Out of the Rough: The Mexico Open (2023)
Following the Tour’s only team event and positioned directly before the next elevated event in the Wells Fargo Championship, we have the Mexico Open.
The Signature Course at Vidanta Vallarta, Mexico plays host to the event.
The Mexico Open debuted a season ago on the PGA Tour and was ultimately won by Jon Rahm. Rahm headlines a very depleted field as he looks to defend his title.
The event originated from the Mexican Golf Open which dates back to 1944. It is considered Mexico’s national championship.
The Mexico Open takes over for the WGC Mexico Championship which is no longer being held.
The Signature Course at Vidanta Vallarta in Puerto Vallarta is a Greg Norman design and will host its second PGA Tour event with the return of the Mexico Open.
This Par 71 championship course played as a top-ten course in total yardage last season at just shy of 7,500.
The course extends along the Ameca River with spectacular views of the nearby Sierra Madre Mountain Range. The inclusion of indigenous trees, native grasses and jungle that surround the core course adds to its natural beauty.
Fun fact, the course features the world's longest golf cart suspension bridge spanning the Ameca River from Nayarit to Jalisco.
Getting off the tee is of the utmost importance this week as this course can best be described as a “bombers paradise” as the course is a flat track with wide fairways and very little rough.
As previously mentioned, the course plays to the tune of just shy of 7,500 yards, placing it in the top-ten course in total yardage a year ago. It offers generous fairways and non penal rough. Therefore the course rewards the longest drivers in the field.
Long iron play too will be something we look very closely at this week as a year ago, 35-percent of total approach shots came from beyond 200 yards. That is nearly double the PGA Tour average.
The plethora of 200-yard-plus approach shots come from the combination of three 195-plus yard par-threes, four long par-fives and six par-fours that play over 450 yards.
The Signature Course at Vidanta Vallarta features slow and sticky Paspalum grass throughout.
Although the greens too are Paspalum, they play fast with plenty of subtle breaks and undulation and played to the tune of 12 on the Stimpmeter a year ago. The green complexes too are on the larger side when it comes to PGA Tour standards.
The greens are also well protected by bunkers, with 106 total on the course, and are surrounded by tricky collection areas. Although featuring the tricky collection areas around the greens, Paspalum levels the field when it comes to around the green play.
Water too is in play on 14 holes this week and along with numerous sandy waste areas, will serve as a line of defense to the course in capturing wayward shots.
The course too is known for its high winds that come from the Pacific Coast line. Golfers well coursed in windy conditions will see an advantage this week.
Rahm won the inaugural event a season ago and headlines this week’s depleted field in an attempt to defend his title.
Outside of Rahm, Tony Finau is the only other golfer in this week’s field that is inside the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) top 50. There actually are just three golfers this week that rank in the top 65 of the OWGR.
Rahm won last year’s installment by one stroke over the likes of Finau, Brandon Wu and Kurt Kitayama.
With Rahm fresh off a Masters’ victory and a total of four wins on the season, combined with a very weak field, we’ll see historically low odds for the Spaniard.
A year ago, Finau led the field in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green in route to a T2nd place finish.
Outside of Rahm and Finau, the next tier of golfers include names such as Alex Noren, Patrick Rodgers, Davis Riley, Gary Woodland and Maverick McNealy.
As previously mentioned about the importance of distance off the tee, long hitters such as Rahm, Finau, Kitayama and Cameron Champ used the advantage to contend throughout the tournament a season ago.
Due to the combination of another elevated event positioned next week in the Wells Fargo Championship and being off-track of the PGA Tour’s “East Coast swing,” we’re seeing such a weak field this week. Due to this, we’re seeing a natural bye week for most of the World’s best.
The narrative continues with the addition of the elevated events that the world’s best won’t go out of their way to play if they don’t have to.
As of the time of writing this, we may actually get a tournament this week on the PGA Tour that isn’t derailed by weather. It seems to be week-in-and-week-out, inclement weather has been the theme. Currently, there is a zero-percent of precipitation. Highs are set to range from 88-degrees to 90-degrees across all four days. As previously mentioned, wind will be a factor this week as speeds are currently set to range from nine miles-per-hour to 13 miles-per-hour. In all, a great week for golf.
Average Driving Distance
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (SG: OTT)
Approach Shots from 200-plus Yards
Birdie or Better Percentage
Sand Saves Percentage
Greens in Regulation Percentage
Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: PUTT)
With just two golfers in this price range this week, I don’t believe there’s much worth mentioning. Jon Rahm ($12,000) comes into this event as the far-and-away favorite to defend his title from a year ago. Along with what may be historically low odds for the Spaniard to win, is one of the highest DFS prices we have ever seen. It’s obvious that the World #1 will be in contention this week, but at that price, it’s hard to make it work. At $12,000 there just isn’t enough meat left on the bone to form a quality lineup around. I personally will not be playing Rahm in DFS this week. Tony Finau ($10,700) is the other golfer in this price range this week. Finau joins Rahm as the only two golfers within the OWGR top-50 players in this week’s field. At a whopping $1,300 less than Rahm in DraftKings’ pricing, Finau is a guy that will be featured in my DFS lineups this week.
Typically I would offer just two golfers per price range when it comes to a non-major event on the PGA Tour. However, with there not being a discussion when it comes to the $10,000-plus price range, I’m going to offer three golfers in this price range. The first of those three golfers is Wyndham Clark ($9,700.) I rode Clark deep into Sunday at the Zurich Classic a week ago as he and teammate Beau Hossler looked to both record their first PGA Tour victory. It did not come to fruition however as the duo had to settle for a third place finish. Now Clark is looking to build off last week’s performance and potentially get that first career victory under his belt. He is currently 11th in average driving distance, 28th in bogey avoidance, 33rd in birdie or better percentage, 37th n SG: APP, 41st in approach shots from 200-plus yards, 58th in both SG: OTT and GIR%, 69th in sand saves percentage and 77th in SG: PUTT. In other words, he’s above average in each of the statistical categories we’re taking into consideration this week. Along with the previously mentioned success a week ago, Clark has made the cut in each of the ten tournaments he’s played on the calendar year and has made the cut in 14 consecutive events on the season. Clark played this event last year where he made the cut as well. It’s a matter of time before Clark finds himself at the top of the leaderboard at the end of Sunday. This could very well be the week and at +1800 to win, I’ll have a few dollars on him this week. Also consider Gary Woodland ($9,600.) I already would much prefer to run either of Clark or Woodland with Finau or even together than to include Rahm and have to forfeit a player of this caliber. Woodland, like Clark, is long off the tee, which, as we already talked about, is key this week. Woodland is currently ninth on Tour in average driving distance. As well as being long off the tee, Woodland is elite with his long irons as he ranks fourth on the PGA tour in approach shots from 200-plus yards. It’s like this course was made for him. He is also 13th in SG: OTT, 23rd in SG: APP and 36th in GIR%. The rest of his game is what brings down his score in our model this week. He currently ranks 143rd in birdie or better percentage, 149th in bogey avoidance, 179th in sand saves percentage and 188th in SG: PUTT. Woodland has made the cut in four consecutive events leading into this week’s Mexico Open. He very quietly put together a T14th at The Masters and a T31st at the RBC Heritage in consecutive weeks. He has also placed T9th at the Genesis Invitational, an elevated event, this year. Woodland placed T24th at this event a year ago. Woodland sits at +2200 to win and you best believe I’ll be taking a gamble (both figuratively and literally) on him this week. Also consider Patrick Rodgers ($9,300.) Rodgers is well above average off the tee and does everything else that this week’s event requires for success well, besides approach shots. He’s currently 112th on Tour in SG: APP and 150th in approach shots from 200-plus yards. That is a bit concerning. However, he is currently 14th in sand saves percentage, 33rd in average driving distance, 35th in birdie or better percentage, 41st in SG: OTT, 47th in bogey avoidance, 68th in SG: PUTT and 75th in GIR%. Rodgers placed T19th two weeks ago at the RBC Heritage and prior to that went fifth at the Valero Texas Open. He also placed tenth at this event a year ago, finishing just four strokes off Rahm at -13.
Both of my suggestions in this price range can be found at the very bottom, which allows both to be used in lineup flexibility. The first name I have here is MJ Daffue ($8,000.) The South African has very quietly made seven consecutive cuts coming into this week’s event, highlighted by a T15th at the Valero Texas Open and a T19th at the Valspar Championship. He also will be making his first appearance at the Mexico Open as he did not play in last year’s inaugural event. He is currently 24th on Tour in SG: OTT, 33rd in approach shots from 200-plus yards, 41st in average driving distance, 90th in birdie or better percentage, 102nd in GIR% and 103rd in sand saves percentage. His score in our model this week is hindered by a 115th placement in SG: APP, 122nd in bogey avoidance and 179th in SG: PUTT. Daffue is long off the tee and very efficient with his long irons. Being able to get off the tee with distance and then strike it close from a long approach shot will help that SG: PUTT and bogey avoidance number. Directly below Daffue in our model and coming in at the same price in DFS is Robby Shelton ($8,000.) Shelton is the complete opposite of the names we have already talked about in this article. He does not get off the tee with distance but does everything else this course requires well. Shelton did miss the cut last week at the Zurich Classic but prior to that placed T15th at the Valero Texas Open. Shelton has made the cut in six-of-nine tournaments on the calendar year. His year has been highlighted by a T6th at The American Express in January. He too did not play this event a year ago. Shelton is currently sixth on Tour in sand saves percentage, 34th in both SG: APP and approach shots from 200-plus yards, 67th in bogey avoidance, 73rd in birdie or better percentage, 105th in GIR% and 129th in SG: PUTT. Shelton’s downfall is definitely his inability to get off the tee with distance. He is currently 152nd in SG: OTT and 161st in average driving distance. We hope that his excellent long iron play can make up for the lack of distance off the tee this week.
My betting card will be smaller this week than normal. I typically feature anywhere from five-to-six guys on any given week. Due to this week’s weak field and Rahm being such a favorite, I’m going with just four golfers. We’ve already touched on Clark and Woodland in the $9,000-$9,900 price range and my two other outright bets this week can be found in this price range. First off we have Will Gordon ($7,900.) Gordon actually comes in third in my model this week to just Rahm, Finau and right above Clark. He’ll be making his debut at the Mexico Open this week. He has missed two cuts coming into this event but prior to that made four consecutive cuts, including tournaments such as the Arnold Palmer Invitational and THE PLAYERS. He is currently eighth on Tour in GIR%, 28th in average driving distance, 40th in SG: OTT, 45th in birdie or better percentage, 46th in SG: APP, 47th in approach shots from 200-plus yards, 57th in sand saves percentage, 86th in bogey avoidance and 113th in SG: PUTT. He’s above average in all but one statistical category this week and you’re finding him in this penultimate price range in a field like this is a bit absurd. He’s also at +6000 to win. I’ll be donating a few dollars on his behalf this week. Also consider Akshay Bhatia ($7,400.) Like Gordon, Bhatia is making his debut at the Mexico Open this year. Bhatia has made the cut in four of the seven events he’s played on the calendar year. His season has been highlighted by a second place finish at the Puerto Rico open in March. Bhatia is elite with his long irons, ranking seventh on Tour in approach shots from 200-plus yards. He is also tenth in GIR%, 23rd in sand saves percentage, 26th in birdie or better percentage, 28th in SG: APP, 46th in bogey avoidance, 78th in SG: OTT and 91st in average driving distance. His placement of 174th in SG: PUTT hinders his ranking in our model this week a bit. Despite that, he comes in fifth in our model, right behind Clark. He’s at +10000 to win, I’ll have a few dollars riding on him.
Leading off this final price range is England’s Ben Taylor ($6,800.) Taylor is an elite putter who too is above average off the tee with distance and plays his long irons above average as well. He is currently eighth on Tour in SG: PUTT, 41st in approach shots from 200-plus yards, 67th in both average driving distance and bogey avoidance, 77th in sand saves percentage, 80th in GIR%, 102nd in SG: APP, 109th in birdie or better percentage and 118th in SG: OTT. Not a bad collection of statistics for someone in this price range, especially in this field. Taylor has been struggling as of late, missing four consecutive cuts heading into this week’s event. However, he has a T5th at the Honda Classic in late February and with such a weak field, I’m not too concerned about the missed cuts. Also consider Cody Gribble ($6,700.) Gribble is currently 33rd on Tour in SG: OTT, 57th in approach shots from 200 plus yards, 85th in both birdie or better percentage and GIR%, 90th in average driving distance, 108th in SG: APP, 114th in SG: PUTT, 118th in bogey avoidance and 120th in sand saves percentage. Prior to missing the cut a week ago at the Zurich Classic, Gribble had actually made the cut in five consecutive events, highlighted by back-to-back T7th place finishes at the Puerto Rico Open and Valspar Championship. Not too bad of options here in this price range this week.
Wyndham Clark (+1800) - 2u
Gary Woodland (+2200) - 2u
Will Gordon (+6000) - 1u
Akshay Bhatia (+10000) - 1u