THE FIRST LOOK
The First Look: Puerto Rico Open
March 17, 2017
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- No.72 Wesley Bryan will be teeing it up in the tropics next week, he is the highest ranked player in the field. (Michael Cohen/Getty Images)
• COURSE: Coco Beach Golf & CC (Championship), 7,506 yards, par 72. Built into the foothills of the El Yunque Rainforest, Coco Beach now celebrates its 10th year as the tournament’s home. The Tom Kite began as four separate nine-hole routings that were reconfigured in 2007 into two 18-hole layouts. The PGA TOUR added Puerto Rico to its schedule a year later, played on a hybrid Championship course that begins among scenic man-made lakes and winds its way to the ocean.
• FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 300 points.
• CHARITY: The Ricky Martin Foundation, which has established a school in one of the island’s most impoverished areas, is the newest addition to the tournament’s list of recipients. Other donations have gone to the YMCA of San Juan and the Centros Sor Isolina Ferre.
• FIELD WATCH: Six former major winners headline a roster of players from outside the world’s top 70 that didn’t qualify for the World Golf Championships Dell Technologies Match Play. … Though reigning champion Tony Finau isn’t in the Match Play brackets at No.70, he’s first alternate and has opted to spend the week in Austin. That leaves No.72 Wesley Bryan as the highest ranked player in the field. … Sam Saunders, a playoff loser to Alex Cejka two years ago, returns after an emotional week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard. Saunders missed the cut by one at Bay Hill, in the first Invitational without the late Palmer on site. … Chris Nido, a Miami high schooler of Puerto Rican lineage, also received an invitation. He has represented Puerto Rico in past international events; he’s signed to play college golf at the University of Florida.
• 72-HOLE RECORD: 267, Chesson Hadley (2014).
• 18-HOLE RECORD: 63, Derek Lamely (3rd round, 2010), James Driscoll (1st round, 2011), Chris Tidland (2nd round, 2011), Scott Brown (2nd round, 2013), James Driscoll (2nd round, 2014).
• LAST YEAR: Finau went three extra holes to notch his first PGA TOUR win, outlasting Steve Marino with his third consecutive birdie at the par-5 18th. After watching his second shot come to rest in a back bunker, the Utah native blasted out to 3 feet for the winning putt. Marino was just off the back edge of the green in two, but left his putt 4 ½ feet short and watched his birdie try roll past on the right. Both men had played the final round in 2-under-par 70, with Marino forcing a playoff with his birdie on the final hole of regulation. Finau could have wrapped it up without extra holes, but missed a 6-foot birdie try. Ian Poulter and Mexico's Rodolfo Cazaubon finished a stroke out of the playoff.
• STORYLINES: With the PGA TOUR’s top names at the Match Play, Puerto Rico has been a prime spot for someone to pick up his first victory. Finau became the fourth straight champion to pick up his first victory there, and sixth of nine overall. … Rafael Campos, whose opening 64 led to a share of eighth last year, is among three Puerto Rico golfers in the field. He’ll be joined by Edward Figureroa and Robert Calvesbert. … Cejka and Chesson Hadley have a chance to join Michael Bradley (2009, ’11) as the event’s only two-time winner. Just three defending champs have managed top-20 finishes, though Cejka and Hadley have done it in the past two editions. Bradley (2010) was the other.
• SHORT CHIPS: In the first nine years the TOUR has visited the island, all but two editions have been decided by just one stroke or less. Derek Lamely took a two-shot triumph in 2010, matched by George McNeill in 2012. … Finau’s victory was the third time the event was decided in a playoff. … The Puerto Rico Open has been a stronghold for American winners, with only Cejka’s 2014 victory coming from an international player.
• TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, 2-5:30 p.m. (GC). Sunday, 2:30-5:30 p.m. (GC).
• PGA TOUR LIVE: None.
• RADIO: None.