Mexican Makes his Mark in Muscat

Carlos Ortiz celebrates his victory at the International Series Oman. Picture by Paul Lakatos/Asian Tour.

Muscat, Oman: Mexican Carlos Ortiz upstaged Louis Oosthuizen and Joaquin Niemann to record a convincing victory in the US$2 million International Series Oman – the first of this year’s International Series events.

Ortiz, joint leader at the start of day with Oosthuizen and with a host of big-name players breathing down his neck, showed no fear and shot a seven-under-par 65 to top the leaderboard on 19-under.

He beat one of the pre-event favourites Oosthuizen by four, after the South African carded a 69 at Al Mouj Golf, on the Muscat coastline, when the wind was up.

Niemann fired a 67 to take third place outright, one stroke further back, in the Asian Tour’s second event of the season.

Ortiz brilliantly broke away from the pack with seven birdies in nine holes starting from the sixth. At the turn he had a two-shot lead thanks to birdies on six, seven and nine and he left the field trailing in his wake with an eye-catching one-man show, making birdies on 10, 11, 13 and 14. He was able to stroll down the 18th with a four-shot lead over Oosthuizen.

Incredibly, Ortiz started the week with a double-bogey on his opening hole on Thursday but after that he did not drop a stroke over the next 71 holes.

“With the way the wind was, I had to hold on for the first five holes,” said the 32-year-old Mexican – the former Fireballs GC player on the LIV Golf League who now plays for Torque GC, who are captained by Niemann.

“After that it was more downwind, so this is how this course plays and you have to take advantage of it. The wind then kind of calmed down and I attacked the pins, and I made some good putts.

“I hope this is the start of a great year. It means so much to win an International Series event. I would like to play in Majors this year and win on the LIV Golf League.”

The win marked his first success on a main Tour since he claimed the Houston Open on the PGA Tour in 2020. It will also make up for losing in a sudden-death play-off for the individual title at last year’s LIV Golf Tucson. That performance did, however, help the Fireballs win the team title, one of two in 2023.

He becomes only the third Mexican winner on the Asian Tour. Carlos Espinosa was the first at the 1995 Canlubang Classic in the Philippines, while Abraham Ancer, also playing this week, was the next, 28 years later, at last year’s season-opening PIF Saudi International powered by Softbank Investment Advisers.

“He (Ortiz) definitely turned the burners on starting the sixth hole,” said 2010 Open champion Oosthuizen.

“You need to do that if you want to win an event. I didn’t really hit it close enough and when I was close enough, I couldn’t make the putts. I had a solid round, placed nicely but not good enough. I love the golf course. I am definitely coming back here.”

Said Niemann: “I knew I needed to play good today. It was tricky with the wind. I didn’t think Carlos (Ortiz) was going to go that low. I gave myself a lot of chances on the back nine, but I didn’t make birdies. I fought hard, and it was a lot of fun. I would have loved to have been in that group fighting with Carlos. This is good preparation for the next two weeks on LIV.”

Mito Pereira from Chile, also on Torque GC, tied for fourth six behind the winner following a 66, along with Australian Maverick Antcliff, who fired a 65.

Japan’s Takumi Kanaya defended his title well, closing with a 68 to take a share of seventh, on 11-under.

Last week’s winner of the Malaysian Open, Spain’s David Puig, tied for 10th after a 68.

The Asian Tour travels to the Southern Hemisphere this week for the 103rd New Zealand Open presented by Sky Sport. The NZ$2 million (about US$1.24 million) event is being played on the Coronet and Remarkables Course at the Millbrook Resort, in Queenstown (February 29-March 3). Australian Brendan Jones is the defending champion.

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