While Mexico may have lost a WGC they did pick up a full-field event, the Mexico Open at Vidanta.
This event dates back to the 1940s, with this being the 62nd edition. Past champions include Stewart Cink, Fred Funk, Jay Haas, Troy Merritt, Jamie Lovemark, Ben Crenshaw, Lee Trevino, to name a few. However, this will be the first time the event is sanctioned by the PGA TOUR, offering the full allotment of 500 FedExCup Points to the winner.
Vidanta Vallarta is set to host this for the next three years.
There will be 144 golfers lined up to start the week with the Low 65 and Ties advancing through the 36-hole cut.
Vidanta Vallarta is the host course this week.
This Greg Norman design is a resort course that sits about a mile off the western coast.
Before joining the PGA TOUR rota this was a par 73 that played to 7,287 yards from the tips but they added 169 yards, turned it into a par 71 and redid all 106 bunkers ahead of the PGA TOUR's arrival.
While it is a par 71, it's unconventional, with four par 5s and five par 3s. At 7,456 yards it's pretty beefy and the course is played at sea level, so no help from the altitude, unlike Club de Golf Chapultepec.
Looking at a hole-by-hole level, there are five par 4s that play to 475 yards or longer. The rough is not expected to be very penal but golfers will need to be dialed in with their mid and long-irons if they want to succeed this week.
The par-5 6th and 12th are relatively tough to reach in two but the 14th and 18th should yield a fair amount of eagle chances this week.
Along with the 106 bunkers, there is also water in play on roughly 11 holes this week.
We know length is rarely a concern for most of the pros out on TOUR but the amount of water should widen the range of scores we see this week.
Looking at grass types, they will see wall-to-wall paspalum which is common when the TOUR heads south of the border. This grass typically runs slower on the greens but the tournament officials are trying to ramp up the speeds as much as possible, aiming for 12 feet if they can, which is not slow.
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We don't have any historical data to lean on this week but we can look at the region and grass types and come up with some possible course crossover to look at:
Club de Golf Chapultepec
El Camaleon GC
Grand Reserve GC
Thursday: Sunny with a high of 84 degrees. Winds at 4 to 8 MPH.
Friday: Mostly Sunny with a high of 86 degrees. Winds at 6 to 10 MPH.
Looking at the daily trends in the area, there does seem to be a consistent rise in the wind in the afternoon but right now the forecast doesn't call for anything over 10 MPH, even in the afternoons.
Golfers to Watch
It's safe to say he's the class of the field and his opening odds reflect that. If the field were somehow to play exactly to their one-year adjusted baseline performance then Rahm would win this event by four or five shots. However, we know that golfers have a much wider range of outcomes which is why the tournaments are played instead of simulated.
He will be the fan-favorite this week while playing a home game in Mexico. He made a deep run at the WGC-Match Play recently but he withdrew from the Valero the following week and then missed the cut at the Masters. He followed that up with a pre-tournament WD ahead of the RBC Heritage so health is still a bit of a question mark.
Speaking of health being a question mark, Munoz was a late scratch ahead of the RBC Heritage, citing a back injury. Munoz had rattled off five straight top 40s in stroke-play events prior to the WD ahead of the Heritage.
He is a Vidanta Resorts ambassador and knows the course probably better than any other PGA TOUR player in the field this week. Of course, changes have been made in the lead-up to the PGA TOUR hosting so will that local knowledge still help him? I don't think it could hurt which gives him a slight boost over his baseline expectation, in my opinion. The problem? He arrives on the heels of four straight missed cuts.
His ears perk up whenever the PGA TOUR adds a course with paspalum turf to the schedule. Perez has gone seven straight events without a top-30 finish but two of his three career wins have come on paspalum and he's talked about it in the past, with this quote coming from the 2017 CIMB Classic, "It’s actually not even the course that suits my eye, it’s the greens. Mayakoba, where I won, has the same greens and I putted better than anybody there, too. So I don’t know what it is. It’s the grass."
Staying on the theme of paspalum, Ramey just became a PGA TOUR winner and it happened at Corales Golf Club, another course with paspalum turf. He didn't crack my top 25 this week but it wouldn't be too surprising if he poked his head back into contention.
Ranking the Field
1. Jon Rahm
2. Abraham Ancer
3. Gary Woodland
4. Kevin Na
5. Tony Finau
6. Sebastian Munoz
7. Cameron Tringale
8. Aaron Wise
9. Chris Kirk
10. Kevin Streelman
11. Patrick Reed
12. Russell Knox
13. Brendon Todd
14. Charles Howell III
15. Aaron Rai
16. Mark Hubbard
17. Matt Jones
18. Pat Perez
19. Doug Ghim
20. Carlos Ortiz