There was a moment during the third round of last week’s Barclays Championship when the CBS commentators seemed to hesitate when they saw an unfamiliar name at the top of the leaderboard.
Carlos who? He shot 62, with seven birdies and no bogeys? Really?
As most keen Guadalajara sports fans know, 24-year-old Carlos Ortiz is a hometown lad in his rookie year on the PGA Tour – only the sixth Mexican golfer to grace its ranks in its 47-year history.
Despite being one of the tour’s most unheralded players, Ortiz’s best-ever round as a professional at the Plainfield Country Club in Edison, New Jersey on Saturday earned him a place in the second leg of the FedEx Cup playoffs, which moves this week to Boston, Massachusetts for the Deutsche Bank Championship. (Unfortunately, Ortiz’s touch failed him in Sunday’s final round as he carded 74 to finish tied 24th.)
The PGA introduced the FedEx Cup playoffs in 2007 to inject some end-of-season drama into the tour. Following Plainfield, the top 100 players in the FedEx points list qualified for the second of the four playoff events. Ortiz currently stands in 83rd place. Another good showing in Boston this weekend could move him into the top 70 and qualification for the third leg of the playoffs, the BMW Championship from September 17-20.
The Guadalajara-born rookie would then need to hit some outstanding form to get into the top 30 and qualify for the Tour Championship finale at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta and a shot at the whopping – and almost nauseous – ten million-dollar (yes, ten million-dollar) top points bonus prize.
Ortiz failed to qualify for any of this year’s four majors but retained his 2016 PGA card after making 18 cuts in the 28 regular season events in which he took part. Earnings of US$880,234 was not a bad haul for a debut season, although he is a long shot for rookie of the year.
Can Ortiz replicate the form that tamed Plainfield or was that remarkable round a one-off? Members of the Guadalajara Country Club where Ortiz learned his trade will be watching anxiously this weekend, as will all golf fans south of the border.