he improved on that this week with his tie for fourth. He also established a new career low score with his 10-under 61. Ironically, his career-low Korn Ferry Tour round is a 62, and that also came in Brazil, at the 2016 Brasil Champions.
• A day after shooting a 64, Guatemala’s José Toledo had a disappointing final day, shooting a 2-over 73. His chance at victory ended at the par-5 11th when he made a double bogey. He then made six consecutive pars before finishing with a birdie on 18 that allowed him finish inside the top 10, with a tie for 10th.
• American Matt Ryan earned his third top-10 of the season, thanks to a closing, 7-under 64 that left him alone in sixth place.
• Argentina’s Augusto Núñez didn’t make a run at the leaders Sunday as he still seeks his first victory of 2019, but he did earn another top-10 with his tie for seventh. The Argentinian shot a 1-under 70 for his sixth top-10 of the year. His worst finish in a stroke-play event is a tie for 19th, something he’s done twice (Abierto OSDE del Centro and the Abierto Mexicano de Golf).
• Augusto Núñez maintained his hold on the No. 1 spot on the Order of Merit with his tie for seventh. He leads Tom Whitney by $11,064.
• Moving into the top five on the Order of Merit this week are Shad Tuten (from 25th to fifth) and Patrick Flavin (from 12 to third). Dropping from the top five were Mito Pereira (from fourth to sixth) and Evan Harmeling (from fifth to seventh).
• Rodrigo Lee was never able to gain momentum and make a run at the leaders Sunday, but he did secure the low finish among the Brazilians who made the cut playing in their national open. Lee shot a final-round 70 to tie for seventh.
• Other Brazilians to make the cut included Felipe Navarro (tied for 20th), Alex Rocha (tied for 24th), Odair Lima (tied for 40th), Herik Machado (tied for 44th), Ronaldo Francisco and Gustavo Teodoro (tied for 46th), and Rafael Barcellos (52nd).
• This is the sixth time this season that the 54-hole leader (this week it was Patrick Newcomb) couldn’t convert his lead into a victory. The last time that happened was at the Abierto Mexicano de Golf, when Matt Ryan and Gustavo Silva shared the 54-hole lead but lost when Drew Newsbitt came from behind on the final day.
• There are still no multi-tournament winners in 2019. In 10 tournaments, PGA TOUR Latinoamérica has crowned 10 different champions: Jared Wolfe, Andrés Echavarría, John Somers, Tom Whitney, Cristobal Del Solar, Evan Harmeling, Patrick Flavin and Chandler Blanchet.