LEON, Mexico -- Ryan Armour has set himself up quite nicely through 18 holes as he looks to win his first Nationwide Tour title in what is his 173rd Tour start. Paul Haley II's last stop in Latin America turned out so well that he has the looks of a player who would like to repeat his performance. And with that, Day 1 of the Mexico Open is in the books, as Armour will take a one-shot lead into the second round after shooting an 8-under 64 Thursday at El Bosque Country Club.
Armour has three Nationwide Tour runner-up finishes in his career, but his first two were 12- and five-shot losses. However at this year's Panama Claro Championship, Armour truly contended when he fired weekend rounds of 68-68 only to fall a stroke short of winner Edward Loar.
When asked about his close calls but no wins during his career, Armour said, "I haven't gotten that far in my thinking. Right now I want to relax and enjoy today."
There was a lot to enjoy. Armour, a 1999 Ohio State graduate, made nine birdies against only one bogey, with four of his birdies coming on his last four holes.
"I hit a lot of fairways today, a lot of greens," Armour said. "It's something I hadn't been doing a lot lately, giving myself a lot of chances with the putter. I always feel if I can get 14, 15 good looks at it, I'll play well." Of his nine birdies, the longest putt he made was downhill, an 18-footer on No. 15.
Almost three months since he won the Chile Classic in Santiago by three strokes, Haley opened with a bogey-free 65, including, like Armour, a birdie on the 18th hole.
Haley, a Nationwide Tour rookie, won in only his third career start, and here he is setting himself up to make a run at win No. 2. The way his first round at El Bosque started, though, it didn't look like he was on his way to anything of note.
"On my first five holes, I was trying to find the ball with my swing. I wasn't hitting it that great, but luckily my putter was on, and that's what's been missing the last few weeks," said Haley, who made four consecutive pars to start the tournament. "I'm not a power player. I'm usually having to rely on just consistency and making very few bogeys."
Haley, a native of Dallas, where he still makes his home, did admit that he can reach each of the four par 5s at El Bosque in two, and he capitalized on those holes, birdieing them all. "If you can birdie three or four of the par 5s, odds are you're going to have a pretty good day."
Three players -- Tag Ridings, James Love and Jon Mills -- all shot 66s and are bunched together tied for third.
In the first nine events of the Nationwide Tour season, there have been nine different winners. Haley would like to become the first to pick up multiple victories. He came close after his breakthrough win in Chile, tying for second at the TPC Stonebrae Championship, a stroke behind winner Alex Aragon. Even with that performance, he's been a bit unsettled about his play, missing three cuts in six starts since Chile.
"I've been struggling with my game the last couple of weeks. But I had a good talk with my instructor, Randy Smith, about my putting, and how I just need to let [the putter] go and not really worry about the result," he said. "And that seemed to work."
Armour credits a practice session at The Dye Preserve near his home in Jupiter, Fla., Monday morning as the reason for his solid play.
"I came here with that thought (from practice), to just keep that rhythm and keep that one swing thought I had today instead of the eight I've had over every shot the last four weeks," Armour added. "It seemed to work, and I tried to simplify stuff. It's as good as I've hit it all year."
--Ryan Armour's 8-under 64 was easily his best round of the season. Previously, he shot 68 twice, most recently at the Panama Claro Championship. The 64 still falls well short of Armour's career-low round, a 61 last year in Panama.
--In his last nine rounds going back to the BMW Charity Pro-Am and last week's Rex Hospital Open, Tag Ridings has eight under-par rounds. He shot a 6-under 66 Thursday and is tied for third. His 66 matches the 66 he shot in the second round at the BMW Charity Pro-Am last month.
--The par-4 sixth hole was the most difficult, but the leaders did well there. James Love and Tag Ridings both birdied the hole, and Paul Haley II, Jon Mills and Ryan Armour made pars. For the day, No. 6's stroke average was 4.511.
--Justin Bolli had a nice set of bookends to his round. Opening the tournament on the first hole, he made eagle there. Then he made eagle on the 18th hole, too. That made him the 14th player this year to record two eagles in one round.
--The bogey-free rounds came courtesy of Paul Haley II and Phil Pettitt Jr.
--James Love's 6-under 66 established a new personal career-low Nationwide Tour round. In his 12 previous Tour starts, dating to his amateur days in 2003, he had shot 67 five times. His front-nine 30 also tied an El Bosque Country Club record.
--The best opening round by a winner in the four-year Nationwide Tour history of this event was the 65 Jamie Lovemark shot in 2010. That year, Lovemark was one shot behind Peter Tomasulo after 18 holes.
--The Serna family has four male members of the family playing this week, with the three Serna brothers, Antonio, Oscar and Efren, duplicating their feat of 2009 by playing together again at the Mexican Open, the site of their debut. In the history of the Nationwide Tour, the Nicklauses (Michael, Jack, Jr., Gary and Steve) all competed in the 2003 and 2004 BMW Charity Pro-Am. In 2007, the Pappases -- Brenden, Deane and Craigen -- competed in the 2007 Nationwide Children's Hospital Invitational. Antonio led the way, firing a 4-under 68. Oscar shot 75 and Efren came in with a 79. Efren Serna Sr., also playing this week, shot a 1-over 73.
--Of the 21 eagles Thursday, 19 came on par 5s and two on par 4s. The par-4 eagles were courtesy of Esteban Toledo (No. 5) and Travis Wadkins (No. 17).
--Five players withdrew midway through their first rounds due to injury. Jerrod Turner played 11 holes before dropping out with an aggravated wrist. Cesar Costilla had just made his first birdie of the day, on his 10th hole, when he withdrew because of a bad shoulder. Anthony Rodriguez played 15 holes before a neck injury sidelined him, and Brian Smock withdrew after his 13th hole of the day. Christopher DeForest was a late withdrawl after the 16th hole.