Answer: This 29-year-old became the first Mexican winner on the PGA Tour in 42 years when he won the 2020 Vivint Houston Open.
Question: Who is Carlos Ortiz?
America dominated the international news over the past five days, due to an historic presidential election and increasing cases of COVID-19, but it was a player from its Southern neighbor who finished out front at Memorial Park, outdueling a number of Tour heavyweights on his way to a two-stroke victory over Hideki Matsuyama and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
Scoring was surprisingly low on Sunday in Houston. Brandt Snedeker was the round-one leader opening with a 5-under 65, but in the final round there were 10 scores of 65 or better, including Ortiz’s stellar bogey-free 65.
Ortiz, a North Texas product, finished 13-under for the week, the highest winning score since 2009.
In addition to having to contend with big names such as Johnson and Matsuyama, two players who have combined for 28 Tour victories (Johnson 23, Matsuyama 5), Ortiz also had to find his best game when the two other members of his final-round pairing, Sam Burns and former world No. 1 Jason Day, struggled terribly in warm-up to next week’s Masters Tournament.
Burns, the 54-hole leader by two over Day and Ortiz, bogeyed the first hole and then double-bogeyed the par-4 4th hole to fall early, and Day was 4-over when he carded his first birdie of the final day on the par-4 13th.
Not able to feed off the other members of his pairing, Ortiz looked surprisingly comfortable, ,with birdies on 4, 8, and 9 to make the turn at 3-under. Down the stretch, it became a three-man race with Johnson and Matsuyama, and Ortiz was able to finish out front after a late birdie on the 16th, and a capper birdie on the 18th.
Ortiz had a one-stroke lead on the 18th tee box after both Johnson and Matsuyama missed birdie putts inside 24 feet.
Despite nabbing his first career victory on the world’s biggest Tour, Ortiz did not qualify for The Masters next week, which was pushed ahead from April to November after the COVID-19 pandemic forced a three-month Tour layoff. The win did, however, qualify him for Augusta’s 2021 edition next spring. It will be his first Masters start.
Johnson, who had to sit out the past few weeks after testing positive for coronavirus, surged from three strokes behind Burns to the front of the pack after playing his first seven holes in 4-under.
The 36-year-old Coastal Carolina product had won three times and finished runner-up two additional times in his previous nine starts dating back to late June. Matsuyama, a Japanese phenom, was looking for his first Tour win since he took three events in the 2017 season. Matsuyama’s bogey-free 7-under 63 tied two other players for the Sunday low.
Also of note was the 65 shot by four-time major winner Brooks Koepka, who appears to be back in form after an injury hindered his more recent results. Koepka played his front nine in 5-under, finishing in a tie for fifth despite being 2-over after two rounds.
Final Top 10 Leaders
Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Carlos Ortiz -13 (-5)
2. Dustin Johnson -11 (-5)
2. Hideki Matsuyama -11 (-7)
4. Talor Gooch -9 (-7)
5. Brooks Koepka -8 (-5)
5. Sepp Straka -8 (-1)
7. Mackenzie Hughes -7 (-7)
7. Tyrrell Hatton -7 (-5)
7. Jason Day -7 (+1)
7. Sam Burns -7 (+2)
11. Shane Lowry -6
14. Francesco Molinari, Viktor Hovland -5
17. Maverick McNealy -4
26. Tony Finau -3
28. Russell Henley -2
35. Adam Scott, Scottie Scheffler -1
41. Graeme McDowell, Brandt Snedeker +1
47. Zach Johnson, Sungjae Im +3
How Carlos Ortiz Won the Vivint Houston Open
Carlos Ortiz’s victory is even more impressive when you consider that he had not really been in this position before. Prior to this week, his best finish on Tour was a runner-up at the 2019 Mayakoba Golf Classic in his native Mexico, an event with a much weaker field.
At that edition of the Mayakoba, Ortiz had begun the final day three strokes behind champion Brendon Todd, and double-bogeyed his first hole before a flurry of birdies landed him in second place.
Ortiz gained 4.4 strokes on the field tee-to-green on Sunday, a product of hitting 15 of 18 greens in regulation. He also gained more than two strokes around the greens.
For the week, his 18 birdies tied for sixth in the field, and his five bogeys were better than all but one player. He led the field in scrambling, finished second in strokes gained: around-the-green, and was fifth in both strokes gained: putting and strokes gained: tee-to-green.
What It Means For Ortiz
Winning had to be a relief for Carlos Ortiz, as the last time he had claimed victory anywhere was when he took three Korn Ferry Tour events in 2014. He lost his Tour card after two mediocre campaigns in 2015 and 2016, but gained it back in 2018 and had made 50 starts over the previous two seasons, with six top-10s.
In the 2020-21 wraparound season, Ortiz had made five starts, but failed to finish better than T35 in any of them, missing the cut twice. This should give his career considerable momentum going forward, even with having to sit out The Masters next week. He will not have to worry about losing his card agaon for at least two years.
Ortiz jumped from 160th to 65th in the world rankings, his first time inside the top 100. He made the FedExCup playoffs the past two years, but has failed to advance beyond the second round. This win gives him an excellent shot at his first trip to East Lake, the site of the Tour Championship.
Talor Gooch finished T4 at last year’s Houston Open, and with a field co-low 7-under 63 on Sunday, he again took fourth, holding that position solo this time.
Starting the day T18, Gooch got hot down the stretch with birdies on four of his final six holes. The 28-year-old has been in excellent form as of late, finishing T5 at The CJ Cup @ Shadow Creek and shooting a second-round 63 at the ZOZO Championship @ Sherwood.
Also tying the 63 posted by Gooch and Matsuyama was Canada’s Mackenzie Hughes, who moved 21 spots up the final leaderboard from 28th to T7. Hughes, who has been very hit-or-miss since the Tour re-start, led the field for the week in strokes gained: putting.
The field for next week’s Masters should take note of the final round 65 shot by Texas product Scottie Scheffler. The 24-year-old had not been in peak form since missing most of September after a COVID-19 diagnosis of his own, but prior to catching the coronavirus, Scheffler finished T4 at the PGA Championship, and posted top 5s in two FedExCup Playoff events.
Jason Day’s stumble was surprising, with his 1-over 71 dropping him from T2 to T7. The former PGA Championship winner has struggled with back injuries in recent years, but looked close to regaining his previously elite form after a July-August stretch with four top-7s in four starts.
Day lost a stroke and a half to the field on both approaches and putting, and hit just five fairways.
Day’s 71 was matched by frequent Tour contender Tony Finau, who fell from T8 To T24 in the process. The long hitter had finished T11 or better six times since mid-July. He bogeyed four holes on his front nine.
The roller coaster week of Will Gordon ended poorly, as he dropped 20 spots on the final leaderboard, from T18 to T38 with a 2-over 72. The 24-year-old shot a 76 in round 1, but got in front of the cut line with a second round 67, and did even better with a Saturday 65.
The Vanderbilt product has struggled since finishing T3 at June’s Travelers Championship.
“I was trying to mind my own business. I’ve been working really hard on staying positive, patient, and not letting my emotions get the best of me, and I think I did an amazing job this week.”
– Carlos Ortiz, Vivint Houston Open Champion