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Once Upon a Time in Mexico 🇲🇽

Published about 2 months ago • 12 min read

Norman never goes away

The last time Hideki Matsuyama had a top 10 on the PGA TOUR was the 2023 PLAYERS Championship. With pre-tournament odds over +8000 depending on the book (Sunday AM he was +12000), the bizzarro world of betting golf in 2024 continues…

After three weeks on-site covering the world’s best, I’m still not sure if a betting favorite can win on the PGA TOUR. I bring this up for a very specific reason. The Mexico Open at Vidanta has just a couple of elite players. Three of the top 40 in the OWGR are in the field. Until the top of the betting board proves themselves worthy, we are going to try and maximize our first win of the season.

Anybody who is starting to get edgy, need I remind you our first win last year came at the Honda Classic with Chris Kirk in late February. Following Kirk’s playoff win, RTL rattled off 13 more. Golf is a long run, let’s stay sharp and unlike Scottie Scheffler’s putting, there is no need to change anything. We know our process works!

Mexico Open starts in...

Count down to 2024-02-22T14:30:00.000Z

For the third time, the Mexico Open is being played as an official PGA TOUR event at Vidanta Vallarta in Puerto Vallarta. Set alongside the Pacific coastline, the players have a quick commute south from Los Angeles down to Mexico. Thankfully, weather concerns will not be an issue south of the Border. The initial forecast this week calls for sunny skies, no rain, and temperatures in the mid 80s every afternoon.

The Vidanta Resort course is set very close to the shore. Much like Riviera, the wind will kick up in the afternoon off the water. An eight to 10 mph breeze out of the SSW will blow and provide a challenge to the PM players all four days. The average winning score the past two years is 21 under par. Jon Rahm won in 2022, and Tony Finau is our defending champion. Each of them had very short odds to win that week and I don’t expect that tradition to continue.

Finau’s futility with the flatstick is only matched by Scheffler, so outside of a favorable placement or matchup position, we are not going there. The par 71 scorecard has some unique features. There are four par 5s, FIVE par 3s, and nine par 4s. This is one of the few courses where par 3 scoring can really differentiate players. Twenty-eight percent of the holes the field of 132 players will compete on are 3s. The top 65 and ties earn entrance into the weekend and will vie for $8.1 million dollars. I know, a far cry from $20 million at Riviera, but many of these middle tier guys have not played in a month.

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Course conditions

Vidanta Vallarta (no link)

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TV/Streaming

Coverage times

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Real-time weather

Puerto Vallarta, MEX

Our next weekly winner will take home $1.46 million dollars and those valuable FedEx Cup points. I’m certainly not sponsored by the TOUR, so I only mention them because I hear about it at each venue. The regular PGA TOUR card holders have trouble setting a schedule and playing week after week. I believe we will continue to see more longshot winners, especially on the non-signature weeks. Each start has become increasingly valuable for these players and when anyone gets close over the weekend do not be surprised if they step up and take home the trophy.

Vidanta Vallarta is 7,500 yards long. It is one of the longest non-major championship courses on TOUR. Played at sea level, ball speed is a definite advantage. Any course where Cam Champ has back-to-back top 10s, length is a factor. Norman’s resort design has 106 bunkers and twelve holes where water comes into play. The ground is covered in Seaside Paspalum. A hearty turf surface we find at almost all of the seaside destinations. A couple of grass comps I have considered are the TOUR stops in Punta Cana, Puerto Rico and the fall Mexico stop.

Corales in Punta Cana is an excellent comp venue for two reasons, first length, then agronomy, and field strength. As a secondary event to the signature tournaments each year, the lower PGA TOUR tier loves to take advantage of the weeks with two courses on the schedule. Finau won at Vidanta Vallarta with a final total of 24 under par in 2023. Ten holes have a birdie rate over 15%. Those include a short drivable par 4 and FOUR par 5s.

Read The Line recap 🗞️

Tony Finau dominated the field last year winning by three strokes. In terms of ball striking, he gained five strokes off the tee and another six strokes with his iron game. It was a career performance and his fourth win in ten months. All total he gained over nineteen strokes in route to winning in 2023.

We love the long ball

Five players have repeated in the top 10 at Vidanta Vallarta: Tony Finau, Jon Rahm, Cam Champ, Patrick Rodgers, and Brandon Wu. You don’t see that very often on TOUR. Strength of field may play a role, but the course characteristics really call for one type of player. Looking back two years, I have compared the winners (Rahm and Finau) along with the two sets of top 10 finishers from each year. Look at these telling trends.

  • Only one player of the 24 who finished inside the two top 10s (there are ties for tenth) lost strokes off the tee. The two groups gained over three strokes (on average) against the field. Most courses don’t depict the same driver dependency for contending.
    • Rahm and Finau each gained over five strokes on the field the year they won.
    • It plans to be quite humid in Mexico, that will help increase carry along the shore.
  • Over 40% of the approach shots at Vidanta Vallarta are played from over 200 yards. The TOUR average is 23%. Power players tend to hit shorter irons on approach. Seven iron versus five iron from 210 yards makes a big difference over four rounds. Long iron acumen is a must in Mexico.
  • Some of those long approaches even happen on a couple of the five par 3s. Par 3 scoring is not an edge we consider often, but with nearly 30% of the holes happening with just one swing off the tee, there’s definitely a need to dig deeper here.
    • Rahm and Finau each gained over four strokes on the 3s in the year they won.
  • Go easy on around the green and short game weight. One-third of those top 24 from the past two years lost strokes around the green. Players will miss greens due to length, but Seaside Paspalum is an easier grass than most to get up and down on.
  • Players make less than the PGA TOUR average on the greens for all putts over 5’. I’m watching putting stats closely on Paspalum. Vidanta Vallarta is below the TOUR average for 3 putts. Approach putts aren’t difficult, these greens are just tough to convert birdie chances.
  • Only two players of the previous two top 10s lost strokes on the greens. The group averaged gaining over four strokes on the field.

Not all of these same players are in the field for year three, but they do give us an accurate representation of what is needed to contend. The average driving distance by the field is 15 yards more than the PGA TOUR average. Another great comp situation is el Cardonal we saw in the fall at the World Wide Technology Championship. Tiger’s design was very friendly off the tee and called for going low resort golf. That field was also mediocre in strength and their leaderboard will help along with the history here.

I love weeks like this on the PGA TOUR. They cannot all be Tiger tournaments anymore. This is why wagering is so much fun, we can all build a community connection to these outrights and watch the weekend develop with live betting. The Mexico Open has given us two very entertaining years to date. I believe year three will be even better with some new names. Get behind this card and let’s take home win number one in 2024!

Outright winners - Mexico Open

Taylor Pendrith is quietly putting together a great run of golf on the PGA TOUR.

  • Pendrith has five top 15 results in his last seven starts.
  • Pendrith is one of the longest drivers on TOUR.
  • First in bogey avoidance, he has touch to go with his prolific power.
  • That complimentary skill set gives him infinite scoring potential on a course like Vidanta Vallarta.

Maverick McNealy is gaining an average of 4.5 strokes total in his three starts of 2024.

  • Certainly one of the best putters on TOUR, he has a very positive history on Paspalum.
  • Mav gained over three strokes on approach at WMPO that led to a sixth place finish.
  • In seven Paspalum events, he has five top 30 finishes.
  • McNealy's length will surprise you, he's ranked twenty-fourth in the field for driving distance.

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Inside the ropes at the 2023 Genesis Invitational


2024 LPGA season... take two

Please pay attention to the countdown timer below, the ladies are in Asia and start on Wednesday night.

The first two weeks of the 2024 LPGA year got off to a very hot start. Lydia Ko and Nelly Korda won, and the stars seemed aligned for a sensational season. Three weeks later, we start all over again and this time we are in Thailand! I realize building a successful schedule takes incredible resources and plenty of cash, but hopefully someday an official from the LPGA can explain to me in terms I understand why they start and stop each year at the beginning.

Old Siam Country Club has been the consistent host of the Honda LPGA Thailand for some time. A field of 72 players will compete for $1.7 million and $255,000 for first place. The LPGA uses the Old Course at the 63-hole, three course facility in downtown Pattaya. There are a number of unique aspects of this design, but the first that will catch your eye is the overall course layout. The entire course runs north and south. I say this every year, but I don’t know if I have ever played a routing that only sends golfers in two wind directions.

Honda LPGA Thailand starts in...

Count down to 2024-02-22T02:00:00.000Z

The weather forecast calls for temperatures in the low 90s and a chance of rain almost every afternoon. With 90% humidity, precipitation seems like a foregone conclusion most days. The wind will be blowing in the low teens and out of the SSW. That means half the holes will be playing into a cross breeze and the other half in opposite conditions.

Much like Mexico, the leaderboards at Old Siam are quite predictable. Over the past two years, six of our eight outright predictions have finished in the top 8. The Old Course is a par 72 design covering 6,576 yards. The true parkland layout boasts four par 3s (average length of 169 yards), four par 5s (avg. length 515 yards), and ten par 4s (avg. length 384 yards).

Most of the holes are quite scorable. In fact, in 2022 there were 15 scores of 65 or better in the field and last year there were 13 more. The average winning score over the last five years is 23 under par. If you can keep it between the trees, players can certainly go low. Lilia Vu took home her first LPGA title with a winning score of 22 under par a year ago. We have 83 bunkers to contend with and 43 of them sit greenside. Seven holes have water, and three of them fall on the last four to play.

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Course conditions

Old Course (no link)

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TV/Streaming

Coverage times

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Real-time weather

Pattaya, Thailand

Hot scoring

Eighteen of the top 35 in the Rolex World Rankings will have four rounds to compete in this 72-hole no cut event. They will see Bermudagrass greens, and Seaside Paspalum on the tees, collars, fairways, and rough. This grass will play sticky. The average winning score tells you it is not hard to manage, but those who have had prior success on it we will favor. Comparing the last two top 10 leaderboards, those 24 women averaged 24 sub-par scores over four rounds.

That same group of players also gained their largest edge on approach. Over four and a half strokes each year and that’s mainly due to the length of most approach shots. The average range for iron shots falls in-between 125-175 yards. Players will use their mid-irons all day to try and build birdie opportunities. Recent winners are some of the best players on tour. Lexi Thompson, Amy Yang, Ariya Juntanagarn are all great approach players.

Those Bermudagrass greens are where we see the next largest gains. Those same two top 10s gained over two strokes (on average) on the field with their flatsticks. There’s a number of LPGA players who can hit their mid-irons well. Few can complement their approach ability with a hot putter. Getting to 20+ birdies takes a bunch of chances. That same group has hit 79% of the GIRs over the past two years. In doing so, they convert about 1.7 (or better) of their birdie putts.

Missing greens doesn’t happen much at the top of the leaderboard, but outside of not gaining a sub-par score it doesn’t slow the leaders down. The women gained three times more off the tee than with their short game. The fairways are tree-lined at Siam’s Old Course. Great drivers can create an edge on the field with a bunch of tee shots in play. The best place to take advantage is on the short par 5s. Par 5 scoring leads to a successful stay at Siam CC. The par 3s and 4s are played just around par by the leaders, but the 5s get destroyed by the world’s best women. Our card will be populated with excellent mid-approach players. They will have a solid putting record on Bermudagrass and hit fairways. Sounds easy on paper, but thankfully only a handful of players in the field can handle those tasks.

One of the last times the ladies were playing overnight we won with a +5000 Angel Yin: her first! Let’s do it again and run it right into a nice Sunday sweat for the men in Mexico.

Outright winners - Honda LPGA Thailand

Last Week, Charley Hull finished third in the LET event in Saudi Arabia.

  • Hull is a par 5 scoring machine (current avg. 4.56) and will be one of the LPGA leaders at the end of the season.
  • Charley is ranked first in the field SG:OTT. A huge advantage getting around these tree-lined fairways for scoring.
  • She is averaging four birdies per round and hitting 76% of her GIRs.
  • She also has a good history here with three top 23 results in her last four starts.
  • Hull finished seventh at HGVTOC on a similar style parkland layout.

Amy Yang won this event in 2015, 2017, 2019.

  • Yang is already scoring early in the season, averaging over three birdies per round
  • No player has more career strokes gained at Siam's Old Course.
  • Amy is killing the par 5s in 2024, she's also hitting 70% of her fairways which will help her scoring again in Thailand.
  • Yang is also coming off a career win at the CME Group Tour Championship in November shooting 27 under par!
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