Mexico Open Betting Tips: Five bets for this week's PGA Tour event
Entering it with a 5-shot lead, it looked like the final round of the Zurich Classic would be nothing but a procession for the duo of Patrick Cantlay & Xander Schauffele.
Sam Burns & Billy Horschel had different ideas, getting to within two of the lead and having a genuine chance over the closing holes, before a bogey on the par 3 17th derailed them and their chances. Allowing Cantlay & Schauffele, the strongest all-round team in the field, to pick up the title.
Mexico Open Tips
This week the tour heads to Mexico for the Mexico Open. Though a new event to the PGA Tour schedule this year, the event itself has a storied history going back to the 1940s. It has previously been a part of the Korn Ferry Tour schedule and has spent the last eight years as a PGA Latinoamerica event, before getting the upgrade this year. It’s being hosted at the Vidanta Vallarta’s Greg Norman Signature Course for the first time this year, the first year of a three-year contract.
Originally a par 73 measuring 7287 yards, the course has gone through drastic changes in recent months. This has involved the lengthening of some holes, adding just under 200 yards to the original distance. It now measures 7456 yards and with two of the previous five par 5s being converted to par 4s, it plays as a par 71. In addition to this they’ve almost doubled the amount of bunkers around the course, adding more penalty for errant ball-striking.
There’s a feeling these alterations were very much necessary for this resort course to pose any kind of questions to a PGA Tour field. The fairways are wide and with little rough, it’s extremely generous off-the-tee. Though there is water in-play on around 1/3 of the holes and large sandy areas may pose questions for the most wayward of tee-shots. The greens are also large, with some deep bunkers for protection, typical of a Greg Norman design.
Despite the changes it still looks a scorable course. With all par 5s giving good birdie opportunities and the drivable par 4 7th a real risk/reward hole.
Paspalum grass covers the course, common in this part of the world. We see it in events in the Caribbean, as well as in the other PGA Tour event to take place in Mexico, the Mayakoba Classic at El Camaleon, another Greg Norman design. Typically slower than other grasses commonly used on tour, though they are said to be trying to get the course to play as firm as they can.
We’re a little in the dark, as no amount of reading and listening can actually make up for seeing a course in action but with the length of the course, generosity off-the-tee and the slower paspalum grass, I get the impression that this course will really suit the bigger hitting ball-striking types and if the weather permits I expect scoring to be pretty low.
Conditions are set to be warm and sunny throughout the week. Wind will also play its part, particularly for the later starters across the four rounds, with each day of the event forecasting light winds in the morning, with a strong breeze kicking up in the afternoon. This will ask questions and I suspect players will need to show some sharpness around the greens.
With no course history to go off, we don’t have the form-ties to give us an impression of which players could go well here. That being said there are a few really obvious courses that should provide clues.
The Corales Puntacana at Corales Golf Club is by far my favourite comp. An alternate event at another lengthy course, with generous fairways, little rough, water in-play and paspalum grass. This alternate field event reads almost identical to what we expect to see this week.
Very similarly to the Corales, the Puerto Rico Open at Grand Reserve Country Club makes plenty of sense, possessing many of the same qualities. Another alternate event where we see players often repeat the form that they’ve shown at Corales.
In addition to this it may pay to look at other Greg Norman designs. Though not entirely similar as it’s not as long or open as Vidanta Vallarta, El Camaleon, host of the Mayakoba Classic is an obvious pointer as an event also taking place in Mexico and on paspalum. TPC San Antonio, host of the Texas Open, the other regular PGA Tour event to take place at a Norman design.
Though I think any kind of form in this part of the world is a positive, whether that be on the Latinoamerica tour or elsewhere, I particularly like the Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay Golf Course on the Korn Ferry Tour, as it’s another typical Greg Norman design that is often at the mercy of conditions.
World #2, Jon Rahm is the clear standout in what is a weak field this week and should see this as the perfect opportunity to kickstart his year on a course that he should like.
The already weak field has been weakened further with the withdrawal of Daniel Berger, now meaning Mexico’s Abraham Ancer and Tony Finau are the only other players from inside the world’s top 30 teeing it up in Mexico this week.
Jon Rahm heads the market at 11/2 and may well be hard to beat this week. For all his results at this point of the year aren’t at the level he’d have hoped, he’s actually hitting the ball as well as anyone, ranking 1st off-the-tee and 12th in approach this season, with his short-game being the area causing concern. This type of big wide course, against a field lacking real depth gives him the perfect opportunity to get his year back on track and put him in a good frame of mind going into the rest of the year’s big events.
That being said, the short-game woes are enough to keep me away from him this week at the price and I’m hoping to get him beat with my largely big hitting quintet. Starting with Gary Woodland.
We last saw Woodland missing the cut at The Masters in a performance he’ll no doubt have been disappointed with. There were positives to be found there though, as his ball-striking was still in good form, ranking inside the top 15 off-the-tee in both rounds 1 & 2 and in the top 10 in approach in round two. It was a poor couple of days with the short-game, particularly the putter, that caused the missed cut.
This poor putting performance was a little out of the blue for Woodland, as he’d putted well for most of this season and that has been an important cog in his generally all-round strong golf, that has enabled him to produce some of the quality finishes he has had this year.
In his last 6 starts, Woodland has recorded 3 top 10 finishes. Putting up back-to-back 5th place finishes in Florida, in the Honda Classic and Arnold Palmer Invitational, and an 8th in the start preceding The Masters missed cut, in the Texas Open.
During this period that all-round quality has been on show and sees Woodland rank 38th on tour tee-to-green and 40th in putting. With his approach play the particular standout, ranking 27th for the season and gaining strokes with his irons in 7 out of 9 starts this year. Rankings of 14th in driving distance and 43rd in scrambling indicating his suitability to the test that this week will throw up.
Woodland has a strong record on other Greg Norman designs. A 2nd place in the Mayakoba Classic in 2017 is the best of those, with two top 10s in the last two renewals of the Texas Open adding further encouragement.
I will forgive anyone a tough week on the greens at Augusta, particularly when they’ve been putting as well as Woodland has. With the form he’s been in this season, his length off-the-tee and quality of his approach play this year, he looks the ideal type for this week.
Aaron Wise is another strong ball-striker who possesses plenty of power off-the-tee and after a slow start to the year has started to show some more positive signs in his last few starts.
Wise started his year with form figures of MC-MC-67-MC in his opening four events of the year, with him struggling to find form in virtually every part of his game. He’s shown a big upturn in form in his next four starts.
A 17th place finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational was followed by 50th in THE PLAYERS Championship, a missed cut in the Valspar Championship and then was 21st last time out at Harbour Town in the RBC Heritage.
The big reason for this change in fortunes has been the ball-striking. He was excellent both off-the-tee and in approach at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, ranking 2nd in driving and 19th in approach. He once again showed enough quality off-the-tee at THE PLAYERS, ranking 33rd but excelled with the irons, ranking 6th. He gained strokes in both approach and OTT in the MC at the Valspar, and he drove it well last time out at Habour Town, ranking 9th OTT, though was hindered by a rare poor week with the irons, ranking 63rd.
This all adds up to a player who ranks 24th for the season OTT and 54th in approach, with 49th in scrambling strengthening his credentials for this test. Though the putter has been the biggest weak point of the season, he produced his best performance of the year in that respect last time out at Harbour Town, where he ranked 21st and has gone well in the past on the paspalum putting surfaces he’ll encounter this week.
Those previous performances of his on these surfaces have come in the other current Mexican event, the Mayakoba Classic, where Wise has an excellent record. Finishing 10th, 2nd and 15th there on his three most recent visits. In those three visits he’s ranked 3rd, 6th and 1st in putting average, showing he can turn it on when on these this grass.
Wise has had a few chances to add to that breakthrough PGA Tour victory in 2018 at the Byron Nelson. With the length he possesses off-the-tee, the quality of his ball-striking and his ability to putt paspalum, he can give himself another chance at victory this week.
Australia’s Matt Jones has had a year of inconsistency. Putting up two top 3 finishes amongst a raft of missed cuts and other underwhelming performances. Though with that 2nd place finish last time out in Texas, this big hitter can go well again on this generous driving course.
That inconsistent year has seen Jones miss 5 cuts in 10 but balances that out with two excellent performances, when finishing 3rd in the Tournament of Champions at the start of the year and 2nd in the Texas Open on his latest start. A 15th place finish at the Genesis Invitational adding to those two other strong results.
The inconsistency in Jones’ results correlates perfectly with inconsistencies in one specific area of his game, his irons. In each of his 5 missed cuts this year, he’s lost strokes in approach, whilst when his irons have fired, he’s made the weekend.
This doesn’t just speak to the up and down performances with his irons but also the consistency he’s able to show in other areas of the game, where Jones has been excellent around-the-greens, largely strong off-the-tee and though he recently went through a bit of a down period on the greens he bounced back in that 2nd in Texas and has historically been a good putter.
His runner-up finish in Texas is his best of a solid book of form at that Norman design, which has to be taken as a positive. As are his results in the two alternate events mentioned above, having recorded finishes of 5th and 14th in Puerto Rico and 14th & 18th in the Corales Puntacana.
These often wind effected events aren’t the only form Jones holds in the wind. With both PGA Tour victories, in the Houston Open and Honda Classic coming at venues/areas that are often at the mercy of the wind. He’s a player who will relish conditions if strong winds arrive.
Jones’ year has been inconsistent but full of quality as well. If he can maintain the type of performance in approach he showed in Texas and keep the rest of his game firing as usual, he should be able to contend again this week.
Wyndham Clark has found something with his irons in recent starts and looks the ideal type for the test this week.
Clark started the year with a strong 13th place finish in The American Express, where he struck the ball really well and showed quality on the greens. With that, it was a bit of a surprise that he didn’t really kick on from there, as his next 7 starts were abound with MC’s, a DQ and one solitary made cut, when finishing 56th at the Farmers Insurance Open.
He started to turn his year around four starts ago, when finishing 22nd in the Corales Puntacana and has made every cut since. Finishing 71st in the Texas Open, 35th in the RBC Heritage and 10th at the Zurich Classic last week, when teamed with Cameron Tringale.
Clark has been one of the biggest hitters on tour, ranking inside the top 6 in driving distance in 3 of his 4 seasons on the PGA Tour. His inaccuracy often means he doesn’t gain quite as much in this area as some, but he’ll get away with more this week than usual. He combines this big hitting with a top quality short game and whilst approach play is the weakest area of his game, he’s made gradual improvements there in recent weeks.
This was particularly evident in his 35th place finish at the RBC Heritage, where he ranked 22nd in approach, gaining strokes his with irons in every round for the first time since the Phoenix Open in 2021 and there were more positive signs last week at the Zurich Classic.
He has some interesting finishes at correlating events. A 10th in Puerto Rico appeals most, though 20th in Texas and 22nd in the Corales Puntacana offer further encouragement.
Clark’s been playing well in recent weeks and arrives at a course that looks sure to suit. He’ll be forgiven the odd errant tee-shot here and if able to keep up that improved iron play, can take advantage of this weak field to find a breakthrough PGA Tour victory.
Hayden Buckley is a strong ball-striking type and I’m taking him to bounce back from a couple of poor efforts this week in Mexico.
Buckley kicked off his PGA Tour career in fine form late last year. Following a missed cut in the Fortinet Championship with two top 10s in his next two starts, first finishing 4th at the Sanderson Farms Championship and then 8th at the Shriners Open the following week.
He started 2022 in similar form, with a 12th place finish in the Sony Open on his first start of the year but hasn’t quite been able to carry that form on. Though did produce his second best performance of the year three starts ago in the Corales Puntacana, finishing 13th, where he ranked 9th in ball-striking.
Ball-striking is very much Buckley’s bag. On the Korn Ferry Tour last year, he ranked 3rd in ball-striking, owing to being 4th in total driving and 9th in greens in regulation. Impressive is the fact he’s managed to bring that superb ball-striking over to the PGA Tour, currently ranking 10th for the season.
The driver is the standout, where he currently ranks 13th off-the-tee, possessing accuracy and is plenty long enough, continually producing quality performances with that area of his game, despite the MCs. 20th in greens in reg showing further the level of golf he’s retained from the Korn Ferry Tour.
As mentioned, he has a great bit of form at my favourite comp event this week, the Corales Puntacana. A 13th place finish in which he shot three rounds in the 60s and would’ve gone much closer had it not been for a poor 2nd round.
Buckley turned pro with plenty of promise after a strong, but short amateur career and he’s won at every level he’s played at as a pro, prior to the PGA Tour. First in Canada in 2019 and then on the Korn Ferry Tour last year. I have no doubt he has the ability to become a winner on the PGA Tour too and I’m hoping he can ball-strike his way into the mix this week in Mexico.