MEXICO CITY — Halfway through the opening round of the WGC-Mexico Championship it looked like this wasn’t going to be much of a week for Erik van Rooyen, who was three over through his first seven holes.
Then his trainer, filling in for his regular caddie who had been struck down by a bout of food poisoning, gave him some rather obvious words of advice.
“He said, ‘Just see your line and chip it in,’” Van Rooyen said. “He’s a gamer, I guess.”
The 30-year-old South African did just that, knocking one in for eagle at the par-4 first hole en route to a back-nine 31 and opening one-under 70.
A day later—and with his regular loop and former University of Minnesota teammate Alex Gaugert feeling better and back on the bag—he kept the momentum going with back-to-back birdies to start the round on his way to a 62 to tie the course record and move within a stroke of leader Bryson DeChambeau.
“I want that little spark, and I guess that chip-in on one [on Thursday], that was it,” said Van Rooyen, who celebrated his 30th birthday in style with nine birdies and no bogeys on Friday. “All of a sudden you've got a little bit of positive momentum, you make a putt or two, and you trust yourself and the confidence is there, and things just flow from there.”
The timing couldn’t be better. Van Rooyen, who is ranked 52nd in the Official World Golf Ranking, needs to crack the top 50 by March 4 in order to be eligible for next month’s Players Championship.