PGA Tour rookie Nico Echavarria leads Puerto Rico Open

RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico — PGA Tour rookie Nico Echavarria of Colombia ran off four straight birdies early in his round Saturday and finished with a 7-under 65 for a 2-shot lead in the Puerto Rico Open as he goes for his first PGA Tour victory.

Carson Young, who led the opening two rounds at Grand Reserve, had to birdie the last hole for a 71 and was Echavarria’s closest pursuer.

Young began with a 4-shot lead before the 28-year-old Colombian made up ground quickly with an eagle on the par-5 second hole and then four straight birdies starting at the fourth.

He went out in 30 and already had the lead when they made the turn.

“It was a dream start,” Echavarria said. “You never think you’re going to shoot 6 under on the front nine [in] the third round, so I knew it had to be a low one because [Young] had a big lead. I gave myself some really good chances on the front nine, putter was hot.”

Echavarria was at 17-under 199.

The winner earns a spot in the Players Championship next week with its $25 million purse, along with spots in the PGA Championship and a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour. It does not come with an invitation to the Masters because the Puerto Rico Open is held the same week as the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Sam Stevens (65) and Nate Lashley (67) were 4 shots behind.

“I played solid today, I just didn’t hit anything really close,” Young said. “I still feel good about my game. I drove it better today than I did yesterday, which is a positive. It was just a grind today just because I wasn’t hitting really anything close, but I feel good about my game and I’m ready to see what I can do tomorrow.”

Young also is a tour rookie hopeful of a big opportunity Sunday.

A year ago, Ryan Brehm won in his final start before he would have been relegated to the Korn Ferry Tour. Brehm was at Bay Hill this week and previously played in two other elevated events with a $20 million purse.

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