Best bets for the PGA Mexico Open

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Mexico Open

Nick Hardy and Davis Riley trailed 54-hole leaders Wyndham Clark and Beau Hossler by three strokes heading into Sunday’s final round at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans but shot a 65 to earn the first career PGA Tour win for both of them. They beat Adam Hadwin and Nick Taylor by two shots.

 

This column had 1-2 heading into the final round, but Clark and Hossler finished outright third and Sungjae Im and Keith Mitchell finished sixth.

Defending champions Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele finished T-4 along with Taylor Moore and Matthew NeSmith.

This week, the PGA Tour heads south of the border for the Mexico Open. The defending champion and OWGR No. 1 Jon Rahm is once again the tournament favorite at +275. Rahm returns to Mexico for the first time as Masters champion.

Tony Finau (7-1) was the co-runner-up here last year. Rahm, Finau and Alex Noren (50-1) are the only OWGR Top 50 players in this week’s field and only eight of the Top 100 are competing.

Despite being the weakest field of the season (other than the alternate events), the Mexico Open presents an opportunity for players to improve their OWGR rankings to earn spots into the major championships if not otherwise exempt.

Clark (20-1) fell short of victory last week but now has four top-10 finishes in his last eight events. Those following Clark on the odds board include Gary Woodland (28-1), Nicolai Hojgaard (30-1), Patrick Rodgers (33-1), a top-10 finisher here last year, Byeong-Hun An (35-1), Maverick McNealy (35-1) and Taylor Pendrith (45-1).

The Event

The Mexico Open was first played as the Mexican Open in 1944 at the Club de Golf Chapultepec. It was an event on the Tour de las Américas between 2003 and 2006, being co-sanctioned by the European Challenge Tour from 2004 to 2006. Then it became a Nationwide Tour event in 2008. In 2013, the tournament was moved to March and became an official event for PGA Tour Latinoamérica. The tournament would also be moved to Club de Golf Mexico.

In 2022, the tournament became an official event on the PGA Tour, with a purse of $7.7 million, awarding 500 FedEx Cup points to the winner, plus the normal perks for winning a PGA Tour event, including a two-year tour exemption, and invitations to the Masters, PGA Championship, Players and Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Mexican conglomerate Grupo Vidanta, which operates numerous hotels and resorts, including this week’s venue, is the tournament sponsor.

The Course​

Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta is a golf destination in the city of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Set on the Pacific Coast, Grupo Vidanta within its Vallarta resort complex has several golf courses, the newest of which is the Norman Signature Course.

Designed by Greg Norman and opened in 2015, it is only accessible via the world’s longest golf cart suspension bridge. Set within a kilometer of the Pacific shoreline, the course itself is set on the Ameca River, with a few holes running alongside. It is a resort course by nature, with the course seemingly flat with plenty of lakes and ponds forming hazards around the setup. The layout features panoramic views of the Sierra Madre mountain range and the Banderas Bay to the southwest. This design is surrounded by parota trees, native grasses and patches of lush jungle.

Vidanta Vallarta is a par-71 course that measures 7,456 yards. It ranks as the sixth-longest course on the PGA Tour. It is an unusual track that has five par-3s to go with four par-5s and only nine par-4s. While the par-3s are average in length, five of the par-4s are over 475 yards and three of the par-5s are over 585 yards.

The fairways are the sixth widest on tour at 40.4 yards. The rough only measures 1.5 inches, so it is fairly non-penal.

The track features Paspalum throughout. Paspalum is a very common grass used on coastal courses that is known for being sticky. This means that drives will not roll out as much on the wide fairways and will stop much quicker on the greens. The rough here is quite short and non-penal. Greens should run at an average speed of 11.5 on the stimpmeter.

This looks like a very scoreable track, but there are 106 bunkers (third most on the PGA Tour) and 12 holes with water in play.

The length of the course and the coastal winds are the primary defenses at Vidanta Vallarta and the wind, especially in the later afternoon, can cause higher scores.

Correlated courses include TPC Craig Ranch, Coco Beach, Corales, TPC San Antonio, Congaree, and Plantation Course at Kapalua. Coco Beach (Puerto Rico Open) and Corales (Corales Puntacana Championship) are both resort-style courses that also feature Paspalum throughout their respective layouts. TPC San Antonio (Valero Texas Open) is another Norman design. TPC Craig Ranch (AT&T Byron Nelson) and Congaree (2021 Congaree Championship) are also courses that favored bombers with wide fairways and non-penal rough.

Recent History/Winner

2022: Jon Rahm (-17/267); 5-1

Statistical Analysis

Jon Rahm ranked first in the field for Driving Distance and second in the field for Strokes Gained: Off The Tee during his win in Mexico last year. Five of the top 10 finishers here last year ranked top 10 in the field for Strokes Gained: Off The Tee and four of the top finishers also did so for Driving Distance.

This is a bombers course and 78% of the drives are over 280 yards.

Strokes Gained Off The Tee (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Gary Woodland 27.3
  2. Luke List 26.1
  3. Brett Grant 16.1
  4. Jon Rahm 15.8
  5. Cameron Champ 14.6
  6. Aaron Rai 14.1
  7. MJ Daffue 13.2
  8. Boo Weekley 12.8
  9. Tony Finau 12.3
  10. Austin Eckroat 11.8
  11. Taylor Pendrith 11.6
  12. James Hahn 11.5
  13. Michael Gligic 11.1
  14. Will Gordon 11.1
  15. Stephan Jaeger 10.5
  16. Patrick Rodgers 9.9
  17. Lee Hodges 9.3

Driving Distance Gained (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Alejandro Tosti 23.4 (6 rounds)
  2. Brandon Matthews 22.5
  3. Nicolai Hojgaard 22.3 (24 rounds)
  4. Cameron Champ 18.3
  5. Trevor Cone 15.3
  6. Kyle Westmoreland 14
  7. Byeong-Hun An 13.9
  8. Gary Woodland 13.8
  9. Derek Ernst 12.2
  10. Brett Grant 12.2
  11. Wyndham Clark 12.1
  12. Luke List 11.9
  13. Will Gordon 11.6
  14. Vincent Norrman 11.4
  15. Callum Tarren 10.7
  16. Jon Rahm 10.6
  17. Ryan Brehm 10.6

Note: Average Yards Gained Per Tee Shot

44 percent of the approach shots here are from 200 yards or more.

Proximity Gained 200+ Yards (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Gary Woodland 29.1
  2. Jon Rahm 26.9
  3. Augusto Nunez 17.2 (27 Rounds)
  4. Kevin Roy 16.7 (24 Rounds)
  5. Charley Hoffman 14.2
  6. Luke List 13.1
  7. Brett Grant 12.9 (28 Rounds)
  8. Patton Kizzire 12.3
  9. Michael Gligic 12
  10. Dylan Wu 12
  11. Akshay Bhatia 11.4
  12. Vincent Norrman 11.3 (22 Rounds)
  13. Eric Cole 10
  14. Will Gordon 10
  15. Austin Smotherman 9.7
  16. Brandon Matthews 9.4
  17. Richy Werenski 9.3

Note: Average Feet Gained Per Shot

While Vidanta Vallarta places more of a premium off the tee, approach still does matter here, and five of last year’s top nine finishers were in the top 10 for Strokes Gained: Approach in the event.

Strokes Gained Approach (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Tony Finau 37.7
  2. Wyndham Clark 26.3
  3. Jon Rahm 26.2
  4. Boo Weekley 25.8
  5. Ben Martin 23
  6. Erik van Rooyen 20.4
  7. Robby Shelton 19.9
  8. Gary Woodland 18.7
  9. Charley Hoffman 15.1
  10. Kevin Roy 13.8
  11. Joseph Bramlett 13.8
  12. Ryan Moore 13.3
  13. Matt Wallace 12.9
  14. Satoshi Kodaira 12.8
  15. David Lipsky 12.3

Vidanta Vallarta played at an average round score of only -0.68, so it is not what you would call a birdie fest.

Birdie or Better Gained (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Jon Rahm 57
  2. Tony Finau 25.7
  3. Wyndham Clark 23.2
  4. Ben Martin 19.6
  5. Akshay Bhatia 18.4
  6. Brett Grant 17
  7. Byeong-Hun An 16.6
  8. Harry Higgs 14
  9. Patrick Rodgers 12.7
  10. Dylan Wu 11.9
  11. Harry Hall 11.7
  12. Vincent Norrman 10.1
  13. Maverick McNealy 9.5
  14. Garrick Higgo 9
  15. Patton Kizzire 8.7
  16. Matt Wallace 8.3

Vidanta Vallarta is the sixth-longest course on the PGA Tour.

Strokes Gained Total Long (Over 7,400 Yards) Courses (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Jon Rahm 72.8
  2. Ben Martin 36.5
  3. Gary Woodland 34.9
  4. Matt Wallace 34.4
  5. Kevin Chappell 33.3
  6. Lanto Griffin 32
  7. Nate Lashley 31.7
  8. Tony Finau 28.8
  9. Brice Garnett 25.5
  10. Aaron Baddeley 22.7
  11. Matthias Schwab 22.5 (28 rounds)
  12. Nicolas Echavarria 22.2 (9 rounds)
  13. Akshay Bhatia 21.5 (18 rounds)
  14. Harry Hall 20.9 (14 rounds)

The crosswinds can get up to 20+ mph. Early forecasts are more moderate at 13 mph highs, but it is still prudent to look at how players fare in windy conditions.

Strokes Gained Total Windy Conditions (Last 36 rounds)

  1. Tony Finau 98
  2. Jon Rahm 53.4 (30 rounds)
  3. Gary Woodland 45
  4. Kevin Chappell 35 (34 rounds)
  5. Ryan Moore 32.2
  6. Byeong-Hun An 29.9 (31 rounds)
  7. Aaron Baddeley 27.6
  8. Alex Noren 27.3 (31 rounds)
  9. Peter Malnati 26.2
  10. Sean O’Hair 26.1 (30 rounds)
  11. Patrick Rodgers 25.9
  12. Kevin Streelman 25.5
  13. Kelly Kraft 24 (27 rounds)
  14. Andrew Putnam 23.3
  15. Scott Piercy 21.4
  16. Jimmy Walker 21.1
  17. Scott Brown 20

Strokes Gained Total gives us arguably the best indicator of recent overall form.

Strokes Gained Total (Last 24 rounds)

  1. Jon Rahm 66.2
  2. Wyndham Clark 36.2
  3. Ben Martin 32.8
  4. Tony Finau 29.7
  5. Michael Kim 25.2
  6. Eric Cole 25
  7. Dylan Wu 23.8
  8. Byeong-Hun An 23.3
  9. Akshay Bhatia 20.5
  10. Harry Hall 19.8
  11. Patrick Rodgers 19.6
  12. Maverick McNealy 19.5
  13. Gary Woodland 17.7
  14. MJ Daffue 17.7

Selections

Nicolai Hojgaard (33-1, Circa Sports)

It is difficult to try to beat a big favorite like Rahm in this event, so these should be played in smaller increments. We will start the card with Hojgaard, who carried fellow Dane Thorbjorn Olesen last week in New Orleans, especially in the fourball.

Vidanta Vallarta looks to be a good course fit. Hojgaard landed a win on Paspalum in Ras Al Khaimah early last year and gained temporary membership on the PGA Tour just last week.

Patrick Rodgers (33-1, Circa Sports)

Rodgers had his best chance to win in a couple of years a few weeks ago at the Valero but finished fifth.

He was 19th two weeks ago at the RBC Heritage and finished top 10 here last year.

Aaron Rai (55-1, Circa Sports)

While Rai is not a bomber for a bomber’s course here, he ranks sixth for Strokes Gained Off The Tee over the last 36 rounds largely because of his accuracy.

He was in the top 10 here last year after each of the first three rounds before slipping to 24th, so he proved that any lack of length was not an issue.

Will Gordon (70-1, Boyd Sports)

Gordon missed the cut last week in New Orleans largely because of his partner, Davis Thompson.

He ranks in the top 15 in this field for Strokes Gained Off The Tee, Driving Distance Gained and Proximity 200+, which are the most important stats this week.

Luke List (70-1, Bet365)

List is another bomber who struggles with the putter but should be OK on the Paspalum greens.

He has a top-10 at the Corales Puntacana on these greens in 2020.

Vincent Norman (120-1, Boyd Sports)

The Swede posted 15 birdies in the two fourball rounds with partner Matthias Schwab as they shot 64 and 62 in the two best-ball rounds en route to a ninth last week in New Orleans.

He is another big hitter who can flourish on this layout.

Brett Grant (225-1, PointsBet)

Grant is one of the longer drivers on the tour in his rookie season.

He finished T-8 a few weeks ago at the Corales Puntacana, which features Paspalum greens.

Matchups (21-13-5)

Nicolai Hojgaard -115 over Alex Noren (South Point)

Kevin Chappell +100 over Cameron Champ (BetMGM)

Matthias Schwab -125 over Francesco Molinari (BetMGM