Nico Echavarria is a winner on the PGA Tour.
Riding a final-round 68 at Grand Reserve Golf Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Echavarria finished at 21 under and outlasted Akshay Bhatia by two shots in the 2023 Puerto Rico Open, the first opposite-field event on the PGA Tour’s 2023 calendar.
Echavarria scored in the 60s (67-67-65-68) all four rounds. He had 22 birdies, two eagles and six bogeys over the 72 holes.
A rookie on the PGA Tour, Echavarria said he found something in his swing on the range on Friday and it clearly carried over to the weekend, as he becomes the 10th player to make the Puerto Rico Open his first career PGA Tour title.
“With the way I was playing the last couple weeks, at Honda, that course is really hard but I missed the cut by 8 or 9. At Pebble I missed it by a lot,” he said. “You just don’t think it’s going to get better until things like this week clicks and finding something on the range on Friday just changes your week. … if I wouldn’t have had that practice session on Friday afternoon very late and found what I found, I don’t think I would be here because it cleared my mind up. I was thinking too many things. I was on a bad spot mentally before coming to this week.”
Bhatia, meanwhile, started the day in fifth and ended up in solo second. It’s his best finish on Tour; he had a tie for ninth at the 2020 Safeway Open. He also has two top-10s in four starts on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2023.
Bhatia had eight birdies in his final round, including four straight on Nos. 15, 16, 17 and 18 to close his week. He came up short but was energized and emotional after his performance this week.
“I’m legally able to drink now, so maybe I’ll have a drink with my parents,” Bhatia said. “I’m excited to see my dogs, I haven’t seen them in two weeks. Yeah, I don’t know. It’s going to be a lot of emotion. I know my dad’s going to really cry, which I’ve only seen him do one time.”
For winning the Puerto Rico Open, Echavarria earned 300 FedEx Cup points and $684,000. He joins Kurt Kitayama, who won the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Sunday, as first time Tour winners. He also earned a spot in the Players Championship, which starts Thursday at TPC Sawgrass.
“It’s going to be incredible to be at home because I live in Jacksonville,” he said. “Especially after a win, it’s going to be special. Probably going to keep playing and feeling what I’m feeling right now with my game, same thoughts, because this game changes quick and you’ve got to be consistent with what you’re trying to do.”
Nate Lashley and Carson Young tied for third at 16 under, five shots back. Michael Kim was solo fifth at 15 under.