Modest start for Arjun Atwal in Mexico

Vallarta: Continuing to divide his time between the PGA TOUR and the PGA Champions Tour, India’s Arjun Atwal opened his campaign with a one-under 70 to lie tied 65th at the Mexico Open.

Atwal, who turned 50 last month to become eligible for the PGA Champions Tour, had two birdies, one of them on his closing 18th hole against one birdie.

Atwal, who recently finished T-11 on his Seniors debut, is playing his seventh event of the season, where he will complete 20 years next season.

American Indian Akshay Bhatia (68) was T-31st, while Aaron Rai was T-81 with a score of 71.

Two Koreans — Sung Kang and S H Kim — were the best Asians alongside China’s Carl Yuan and Marty Dou Cheng. All of them carded 2-under 69 each and were Tied-50th.

Austin Smotherman, who won the Mexico Open in 2018, when it was part of the PGA TOUR Latinoamerica schedule, finished with four straight birdies for an 8-under 63 and a one-shot lead over Erik van Rooyen and Tano Goya. Smotherman played bogey-free at Vidanta Vallarta.

Van Rooyen played his final five holes in four-under and it included an eagle on the par-4 15th when he holed out from 141 yards.

Masters champion Jon Rahm, who won the Mexico Open at Vidanta in 2022, had five birdies on his last 11 holes to overcome a slow start for a 67. Tony Finau was among five players at 65.

The Mexico Open, which started in 1944, has had past winners like the legendary Ben Crenshaw, Billy Casper, Lee Trevino, Bobby Locke and Roberto De Vicenzo.