Out of the Rough: Puerto Rico Open (2023)
We get bonus golf this week.
The Puerto Rico Open annually plays opposite another PGA Tour event and this year it plays second fiddle to the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
It is held at the Grand Reserve Country Club (Composite Course) in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.
Grand Reserve Country Club, formally named the Coco Beach Golf Club, sits at the foothills of the El Yunque Rainforest. It is a diverse and flat course that is extremely wind-exposed.
It plays at just over 7,500 yards at a par 72.
The course features an exposed layout and the winds will almost certainly be a factor throughout the tournament. Those who have experience in playing in windy conditions will see an advantage.
There is water in play on 13 of the holes as well.
The greens are Paspalum and are average sized compared to Tour standards.
Going low will be imperative this week for any potential winner. All but one of the former champions of this event shot double-digits under par enroute to victory.
Four of the last five winners have shot 19 under par or better to win this event.
Greens in regulation percentage (GIR%) may be the most important statistic to monitor this week. Last year’s winner, Ryan Brehm, ranked 11th in GIR%.
In 2021, winner Branden Grace ranked third as runner up Jhonattan Vegas ranked seventh. In 2020, Viktor Hovland won the event and ranked eighth in GIR% as runner-up Josh Teater ranked first.
The Puerto Rico Open has never seen a back-to-back winner. That trend will continue as last year’s winner, Brehm, will compete at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
This event has been a breeding ground for first time winners on Tour. Nine of the 14 winners of the Puerto Rico open have used the event as their first victory. Names such as Hovland and Tony Finau have used this event as their first Tour victory.
Although we’ll see a depleted field with the Tour’s best playing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, this event is still important. The winner will receive a two-year PGA Tour exemption.
As for weather this week, highs are set for the low 80’s with a 20-percent chance of precipitation across all four days. Winds are set to range from 13-to-16 miles-per-hour.
Important statistics to consider this week include:
Greens in Regulation Percentage (GIR%)
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Average Driving Distance
Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: PUTT)
Strokes Gained: Scrambling (SG: SCR)
Birdie or Better Percentage
There are only two options in this price range. Our model this week leans in favor of Andrew Novak ($10,100.) Novak is currently 46th on Tour in SG: PUTT, 87th in birdie or better percentage, 93rd in SG: SCR, 94th in both SG: APP and bogey avoidance, 111th in GIR% and 169th in average driving distance. The average driving distance leaves a lot to be desired but the rest of his game will make up for that. Novak has played seven events on the season, missing the cut in two of them. On the calendar year he has missed just one cut and has made three straight. His season has been highlighted by a T12th at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Most recently he has gone T29th last week at the Honda Classic.
The four highest scoring golfers in our model this week can be found in this price range and due to that I will offer two for this price range opposed to the one for the others. Akshay Bhatia ($9,500) is my favorite this week per my model. Bhatia has played in three events on the season and has made the cut in each of them. We saw Bhatia last week at the Honda Classic. He’s currently fourth on Tour in GIR%, tenth in SG: APP, 46th in bogey avoidance, 122nd in SG: SCR, 128th in average driving distance and 168th in birdie or better percentage. He ranks very low in SG: PUTT however. He’ll need a few putts to fall his way but being elite on Tour in GIR% and SG: APP will go a long way this week. Also consider Dylan Wu ($9,600.) Wu comes in second on our model to Bhatia. Wuh is fresh off a T10th at last week’s Honda Classic. He’s played in nine events on the season and has made the cut in six of them. He’s currently 14th on Tour in GIR%, 58th in bogey avoidance, 61st in SG: APP, 113th in SG: SCR, 135th in average driving distance, 141st in SG: PUTT and 142nd in birdie or better percentage.
After the four golfers in the $9,000 price range, Harry Hall ($8,800) is fifth in our model. Hall is currently third on Tour in SG: PUTT, 17th in birdie or better percentage, 96th in average driving distance, 97th in SG: SCR, 101st in bogey avoidance, 139th in GIR% and 184th in SG: APP. Hall is an elite putter and with the greens being a Paspalum, a grass not seen often on Tour, that will go a long way this week. Hall has played in 12 events already on the season and has made seven cuts. He’s made back-to-back cuts at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and Honda Classic. Hall is also from England and is accustomed to playing in windy conditions.
My selection in this price range is Trevor Cone ($7,200.) Cone comes in seventh in our model this week. Cone made the cut last week at the Honda Classic. He’s currently 11th on Tour in average driving distance. He’s second to just Brandon Matthews in this week’s field when it comes to average driving distance, which as I mentioned previously, will give him an advantage. He’s also 27th in GIR%, 87th in bogey avoidance and 121st in SG: SCR. He’s well below average in the other statistical categories we’re taking into consideration this week but being elite distance wise off the tee and well above average on Tour in GIR% will look to have him in contention this week.
Options are very limited in this price range with no statistical data to go off for a good number of the field. Either way, our suggestion in this price range is Nick Watney ($6,800.) Watney is a Tour veteran. Veterans have proven to be successful at this event in the past. Watney actually has five career victories on Tour as well. Currently the only thing Watney does stats wise that is above average is average driving distance as he ranks 96th. He’s also 117th in SG: APP and 147th in SG: PUTT. The rest of the statistical categories we’re taking into consideration this week are well below average. Watney has played in 11 events thus far this season, making the cut in four of them. His season has been highlighted by an 11th place finish at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship.