PGA TOURLeaderboardWatch + ListenNewsFedExCupSchedulePlayersStatsGolfbetSignature EventsComcast Business TOUR TOP 10Aon Better DecisionsDP World Tour Eligibility RankingsHow It WorksPGA TOUR TrainingTicketsShopPGA TOURPGA TOUR ChampionsKorn Ferry TourPGA TOUR AmericasLPGA TOURDP World TourPGA TOUR University

Course Spotlight: Vidanta Vallarta is more than a driving distance contest

5 Min Read

Golfbet News

Course Spotlight: Vidanta Vallarta is more than a driving distance contest

    Written by Keith Stewart @KJStewartpga

    Keen readers have already been told this week’s Mexico Open at Vidanta will put a premium on hitting the ball long but there are more pieces to the puzzle if you’re really looking to find an edge.

    The Mexico Open was first played in 1944 with the PGA TOUR officially promoting the event to their schedule in 2022. In the storied 79-year history, this is only the second edition played at Vidanta Vallarta. With just one year of history, I looked at those who finished in the top 10 to see what I could learn from playing this course in competition.

    Eight of the top 10 from a year ago finished the season in the top 50 for driving distance on the PGA TOUR. Top 50 might not sound super impressive, but their average is 306.5 yards! We knew length would be important coming in without course history and it proved true last year. The same top finishers gained an average of 3.8 strokes on the field off the tee. It is worth noting, outside of a major championship performance, that driver gain is well above average. Furthering the driving point, of the four main strokes gained categories, Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee was the only one where the entire top 10 gained strokes.

    Entering year two at Vidanta Vallarta it would be easy to stress length and accuracy off the tee again. After all, every driver hole has at least one fairway bunker to contend with and twelve of the eighteen holes have water in play. Even though SG: Off-the-Tee sticks out, there’s more to winning a golf tournament. If I was coaching you to win, what else would we prepare for?

    Inside the top 10, the average gain on strokes gained approach was greater than off the tee. Iron play is always the number one indicator, but that ability can be broken down into several skill sets. Going back to the course and building a PGA game plan, I see there are twelve approach shots over 200 yards to contend with. That is easily double the TOUR average. How can one venue have so many?

    The par 71 scorecard shows five par 4s over 475 yards. Throw in four par 5s and three par 3s at 200 or more and there’s twelve. Evenly split between the front and back nine, both sides test your long iron game. Vidanta Vallarta will play over 7,500 yards this week at sea level. The course is less than a mile from the Pacific coastline and we know wind will play a factor as well.

    Driving distance and long iron play are two powerful differentiators on the TOUR. If we consider both to be the primary skills for success, I know we will get inside that top 10 again. It’s worth noting, we cannot pick every aspect to work on. Understanding the course is extremely important and then selecting a couple of skills to practice leading up will give you the best chance at contending. (Five of the top 10 finishers last year lost strokes to the field around the green.) Most courses will provide a blueprint for success, but you must look inside the scorecard before you analyze the analytics.

    Heading into the Mexico Open, Jon Rahm and Tony Finau represent the prototype player for this venue. They have length, the course favors a right-handed fade pattern, and each can score from over 200 yards. In fact, they are rankled one-two in birdie or better percentage over 200 yards on TOUR. But I also like to look past the favorites and see where else we all can find some significant value. Check out these three:

    Gary Woodland finished T24 last year by gaining 9.2 strokes tee to green and LOSING 3.5 strokes with the putter. Woodland is ranked third in the field for GIR% over 200 yards and second in SG: Off-The-Tee. At +2500 on BetMGM’s outright board, all we need is to have the putter show up. In Woodland’s last start (RBC Heritage), he gained four strokes with the flatstick. If half of that gain happens this week, Woodland wins with his length and long iron ability.

    Nestled in the middle tier is Emiliano Grillo (+5000). Grillo sits fourth in this field for GIR% over 200 yards. He finished T33 in 2022 and gained in every category except around the green. Another one who is plagued by the putter, Grillo has gained with the flatstick in three of his last four starts. Impressive off the tee Grillo is twenty-first in this field SG: Off-The-Tee and can handle the length.

    Five of the top 10 in 2022 had pre-tournament odds over +8000. Cameron Percy is one of the best long-iron players on the PGA TOUR. Unlike Woodland and Grillo, his GIR% from over 200 yards is better than Jon Rahm’s! The 14th-ranked SG: Off-The-Tee competitor in the Mexico Open, Percy is long and strong. The Australian finished in the top 20 at both the Honda and Valspar this season. BetMGM’s odds for him to win are +20000. Not worth a sprinkle? How about +13000 to lead after round one, or +240 to finish in the top 40?

    The beauty of golf betting are all the options. Follow my deep dives on the golf course and then check the BetMGM boards. Chances are if Rahm doesn’t repeat, a great golf story will be born. Take this knowledge to the book and build a success story of your own.

    Keith Stewart is a five-time award winning PGA Professional who covers the PGA TOUR and LPGA from a betting perspective. Founder of Read The Line, he is also published by Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News. Follow Keith Stewart on Twitter.

    Privacy PolicyTerms of UseAccessibility StatementDo Not Sell or Share My Personal InformationCookie ChoicesSitemap

    Copyright © 2024 PGA TOUR, Inc. All rights reserved.

    PGA TOUR, PGA TOUR Champions, and the Swinging Golfer design are registered trademarks. The Korn Ferry trademark is also a registered trademark, and is used in the Korn Ferry Tour logo with permission.