Carlos Ortiz hoped to become the first Mexican to win a PGA Tour event in his home country. Although he fell four shots short of that goal, Ortiz was happy to give the home crowd a rally to cheer for until the very end.
After the 30-year-old Guadalajara native started the day at Mayakoba five shots back of 54-hole leader Viktor Hovland, the chances of a come-from-behind win on home soil looked bleak with a front-nine 36. But after recording five birdies on the back nine, Ortiz rallied for a runner-up finish.
"I'm really proud," said Ortiz, who finished at 19 under. "It was a tough day. I couldn't really find anything on the front nine and I just kept pushing. The people, having them out here, all my friends, I just found a way to get something going. And it's funny how golf works, but once you hit that first shot that you see and how you want it, just clicks and I just find that confidence that I needed to finish strong."
Ortiz felt the weight on his country on his shoulders at first, which may have contributed to his slow start, but he was able to eventually overcome the pressure and record his best finish in exactly 52 weeks.
"I was a little bit tense but that's normal. I really want to put a good tournament, especially for all the people that come out to watch," he said. "I don't know, just couldn't get loose. I was tense, I couldn't really feel it and I don't know, something clicked on the back nine and I finally could feel my shots, I could see the shots I wanted to hit and the putts, they started dropping."
Even though there were only a limited amount of spectators on-site due to COVID-19 restrictions, Ortiz was "pleased" that he was able to give them something to cheer for and Justin Thomas, who played the final round alongside the local hero, took notice of the fans' spirit.
"Mexico's so great with their fans," Thomas said. "They're so loyal to their own and yeah, [Ortiz is] a celebrity here, as he should be. He played great and really finished very, very strong those last seven holes. He just had to make that putt on 18 to clip me by one.
Ortiz made a 30-foot par putt after a plugged lie in the bunker on No. 18 to finish one shot ahead of Thomas, which was a difference of $144,000, compared to if he had two-putted for bogey and tied with the reigning Players Championship winner.
Next up for Ortiz - and the PGA Tour - is the Houston Open, where Ortiz got his first and only Tour win a year ago, becoming the first Mexican to win on Tour since Victor Regalado at the 1978 Quad Cities Open.
At Mayakoba, Hovland became the first player on Tour to successfully defend a tournament title since Brooks Koepka at the 2019 PGA Championship. Ortiz hopes to follow suit north of the Rio Grande, but won't switch up his game plan that much from this week.
"It's always good timing to be playing well anywhere, not only to Houston," Ortiz said. "I'm excited about next week and obviously these two golf courses are some of my favorite, next week because it was my first win and this one is just a special one. I'm happy the way I'm playing and I'm excited about next week."