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Horses for Courses: Reigning champion Tony Finau headlines Vidanta Vallarta

4 Min Read

Horses for Courses


    Written by Mike Glasscott @MikeGlasscott

    The large, wind-swept fairways and greens of resort golf in Mexico greet the field of 132 players this week at the Mexico Open at Vidanta.

    Opened in 2015, the Signature Course at Vidanta Vallarta serves as host for the third consecutive season. For the first time in three years, the event will be played late in February instead of late April/early May. The par-71, playing 7,546 yards, possesses four par 5s and five par 3s to spice things up.

    After a chilly West Coast Swing, the Pacific Coast of Mexico will provide temperatures in the 80s daily and plenty of sunshine throughout the tournament days. The 36-hole cut will see the top 65 and ties play the weekend. The winner claims $1.46 million of the $8.1 million purse plus 500 FedExCup points.

    As a Full-Field Event, the winner is also eligible for the Masters, THE PLAYERS and a two-year exemption on TOUR. The top-five available players, not otherwise exempt, who earn the most FedExCup points at the Mexico Open at Vidanta and Cognizant Classic in The Palm Beaches will qualify for the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard via the Aon Swing 5.

    Horses for Courses

    The only player who has beaten Tony Finau (+800) in the last two seasons at this event is not in the field this week. Winning by three shots on 24-under last year, the big-hitter will be looking for his seventh TOUR win and first victory in defense. After firing a round of 71 on his first loop, the next seven trips around Vidanta Vallarta have resulted in 40-under par for the big hitter. Signing for just seven bogeys and one double, he’s more than comfortable on this track.

    Players listed are in the field this week; 2023 season stats..

    8Doug Ghim
    9Tyler Duncan
    12Cameron Champ
    T14 Davis Thompson
    16J.J. Spaun
    20Aaron Rai
    24Lanto Griffin
    26Tony Finau
    27Carson Young
    28Stephan Jaeger

    The Platinum Paspalum targets off the tee and into the greens have the resort golfer and TOUR player in mind. Playing almost 7,500 yards at sea level, those who can give it a ride and attack flags with more lofted clubs will have the advantage this week. According to Rob Bolton, the rough this year will be pushing almost 2.5 inches, the deepest it has been yet at this event. Controlling the spin out of the short grass is a key. Each winner ranked second in this category.

    Known for his prodigious power, Cameron Champ (+5500) and his game have translated south of the border. Signing for T8 and T6 in two previous appearances, he led the event in Ball-Striking last year after finishing third in 2022. The three-time winner on TOUR has produced eight rounds of 70 or better for an aggregate of 28-under.

    6Ryan Moore
    7J.J. Spaun
    11Aaron Baddeley
    12Doug Ghim
    14Stephan Jaeger
    18Greyson Sigg
    29Alex Smalley
    33Chesson Hadley
    37Henrik Norlander
    39Nate Lashley
    40Andrew Novak
    44Dylan Wu

    Missing resort-sized fairways and generous greens will add workload on Greg Norman’s design. With over 100 bunkers framing the fairways and greens and water in play on 12 holes, it is easy to find trouble. Having the discipline and confidence to make par and move on is required. Finau only made two bogeys in his final 54 holes in 2022 before squaring two more bogeys and a double last year.

    Brandon Wu (+3500) co-led the field in the 2022 edition (five bogeys) and only squared six and a double last year. Sharing second with Finau in the inaugural edition, he was on the podium again last year after posting 19-under, reaching solo third. Closing with 63 two years ago, he added 64 in Round 2 last year. Half of his eight rounds have been 66 or better.

    6Davis Thompson
    T8Vincent Norrman
    T12Tony Finau
    T16Garrick Higgo
    T16Stephan Jaeger
    T16Nate Lashley
    T23Doug Ghim
    T23Harry Hall
    T23K.H. Lee
    T30Nicolai Højgaard, Dylan Wu
    T30Patton Kizzire, Taylor Pendrith

    Having 16 chances to knock off bogeys or doubles never hurts. The par 5s, including three on the inward nine, will provide a grand-stand finish and chances to make up ground. Stretching 585 yards or better, three of the four provide chances for separation. Combining light winds with greens barely touching 11 on the Stimpmeter, the only setting will be attack. Each winner has ranked T2 and has posted 12-under for the week.

    Patrick Rodgers (+3300) is one of four players this week aspiring to hit the top 10 for the third consecutive season. Sitting just three shots off the 54-hole lead in 2022, his final round 70 saw him plummet to 10th. Last year, his final round of 64, his eighth consecutive round in the red, and his best from eight tries, pushed him into a share of 10th place. Only Finau has recorded fewer bogeys.

    Oddsmaker’s Extras

    • Emiliano Grillo (+2200) cashed T5 in 2023 after posting four rounds in the 60s. Highlighted by 67-65 on the weekend, his streak of rounds in the 60s is now at five, and he has produced 65 twice at Vidanta Vallarta from eight rounds. The Argentine doesn’t mind Paspalum tracks.
    • Davis Riley (+12500) ran T5 in the first edition in 2022 but didn’t return last year. Posting four rounds in the 60s, he racked up 22 birdies and one eagle. The putter was hot and produced over 360 feet of putts from just 104 attempts. Savvy gamers, check his current form before pulling the trigger.
    • Harry Hall (+10000), another Paspalum player, found his best round on Sunday last year. Closing with 65, only three players went lower to wrap up the 2023 edition. A super putter, he holed 62 of 66 inside 10 feet.
    • As of Tuesday morning, Stephan Jaeger (+2200) is the joint third choice at BetMGM Sportsbook. Making his third appearance, investors will be hoping he puts all four rounds together in one event. Opening with 65 in 2023, he added rounds of 70 and 71 to fade before rallying for T18. Posting 64 in Round 3 in 2022 pushed him within five of the 54-hole lead before a final round of 70 cashed T15.

    -Odds courtesy of BETMGM.COM-

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