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PGA Tour: 10 things to watch for in 2013

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Come-from-behind victories. Sunday meltdowns. Thrilling major championships. Dominance. An indescribable Ryder Cup.

To many golf fans, 2012 brought a whole new level of excitement to the game. The unpredictability and element of surprise hopefully also attracted new fans to the sport. Either way, everyone who followed professional golf this year had something draw them in.

The 2013 season is on the horizon, teeing off Jan. 4 in Kapalua, and there are tons of storylines heading into the new year. Predicting outcomes for the season ahead is near impossible, but it’s always fun to speculate on a broader range. So, what should we look forward to in 2013 in professional golf? The topics are wide and the lists are long, but here are 10 things to watch for in the upcoming year.

Structural Shake Up

In 2013, the PGA Tour will embark upon its newest schedule set-up which, in effect, alters the Tour’s structure as a whole. The 2013 season will conclude with the final event of the PGA Tour Playoffs for the FedExCup , the Tour Championship in Atlanta on Sept. 22. Then, three weeks later, the 2014 season will begin with the Frys.com Open, the first of the Fall Series events.

Of course, the scheduling change to the Tour also leads to changes for the Web.com Tour and Qualifying School. The Web.com Tour will now be the primary feeder for the PGA Tour, while Q-School will send its top finishers on to the Web.com Tour.

Fifty PGA Tour cards will be awarded to Web.com Tour players: 25 based on the final money list and a final 25 cards based on cumulative earnings from four Finals events. The Web.com’s Finals events will coincide with the FedExCup, with the exception of the last event, which will take place the week after the Tour Championship.

The newly formed PGA Tour Canada Tour, as well as the PGA Tour Latinoamerica Tour, will add additional playing avenues to the equation for professional golfers. The top-5 finishers on both tours gain direct access to the Web.com Tour. Also, Nos. 6 through 10 on the PGA Tour Canada will be exempt into the finals of the Web.com Tour Q-School.

Throwing the Anchor

In late November, the USGA and R&A proposed a rule change to prohibit anchoring the club during the stroke that will likely be approved this spring and go into effect in 2016. With the announcement, a range of storylines surround this topic for the upcoming year. At what point will players make the switch? Will fans support players who decide to continue anchoring? Will the PGA Tour move quickly and make a local rule, eliminating the three-year gap before the rule is changed. Will new techniques develop for putting woes?

Webb Simpson has openly admitted practicing at home with a regular putter and will put it in play when he’s comfortable. Adam Scott has already been seen without his typical flat stick. Keegan Bradley plans to keep his anchored stroke in play and has the option to do so despite already getting flack from a fan at the World Challenge.

Meanwhile, equipment makers such as Odyssey are already marketing forearm-anchored putters, giving belly-length putters a second wind.

McIlroy’s Move

As World No. 1 Rory McIlroy departs Titleist for Nike in 2013, his ability to adapt and grow comfortable with his new clubs will be closely watched. Some people downplay the move, saying equipment is similar nowadays. Others, such as Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods, suggest that the change could put a lot on the line and take a lengthy amount of time to get comfortable with.

Whether it is an easy or hard transition for McIlroy, we’ll most likely see his first competitive round with the swooshes in his bag at the HSBC Abu Dhabi Championship, Jan. 17-20. From there, he’ll have lofty-as-ever expectations to live up to, after taking 2012’s PGA Tour Player of the Year honors.

Major Slump

Another majorless year has come and gone for Tiger Woods. And while Woods went oh-fer in 2012, he had his chances at getting closer to Jack Nicklaus’ all-time mark of 18 major championships.

Woods was tied for the 36-hole lead at both the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship, and sat in third place through 36 holes at the British Open. However, a weekend scoring average of 72.83 in those three majors knocked Tiger from contention in each event. His best major finish was a tie for third at Royal Lytham & St. Annes where he still sat four shots back of champion Ernie Els.

In 2013, Woods’ best chances at majors will come early. April’s Masters present a great opportunity for Woods due to his historic prowess at Augusta National, but he hasn’t won a Green Jacket since 2005. He has never played Marion Golf Club, the 2013 U.S. Open venue, and doesn’t exactly have fond memories at this year’s British Open and PGA Championship venues. He plummeted out of contention after a third-round 81 at the 2002 British Open at Muirfield and never shot lower than 72 at Oak Hill in 2003’s PGA Championship.

Brandt Snedeker vs. FedEx Cup Curse

Ironically, each of the first five winners of the FedEx Cup have failed to return to the Tour Championship the following year. In 2013, Brandt Snedeker will look to snap that streak and be one of the 30 players who take on Atlanta’s East Lake Country Club for the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus.

It seemed as if Bill Haas would end the trend in 2012, but Haas shot a final-round 78 in the BMW Championship at Crooked Stick. Haas finished 45th in the 70-man field and dropped to 32nd in the FedEx Cup points standings. Haas was positioned to move on, but he bogeyed four of the last five holes, leaving him outside the 30-man Tour Championship field.

If Snedeker wants another shot at the bonus, he’ll have to finish in the top 125 of the points list, then successfully advance on different courses than he did this year. The Barclays moves back to Liberty National in Jersey City, N.J., opening the four-event series. The Deutsche Bank Championship remains at TPC Boston in Norton, Mass., as the second event, while the third leg is the BMW Championship at Conway Farms in Lake Forest, Ill.

President’s Cup

Jack Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village will be in the spotlight on two occasions during the upcoming year, as the course will host the 2013 Presidents Cup in addition to its yearly Memorial tournament. Fred Couples and Nick Price will captain their respective teams in the 10th playing of the Presidents Cup, which takes place Oct. 1-6. It will be Couples’ third-straight U.S. captaincy, while Price is getting his first attempt with the International squad.

The U.S. has dominated the cup, winning seven of the nine previous meetings. The International’s sole victory came in 1998 by a 20.5 to 11.5 margin, while the squads tied in 2003. The Presidents Cup may not ignite passion in ways the Ryder Cup does, but it has gained momentum through the years as an exciting and entertaining event.

It is fitting that the event will take place at Nicklaus’ Muirfield Village, given the history behind both the man and the course. Nicklaus has captained the U.S. Presidents Cup team on four occasions (1998, 2003, 2005, 2007) and Muirfield Village has hosted the Memorial Tournament annually since 1976. The venue will become the first club in the world to host the Presidents Cup, Ryder Cup (1987) and Solheim Cup (1998).

Talented Teens

Teens took the golf world’s spotlight on several occasions in 2012, especially at the U.S. Open at Olympic Club. Fourteen-year-old Andy Zhang first made news as he became the youngest to compete in the USGA event. Then, 17-year-old Beau Hossler stole the show the first three days, even holding a brief solo lead Friday afternoon at 2-under-par. Unfortunately, a final-round 76 dropped Hossler from contention and the claim of low amateur. That distinction went to 19-year-old Jordan Spieth, who played the weekend in 1-under-par (69-70) and turned professional Dec. 14.

On the ladies’ side, 15-year-old Lydia Ko became the youngest to ever win an LPGA Tour event, claiming the CN Canadian Women’s Open by three shots over Inbee Park. Ko erased Lexi Thompson’s youngest age record — Thompson was 16 when she won the 2011 at the Navistar LPGA Classic in Alabama.

We already know of one teen who will surely be in the golf news in 2013: Guang Tianlang of China. The 14-year-old won the Asia-Pacific Championship this fall to qualify for the Masters. With the youthful talent pool of golf, chances are good that many more teens will make golf headlines in the year ahead.

Furyk’s Bounce Back

Jim Furyk arguably endured a career’s worth of heartache in one season alone. The U.S. Open, WGC-Bridgestone and Ryder Cup certainly left the deepest gashes, while close calls at Transitions, Tour Championship and the McGladrey Classic were added to his list of “what ifs.”

Furyk still has years of PGA Tour experience to use as motivation and can look no further than the 2009 season for similarities. That season, Furyk had five top-five finishes before jumping back into the winner’s circle in 2010.

Rookie Impact

PGA Tour rookies have performed quite well over the past two years. In 2011, rookies claimed seven victories including major championships from Charl Schwartzel (Masters) and Keegan Bradley (PGA Championship). Four rookies — John Huh, Jonas Blixt, Charlie Beljan and Ted Potter, Jr. – earned victories on the PGA Tour in 2012.

The 2013 class, made up of Web.com money leaders and graduates of Q-School, features a variety of heralded players. Luke Guthrie, Russell Henley, Ben Kohles, Morgan Hoffmann, Scott Langley and Patrick Reed, to name a few, have gained attention in the professional realms already and look to excel during their first year on Tour. There are also many experienced European Tour players such as Nicolas Colsaerts, Ross Fisher and Martin Kaymer who will each take up PGA Tour membership for the first time next year.

Golf on the Global Stage

Golf’s worldwide popularity has been on an upward trend over the last decade or so, and we are now seeing the effects of it being a global sport. More and more young, elite players are beginning to display their talents on the world stage and one could expect that to continue with golf being part of the 2016 Olympics in Rio.

The PGA Tour’s support for the global game will step up a notch during the latter part of 2013, as three of the first six events for the 2013-14 season will take place outside the United States. Most notably, the CIMB Classic in Malaysia and the WGC-HSBC Champions in China will both be official Tour events for the first time. While each of those events have drawn the biggest names, entrants are also qualifiers from the Asian Tour or hold other special distinctions.

Additionally, the success of young talents will continue to push the game to new heights. It seems as if Ryo Ishikawa has been in the spotlight for years and years, yet he’s still just 21 years old. With other young players such as Andy Zhang, Lydia Ko and Guang Tianlang being successful on the world stage, we can only expect more to come in the future.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum. 

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches betting preview: Grinders fancied to survive tough PGA National test

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After finishing the West Coast swing and making a pit stop in Mexico, the PGA TOUR heads to PGA National to begin its Florida swing and play the Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches. The event was previously called the “Honda Classic”.

The tournament will be a significant challenge for golfers, as PGA National is one of the most difficult courses on the PGA TOUR.

PGA National is a 7,054-yard par 71 and features Bermudagrass greens.  Originally a Tom Fazio design, it was redesigned by Jack Nicklaus. The course features the infamous “Bear Trap” on holes 15-17, three of the toughest holes on TOUR. Wind tends to play a factor, which makes the scoring even more challenging.

The field is solid and much stronger than we saw last year with the event being directly after two signature events. Some notable players in the field include Rory McIlroy, Matt Fitzpatrick, Shane Lowry, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Min Woo Lee, Russell Henley and Gary Woodland. 

Past Winners at PGA National

  • 2023: Chris Kirk (-14)
  • 2022: Sepp Straka (-10)
  • 2021: Matt Jones (-12)
  • 2020: Sungjae Im (-6)
  • 2019: Keith Mitchell (-9)
  • 2018: Justin Thomas (-8)
  • 2017: Rickie Fowler (-12)
  • 2016: Adam Scott (-9)
  • 2015: Padraig Harrington (-6)

In this article and going forward, I’ll be using the Rabbit Hole by Betsperts Golf data engine to develop my custom model. If you want to build your own model or check out all of the detailed stats, you can sign up using promo code: MATTVIN for 25% off any subscription package (yearly is best value). 

5 Key Stats for PGA National

Let’s take a look at five key metrics for PGA National to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds.

1. Strokes Gained: Approach

Strokes Gained: Approach has been far and away the biggest indicator of the winner at PGA National. Hitting the target is especially important with all of the water at the course.

Total SG: Approach Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Tom Hoge (+1.08) 
  2. Mathieu Pavon (+1.07)
  3. Chesson Hadley (+.68)
  4. Michael Kim (+.67) 
  5. Adam Svensson (+.66)

2. Strokes Gained: Putting Bermuda (Florida)

As we enter the Florida swing, players will have to adjust to the Florida Bermudagrass greens, which favors some golfers who are more accustomed to playing the surface over others.

Strokes Gained: Putting Bermuda (Florida) over past 24 Rounds:

  1. Beau Hossler (+1.05)
  2. Matt Fitzpatrick (+.87)
  3. Sungjae Im (+.81)
  4. Ben Martin (+.75)
  5. Denny McCarthy (+.71)

3. Strokes Gained Total: Florida

This stat will bring in players who’ve played their best golf in the state of Florida.

Strokes Gained Total: Florida Over Past 36 Rounds:

  1. Rory McIlroy (+1.72)
  2. Matt Fitzpatrick (+1.62)
  3. Shane Lowry (+1.44)
  4. Sungjae Im (+1.32) 
  5. Chris Kirk (+1.30)

4. Strokes Gained: Ball Striking

Historically, Strokes Gained: Ball Striking has been much more indicative of success at PGA National than Strokes Gained: Short Game. The difficult track rewards a solid tee-to-green game, which is the key to avoiding trouble.

The winning score will likely stay close to single digits, so an extremely hot putter isn’t all that predictive. 

SG: BS Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Corey Conners (+21.1)
  2. Jhonnatan Vegas (+19.5)
  3. Adam Svensson (+19.3)
  4. Mathieu Pavon (+18.6) 
  5. Tom Hoge (+18.3) 

5. Strokes Gained: Difficult or Very Difficult Courses

PGA National is one of the most difficult courses on the PGA TOUR. Including this stat will highlight some players who thrive when scoring is difficult.

Strokes Gained: Difficult Courses Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Rory McIlroy (+2.62)
  2. Matt Fitzpatrick (+1.59) 
  3. Tom Kim (+1.59) 
  4. Jake Knapp (+1.55)
  5. Shane Lowry (+1.34)

Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — SG: Approach (27%), SG: Putting Florida Bermuda (15.3%), SG: Florida 15.3%), SG: Ball Striking (27%) and SG: Difficult Scoring(15.3%).

  1. Chris Kirk
  2. Daniel Berger
  3. Jhonnatan Vegas
  4. Corey Conners
  5. Adam Svensson
  6. Rory McIlroy
  7. Tom Hoge
  8. Shane Lowry
  9. Sepp Straka
  10. Kevin Streelman

2024 Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches Picks

(All odds are the best available at the time of writing)

Cameron Young +2200 (BetMGM)

Cameron Young has yet to break out with a PGA Tour win, but PGA National is a good course for the former PGA Tour Rookie of the Year to showcase his elite driving ability. In his past 24 rounds, Young ranks 1st in Total Driving.

PGA National isn’t the longest course, but with water lurking everywhere, it helps to hit approach shots with higher lofted clubs. Bombers such as Rory McIlroy, Keith Mitchell, and Brooks Koepka have thrived at the course in the recent years, and Young could look to replicate their play style here.

Young has had a strong start to his 2024 season, finishing in a tie for 8th at TPC Scottsdale and a tie for 16th at Riviera. In those two starts, he gained significant strokes on the field both off the tee and on approach. He also finished 16th in his debut at the Honda Classic in 2022. With two additional top-13 finishes at Bay Hill, the 26-year-old has shown he likes playing in Florida.

With the fields in 2024 weaker than in recent seasons, Young is one of the best players teeing it up this week and has the talent to come out on top.

Shane Lowry +3500 (DraftKings)

Shane Lowry has been very quiet this season, but he’ll now kick off the Florida swing, which is the part of the PGA Tour schedule that he’s had most success at over the course of his PGA Tour career.

In his past eight starts in the state of Florida, the Irishman has finished in the top-13 five times, including a runner-up at PGA National in 2022 and a tie for 5th here last year. The former Open champion is a resident of Jupiter, Florida and is extremely comfortable playing on these Bermudagrass greens.

Lowry is typically amongst the favorites at PGA National, but this year is being offered at a bit of a discount due to his underwhelming start to the season. If the course plays difficult, which it typically does, there are few players I’d rather have than Shane Lowry on my betting card.

Byeong Hun An +4000 (DraftKings)

I’ve bet Byeong Hun An a few times this year and it almost paid off when the South Korean lost in agonizing fashion in a playoff to Grayson Murray at the Sony Open. Given his current form and excellent course fit, I feel compelled to give the affable An one more shot at PGA National this week.

An is a great driver of the ball and ranks 17th in the field in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and 4th in Carry Distance. With danger lurking on almost every hole, longer hitters will have the advantage coming in with shorter irons. While not typically the most reliable putter, Benny ranks 18th in the field in his past eight rounds on Bermudagrass.

In addition to his strong start to the season, An has also had plenty of success at PGA National. He finished in a tie for 4th at the course in 2020 and tied for 5th in 2018. If he can avoid the water, we may finally get to celebrate a Benny An victory this week.

Corey Conners +5000 (FanDuel)

On a difficult course that produces relatively high scores such as PGA National, players who are accurate both off the tee and on approach will have the advantage. In his past 24 rounds, the Canadian ranks 4th in Total Driving and 2nd in Strokes Gained: Off the tee.

Conners is another player who has thrived in Florida. In his past seven starts in the state, he’s finished in the top 21 five times. The course history at PGA National hasn’t been great, but I am willing to overlook that in favor of his overall form in the state and his apparent course fit.

A few weeks ago, at Riviera, Conners’ signature iron play came back to life as he gained 5.04 strokes on the field on approach. If he can make some putts on Bermudagrass, which has been his favorite surface to date, there’s no reason why he can’t contend at PGA National this week.

Alex Noren +5000 (FanDuel)

Despite never having won on the PGA Tour, Alex Noren has racked up 11 total wins professionally, and has come close many times in the United States. The Swede has played on a winning European Ryder Cup team (2018) and has won big events in Europe such as the BMW PGA Championship and British Masters.

Noren is a tremendous wind player who has enjoyed plenty of success at PGA National throughout his career. He finished in a tie for 5th at this event in 2022 and finished 3rd back in 2018. Noren ranks 15th in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting on Florida Bermudagrass and 20th in three putt avoidance on the surface.

If the course plays as difficult as expected, the 41-year-old is the type of grinder who can contend on one of his favorite tracks.

Matt Wallace +10000 (FanDuel)

Matt Wallace demonstrated his ability to play well on a tough Florida track at last year’s Valspar Championship, where he finished in a tie for 7th. The Englishman has also played reasonably well at PGA National, finishing 29th last year and tied for 20th in 2019.

Wallace played well last week in Mexico and was more involved than his T33 finish would indicate. He struggled in round 4, shooting 74, but indicated that he was “playing for the win” which brought a lot more trouble into play. Wallace is one of the better wind players in the field and has shown winning upside in the past.

The 33-year-old is a grinder with winning upside.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi: 2024 Mexico Open First Round Leader picks

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The Mexico Open begins on Thursday at beautiful Vidanta Vallarta. The tournament will have a full field this week with most of the big names on the PGA Tour taking the week off.

In the past two editions of the tournament, there have been seven first-round leaders or co-leaders. Of the seven, six have come from the morning wave. At first glance, there certainly looks to be an advantage to having an early tee time this week in Mexico but with such a small sample size I won’t put too much stock in that and take a balanced approach.

As of Tuesday, the wind doesn’t look as if it will play a factor at all during round one. It will be about hot and sunny for most of the day with wind gusts never exceeding 7 MPH.

This week, I used the Betsperts Rabbit Hole to see each players floor/ceiling. You can sign up using promo code: MATTVIN for 25% off any subscription package (yearly is best value).

Mexico Open First-Round-Leader Selections

Jhonnatan Vegas +6000 (DraftKings)

First-Round Tee Time: 12:15 p.m. Local Time

After a long injury layoff, it certainly seems as if Jhonnatan Vegas is “back”. In his most recent start at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the Venezuelan gained 7.2 strokes ball striking, which was his best performance in the category since June of 2022.

Vegas loves playing on Paspalum, and while he struggles with the putter often, he’s been consistent putting on these slow and spongey surfaces. I expect the big man to have a great week in Mexico.

Harry Hall +9000 (BetMGM)

First-Round Tee Time: 8:14 a.m. Local Time

While you wouldn’t expect an Englishman in a flat cap to play his best golf in tropical paradises, that’s certainly been the case for the 24-year-old throughout his career thus far. The 6’4″ UNLV product with a soft touch around the greens has shined in places such as Puerto Rico and Puntacana as well as at Vidanta Vallarta last year.

Hall is a fantastic putter, which never will hurt you in the first-round leader market.

Adrien Dumont de Chassart 100-1 (FanDuel)

First-Round Tee Time: 1:54 p.m. Local Time

Those who have been following me this season know that I’m high on this 23-year-old bomber from Belgium. With off the tee prowess being a major point of emphasis at Vidanta Vallarta, it makes sense to give him another crack at the first-round lead once again this week.

In his most recent start at TPC Scottsdale, ADDC gained 4.0 strokes off the tee.

Fred Biondi 130-1 (DraftKings)

First-Round Tee Time: 8:47 a.m. Local Time

Fred Biondi recently won a National Championship as a Florida Gator and has loved playing on coastal courses throughout the early part of his career. In the fall, the Brazilian finished 13th at the Butterfield Bermuda and 23rd at the RSM Classic, with both events having fields either stronger or comparable to this one.

Biondi is a good iron player and putter and should be comfortable playing in Mexico.

Scott Piercy 150-1 (BetMGM)

First-Round Tee Time: 8:25 a.m. Local Time

Scott Piercy got in the field this week after Will Zalatoris withdrew following a strong performance at the Genesis Invitational. Piercy may be well past his prime, but this is the type of event where the 47-year-old has thrived over the years.

Piercy has been prone to fast starts and has finished in the top-5 after the first round 32 times in his career and has been within two of the lead in the first round 45 times. He’s also been great on Paspalum, boasting finishes of 6th at the 2018 OHL, 7th at the 2015 CIMB Classic and 4th at the 2016 OHL.

Sebastian Vazquez 300-1 (DraftKings)

First-Round Tee Time: 1:21 p.m. Local Time

Sebastian Vasquez is a name that many golf fans won’t be familiar with but has played some good golf in South America over the course of his career. At last year’s Mexico Open, Vazquez shot an opening round 67. At last year’s World Wide Technology Championship at El Cardonal at Diamante in Cabo San Lucas, Vazquez closed his tournament with a Sunday 64, which was just two shots off the round of the day.

The Mexican has been playing this season on the Gira de Golf Profesional Mexicana and doing so relatively well. He also finished 38th at El Cardonal in a pretty strong PGA Tour field. Vazquez could come out and fire a low one while feeling extremely at ease playing in his home country.

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19th Hole

Vincenzi’s 2024 Mexico Open at Vidanta betting preview: Birdie machine ready to notch first PGA Tour title

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Mexico Open at Vidanta! For the third consecutive year, the PGA TOUR heads to beautiful Puerto Vallarta to play the Mexico Open.

The Greg Norman-designed Vidanta Vallarta is a par-71 measuring 7,456 yards. Prior to its inaugural event, the course was extended by over 250 yards to make it PGA TOUR ready, and there were nine new tee boxes and 106 new bunkers added to stiffen the test for the best players in the world.

The course features three par 5s. Also, the par-4 seventh will be drivable for the longer hitters, but the golfers will have to risk taking on some water if they want to go for it.

The field this week will consist of 132 players. Some notable players in the field include Tony Finau, Will Zalatoris, Keith Mitchell, Emiliano Grillo, Taylor Pendrith and Thorbjorn Olesen. 

Past Winners at Vidanta Villarta

  • 2023: Tony Finau (-24)
  • 2022: Jon Rahm (-17)

5 Key Stats For Vidanta Villarta

In this article and going forward, I’ll be using the Rabbit Hole by Betsperts Golf data engine to develop my custom model. If you want to build your own model or check out all of the detailed stats, you can sign up using promo code: MATTVIN for 25% off any subscription package (yearly is best value). 

Let’s take a look at five key metrics for Vidanta Vallarta to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their past 24 rounds.

1. Driving Distance

At almost 7,500 yards, Vidanta Villarta is a long par 71. The rough shouldn’t be much of a factor this week, which gives the advantage to the long hitters in the field.

Average Driving Distance Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Alejandro Tosti (+311.2)
  2. Sam Stevens (+310.4)
  3. Cameron Champ (+308.1)
  4. Patrick Rodgers (+305.1)
  5. Vincent Norrman (+304.7)

2. Strokes Gained: Ball Striking

With the course playing long and greens likely being receptive, elite ball strikers should have an advantage more so than a good short game and strong putting.

Strokes Gained: Ball Striking Over Past 24 Rounds

  1. Jhonnatan Vegas (+1.10)
  2. Erik Van Rooyen (+.95)
  3. Taylor Pendrith (+.86)
  4. Tony Finau (+.81)
  5. Doug Ghim (+.74)

3. Course History

The first two editions of the event have produced plenty of leaderboard similarity. I’m looking to target players who like the golf course. 

Course History over past 8 rounds:

  1. Tony Finau (+4.05)
  2. Brandon Wu (+3.43)
  3. Davis Riley (+2.94)
  4. Cameron Champ (+2.55)
  5. Patrick Rodgers (+2.41)

4. Strokes Gained: Total in Weak Fields with Easy Scoring Conditions

Last year, the course played extremely easy, and this is one of the weakest fields we will see this year on the PGA Tour. 

SG: TOT Total in Weak Fields with Easy Scoring Conditions Past 24 Rounds

  1. Erik Van Rooyen (+1.84) 
  2. Mackenzie Hughes (+1.69) 
  3. S.H. Kim (+1.43)
  4. Michael Kim (+1.43)
  5. Tyler Duncan (+1.26)

5. Strokes Gained: Total in Caribbean

I’m not exactly sure if this part of Mexico would be considered “Caribbean”, but this statistic brings in all rounds from Corales, the Puerto Rico Open, and the Bermuda Championship, which all have close leaderboard correlation to the Mexico Open. This also brings in courses that feature Paspalum greens.

Strokes Gained: Total in Caribbean over past 24 Rounds

  1. Mackenzie Hughes (+3.14)
  2. Tony Finau (+2.73)
  3. Nicolai Hojgaard (+2.40)
  4. James Hahn (+2.35)
  5. Chad Ramey (+2.05)

The Mexico Open at Vidanta Model Rankings

Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — Driving Distance (22%), SG: Ball Striking (28%), SG: Paspalum (16%), SG: Total in Weak Fields with Easy Scoring Conditions (16%) and Strokes Gained: Total in Caribbean (16%)

  1. Taylor Pendrith
  2. Erik Van Rooyen
  3. Carl Yuan
  4. Stephan Jaeger
  5. Mark Hubbard
  6. Matti Schmid
  7. Cameron Champ
  8. Vincent Whaley
  9. Ryan Moore
  10. Michael Kim

Mexico Open Picks

(All listed odds are at the time of writing)

Stephan Jaeger +2800 (BetMGM)

Despite not yet winning an event, Stephan Jaeger has been one of the most prolific birdie makers on the PGA Tour. In the field this season, he ranks 5th in the field in Birdie or Better percentage. 13th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and 27th in Driving Distance.

Jaeger has had a tough time closing events while in contention, but his recent T3 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open in a strong field should have helped him build the necessary scar tissue it takes to win on the PGA Tour. He shot a final round 72 at Torrey Pines, which wasn’t a horrible result, but left him two shots behind eventual champion Mathieu Pavon.

In his two starts at the course, Jaeger has finished 15th and 18th. At this point in his career, he’s one of the most talented players in the field and should have what it takes to earn his first PGA Tour victory.

Keith Mitchell +3500 (DraftKings)

Keith Mitchell took last week off after a strong start to his 2024 campaign. He finished in a tie for 9th at the American Express in January and in a tie for 17th in his most recent start at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Over his past 24 rounds, Mitchell ranks 12th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking and 21st in Driving Distance in the field.

When betting on events that feature Paspalum greens, I always look to target players who’ve had some success on the surface before, as it is quite unique. Mitchell hasn’t played in a great deal of those events over the past few seasons but does have a 2nd place finish at the Corales Puntacana Championship in 2018, which is a strong signal that he likes the surface and can take advantage of a weak field.

On a golf course where great drivers of the golf ball have a significant advantage, I’ll happily take a shot on Mitchell who’s gained strokes off the tee in every one of his starts this season.

Taylor Pendrith +3500 (DraftKings)

Over the past few seasons, Taylor Pendrith has been fantastic in the weaker field events on coastal tracks. In the fall, he finished 8th at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship and was 10th a few months ago at the Sony Open in Hawaii. In his past 24 rounds, the Canadian ranks 6th in Strokes Gained: Total in events that have easy scoring conditions and weak fields and 4th in Strokes Gained: Total in the Caribbean.

Vidanta Vallarta is a course where bombers thrive and Pendrith is one of the longer hitters on the PGA Tour. He ranks 19th in the field in Driving Distance as well as 4th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking in his past 24 rounds. He also ranks 2ndin the field in Birdie or Better percentage.

In addition to the obvious course fit, Pendrith is starting to play some good golf of late. He finished 9th at Torrey Pines a few weeks ago and has two top 10’s in his last three starts. With fellow Canadian Nick Taylor winning in Phoenix, the 32-year-old will be motivated to get in the winner’s circle in a year where the Presidents Cup will be played in Canada.

Cameron Champ +6500 (FanDuel)

Cameron Champ has become one of my favorite players to bet in the outright market over the years due to his volatility. In most circumstances, volatility is a bad thing in the gambling world, but in outright betting, it’s a trait that I target. Champ finishes at the bottom of the leaderboard far more often than he finishes at the top, but he wins golf tournaments at a much higher clip than his odds indicate.

One of the courses on Tour that Champ fits the most is Vidanta Vallarta. The 28-year-old absolutely pummels the ball and the course is set up for players who can get it out there off the tee. He ranks 4th in Driving Distance in the field and also ranks 3rd in Strokes Gained: Total for the first two editions of the Mexico Open at Vidanta.

By any metric, Champ is a poor putter on just about every surface, with one notable exception: Paspalum. He gains an average of .4 strokes per event on Paspalum as opposed to losing roughly .3 strokes on other surfaces.

Many will be concerned with Champ’s horrible start to 2024 where he’s missed the cut in all four of his starts. However, last season, Champ missed the cut in eight straight events prior to finishing 8th at the Mexico Open.

Close your eyes and bet it. Embrace the volatility.

Jhonnatan Vegas +8000 (BetRivers)

Jhonnatan Vegas is one of my favorite players to bet on and I’m ecstatic to find a spot on the schedule that should suit the Venezuelan remarkably.

After an injury hiatus, Vegas is back playing consistent golf and has shown some flashes of his ceiling in his most recent start. At the Waste management Phoenix Open, the two-time Olympian finished 22nd and gained 7.2 two strokes ball striking comprised of 3.8 strokes off the tee and 3.2 on approach.

Coastal Paspalum is a surface Vegas has thrived at over the years. The 39-year-old has finishes 2nd (2021 Puerto Rico Open) and 4th (2022 Corales Puntacana) on Paspalum and should be extremely comfortable with the putter this week.

In his past 24 rounds, Vegas ranks 2nd in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking in the field and 22nd in Driving Distance. The big man will be letting it rip off the tee in Mexico this week.

Harry Hall +130000 (BetRivers)

Harry Hall has absolutely feasted on Paspalum greens over the course of his PGA Tour career. The Englishman absolutely loves playing on the coast and a good deal of his best finishes have come on this surface, including the 2023 Puerto Rico Open (7th), the 2023 Mexico Open (10th) 2023 Corales (13th), and the 2022 Great Exuma (19th).

Hall finished 10th at the event last year and arrives after a solid tied for 41st finish at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. We’ve seen longshots win this season with a hot putter and Hall is one of the best putters in the field.

Adrien Dumont De Chassart +20000 (FanDuel)

Adrien Dumont De Chassart is a young up-and-coming player I’ve committed to betting early in the 2024 season. That approach will certainly come with ebbs and flows but in the end, I am betting on the talent of the 23-year-old.

The Belgian possesses arguably the most desired trait in order to contend this week in Mexico: At his best, he’s an elite talent off the tee. ADDC gained 4.0 strokes off the tee in his last start at the Waste Management Phoenix Open and should be able to let his drive loose at Vidanta Vallarta this week.

De Chassart is a proven winner on the Korn Ferry Tour and has the upside to take advantage of a weaker field this week in Mexico.

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