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Fernández-Valdés, Miller lead by a shot

CONTACT: Laury Livsey, PGA TOUR
904-525-5538 /  [email protected]

STORY BY: Staff, PGA TOUR Staff

October 1, 2020

LADY LAKE, Florida—One is a three-time winner on PGA TOUR Latinoamérica, while the other has yet to win a multi-day tournament as a professional. That duo—Argentina’s Jorge Fernández-Valdés and American Cole Miller—will battle in the final group Friday holding a share of the 36-hole lead at The Challenge at Harbor Hills. Fernández-Valdés and Miller lead Finland’s Toni Hakula, who will join them in the final group. Americans Piri Borja, Harrison Rhoades and Jacob Bergeron are another stroke back in the sixth LOCALiQ Series tournament of the season.

Fernández-Valdés, winner of PGA TOUR Latinoamérica tournaments in Mexico (2013), Chile (2014) and Brazil (2016), opened with a 5-under 65, the birdies continuing into the second round on another beautiful fall morning. The native of Cordoba stumbled on the front nine, with two consecutive bogeys, beginning at the seventh, after he missed both greens in regulation. Otherwise, it was birdies and pars on his other 16 holes, Fernández-Valdés improving his overall score by a stroke from day one to day two.

“They were two easy holes, and even though I feel like I didn’t play them badly, I didn’t do the normal approach and putt,” Fernández-Valdés said of his front-nine bogeys. “I’ve been playing well for weeks. Even though I didn’t make the cut in Jacksonville, I think my game is having a good time.”

Fernández-Valdés bounced right back after his miscues, with birdies at Nos. 9 and 10. He followed those with three more birdies, two of them coming at Harbor Hills’ only two par-5s—Nos. 12 and 18.

“It’s been a great week for me. I feel very confident and have hit pretty straight off the tee. That has been the key for me,” Fernández-Valdés continued.

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Miller had the challenge of following his sterling 62 from Wednesday, and he acquitted himself well with his four-birdie, one-bogey showing over his second tour of Harbor Hills. The day took a bit of endurance, though. On his first eight holes, Miller made nothing but pars.

“I was just trying to stay patient because I wasn’t making putts like I was [Wednesday],” he explained. Playing Harbor Hills’ back nine first, Miller arrived at the 18th hole, his ninth of the day, and things took off from there. He was in front of that green in two, chipped to four feet and made the birdie putt. “I was able to make that, and it got me into an aggressive mindset. I was able to take advantage a little on my second side.”

Miller went on to birdie Nos. 2, 4 and 7, his lone bogey coming at No. 6. About all of his early pars, Miller said he had good birdie looks but “couldn’t really buy one.”

The difference may have been green speed, after finishing his first round late in the day and starting his second round early. “They were slightly faster greens today, which I wasn’t used to after [Wednesday], having the greens at their slowest. I was just a little off on my reads this morning. I was used to hitting the ball a little firmer and playing a little less break.”

Did you know Jorge Fernández-Valdés defeated current PGA TOUR player Corey Conners, Korn Ferry Tour player Mito Pereira and Brad Hopfinger by two strokes in his Aberto do Brasil win in 2016 and current PGA TOUR player Joel Dahmen and Armando Favela, also by two shots, in his 2014 Abierto de Chile victory?

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POINTS STANDINGS

Through Jacksonville Championship

Pos.Player (Home Tour)PointsPrevious Position
1Bryson Nimmer (Mackenzie Tour)1,419.0001
2Carson Young (Mackenzie Tour)684.30013
3Hayden Shieh (Mackenzie Tour)640.0003
4Stoney Crouch (Mackenzie Tour)552.3334
5Cooper Musselman (Mackenzie Tour)500.0005
6David Pastore (Mackenzie Tour)464.9009
7Alex Smalley (Mackenzie Tour)382.5005
8Rowin Caron (PGA TOUR Latinoamérica)337.41738
9Raul Pereda (PGA TOUR Latinoamérica)327.0176
10Patrick Cover (PGA TOUR Series-China)271.0717

NOTE: THE TOP-TWO FINISHERS ON THE POINTS STANDINGS WILL EARN INVITATIONS TO FUTURE, TO-BE-DETERMINED PGA TOUR TOURNAMENTS.

The Challenge at Hidden Hills is the second event of the Arcis Golf Florida Swing, which rewards the top two performers in the three LOCALiQ Series tournaments in Florida. With his victory at the Jacksonville Championship, Carson Young took the early lead, with Rowin Caron and David Pastore, runners-up in the playoff, in second place. Arcis Golf, the premier operator of public, resort and private golf clubs in the United States, has a current portfolio of 60 properties located coast to coast in 13 states, including The Club at Weston Hills—the site of the final event of the Arcis Golf Florida Swing. Arcis Golf will present a $7,500 bonus to the top finisher, with the second-best performer at the events in Jacksonville, here in Lady Lake and Weston Hills in Fort Lauderdale taking home $2,500.

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ARCIS GOLF FLORIDA SWING STANDINGS

Through Jacksonville Championship

Pos.Player (Home Tour)Points
1Carson Young (Mackenzie Tour)500.0
T2David Pastore (Mackenzie Tour)245.0
T2Rowin Caron (PGA TOUR Latinoamérica)245.0
T4Chris O’Neill (Mackenzie Tour)100.0
T4Camilo Aguado (PGA TOUR Latinoamérica)100.0
T4MJ Maguire (PGA TOUR Latinoamérica)100.0
T4Cole Miller (Mackenzie Tour)100.0
T4Leandro Marelli (PGA TOUR Latinoamérica)100.0
T4Scott Wolfes (PGA TOUR Latinoamérica)100.0
10Patrick Flavin (PGA TOUR Latinoamérica)75.0

Key Information  

The cut came at 2-under, with 66 players advancing to Friday’s final round.

The final grouping of Fernández-Valdés, Cole Miller and Toni Hakula will tee off at 9:50 a.m., Friday.

Last week’s winner, Carson Young, moved into contention again with his 5-under 65. He will begin the final round three shots behind as he looks to increase his Arcis Florida Golf Swing lead.

Co- leader Cole Miller’s last six LOCALiQ Series rounds, dating to his second round at Auburn University Club, where he missed the cut, are 66-69-65-68-62-67.

Finland’s Toni Hakula moved into the third-place position with his 6-under 64 that moved him to 10-under overall. The former Texas Longhorn was at 10-under through 15 holes. A bogey at the par-4 17th dropped him a stroke, but he moved back to 10-under when he birdied the 18th hole.

Toni Hakula lost medalist honors at the PGA TOUR Latinoamérica Qualifying Tournament at nearby Howey-in-the-Hills in January, falling to Jeremy Gandon in a one-hole playoff. He still earned Latinoamérica status for the fourth time in five years. Hakula’s best LOCALiQ Series finish this season is a tie for fifth at The Championship at Echelon Golf Club.

David Pastore saw his streak of 16 consecutive under-par rounds to start the LOCALiQ Series season come to an end Thursday. He was 2-under for the day when he made the turn, but two bogeys, one birdie and six pars left him at even-par 70 and tied for 50th.

David Sanders not only had the low round of the day, he recorded the low 18 this week with his second-round 61, bettering by a stroke the 62 Cole Miller shot Wednesday. Sanders has made four of five cuts on the LOCALiQ Series and used his nine-birdie day to jump into contention for the first time this season. “I’m always one round off. I have one round that gives me problems,” he said assessing his season. “I’ve been putting some solid rounds together. I just have to keep it together for three rounds.”

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David Sanders made 93 feet of birdie putts Thursday, almost half of that total coming on one hole, No. 6, when he rolled in a 45-foot bomb.

On the 10th hole, David Sanders blocked his drive, but the ball hit a tree and bounced back into the first cut of rough. From there, he hit a wedge to 12 feet and made his fifth birdie of the day. “At that point, I started thinking 59, but on No. 11, I missed a nine-footer for birdie,” he said. His other birdies came at Nos. 1, 4, 7, 12, 14, 16 and 18.

After missing last week’s Jacksonville Championship so he could play in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Wichita Open, Patrick Cover returned to action, opening with a 67 and following that with a 1-under 69 Thursday. He is tied for 27th.

PGA TOUR Series-China’s Michael Perras recovered nicely in the second round with a 6-under 64, improving by seven strokes and 54 positions on the leaderboard. Perras’ bogey-free, 6-under performance was something of a surprise considering he was even-par through nine holes (all pars). He rallied on his back nine, with four consecutive birdies after making the turn then finished with a flourish, rolling in birdies at the 17th and 18th holes.

Replicating Michael Perras’ score was Will Grimmer. He, too, opened with a 1-over 71 followed by a 64. Grimmer spread his birdies out among both nines, with four coming on the front nine (Nos. 1, 3, 4 and 5) and three on the back nine (Nos. 11, 14 and 15). His lone bogey of the day occurred on the par-4 17th. 

Michael Perras’ low 18-hole round prior to Thursday was the 66 he shot in the second round of last week’s Jacksonville Championship, a 5-under effort. Will Grimmer’s best 18-hole score this season also came in Jacksonviille, also a 66—but in the first round. Grimmer tied for 29th, his top showing of the season, while Perras’ tie for 21st in Jacksonville is his top finish of the campaign.

Overall points leader Bryson Nimmer has also made the most birdies this season. It was a challenging week for the former Clemson golfer. His 72-71, 3-over score left him five strokes outside the cutline. He also made only two birdies during his 36 holes.

Bryson Nimmer will skip next week’s Classic at The Club at Weston Hills so he can play in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Orange County National Championship presented by Knight 39 in nearby Orlando. Nimmer received the invite after winning the Southern Company Swing, accumulating the most points in the LOCALiQ Series’ first four tournaments. Nimmer has only played in one previous Korn Ferry Tour event, missing the cut at the BMW Charity Pro-Am in his native South Carolina.

Quotable

“Once you get that momentum going and you see a couple of putts go in, it really helps you out. I hit a few [Wednesday] that were a little closer overall, but it was not much difference in ball-striking. The main difference was definitely putting.” –Cole Miller

“On No. 15, I probably had about seven feet, and it was a very straight putt. I played too much break and overcompensated. That was the first one I overcompensated on. I had a really good look on 11, as well. I probably had nine feet or so, and I left that short in the heart. That was another miss that definitely could have been converted.” –Cole Miller

“My strategy is not going to change much around the setup I have going around the course. Obviously, if you’re a little behind and it comes down to a mano-a-mano situation, you can get a little aggressive in certain situations. But at the same time, typically you’re trying to play your best, and your gameplan is going to be the best outline for that.” –Cole Miller

“I don’t think I’ll see much deviation from what I have been doing the last couple of days.” –Cole Miller

“It was a very clean 67. It was relatively stress-free, and, overall, I’m really happy with it.” –Cole Miller

“I’m definitely striking the ball really well. Tee to green I’m very confident in the way I’m playing. I definitely have to make some putts early to get some confidence.” –Cole Miller

“[Friday] will be a day when I have to continue attacking the course. I have realized that being aggressive on a course like this rewards you. I’ve been giving myself a lot of birdie opportunities, and I hope tomorrow is no exception.” –Jorge Fernandez Valdes

“Another factor to consider is experience. Fortunately, I have been in the last group several times, and if that is the case [Friday], I will try to play my best.” –Jorge Fernandez Valdes

“In Latin America, I have been in this situation many times, and in several I have been victorious. I look forward to calling home and giving good news.” –Jorge Fernandez Valdes

“I was really efficient off the tees, driving it really well. I left myself a lot of good looks into the green.” –David Sanders

“I stuffed a couple early, got the momentum going, made some 10-footers and kept draining some.” –David Sanders

Next LOCALiQ Series Tournament:

October 6-9
Classic at The Club at Weston Hills
The Club at Weston Hills
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Second-Round Weather:

Sunny and pleasant. High of 80. Wind NE 2-4 mph.