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The First Look: Tony Finau looks to defend Mexico Open at Vidanta

8 Min Read

The First Look


    Written by Adam Scott

    The PGA TOUR returns to Mexico this week for the Mexico Open at Vidanta, the final event before the TOUR heads east.

    An eclectic field that includes much of Latin America’s rising talent is led by defending champion Tony Finau and Ryder Cuppers Nicolai Højgaard and Robert MacIntyre.

    Here's everything you need to know before play begins in Vallarta.

    FIELD NOTES: Finau returns to defend his title at the Mexico Open. Finau has finished 2-1 at Vidanta and looks to keep his fine play going through the early part of 2024. He hasn’t missed a cut this season and will come into the week after a T19 at The Genesis Invitational. His best result of the season was a T6 at the Farmers Insurance Open… Højgaard is in action, fresh off a made cut at The Genesis Invitational. Højgaard, the youngest player at last year’s Ryder Cup and winner of the 2023 DP World Tour Championship, finished runner-up at the Farmers Insurance Open for his best career TOUR result. He finished 33rd at Vidanta Vallarta last season en route to earning his TOUR card via nonmember FedExCup points… Højgaard’s Ryder Cup teammate MacIntyre is one of eight golfers in the field this week who earned their 2024 PGA TOUR cards via the DP World Tour. MacIntyre, like Højgaard, is a first-year PGA TOUR member.… Maverick McNealy is playing for the first time since finishing T6 at the WM Phoenix Open. That was McNealy’s first top-10 finish on TOUR since the Sony Open in Hawaii in 2023. McNealy has full status on TOUR this season after fulfilling a Major Medical Extension at this year’s Farmers Insurance Open… Brandon Wu returns to Vidanta Vallarta after finishing third a year ago. Wu finished second at this event in 2022. Emiliano Grillo, who finished tied for fifth at Vidanta Vallarta in 2023, is one of the highest-ranked players in the field at No. 40 in the Official World Golf Ranking. He won last year’s Charles Schwab Challenge for his first victory in more than seven years… Each of the top five finishers from PGA TOUR Q-School presented by Korn Ferry are in the field, including Mexico’s own Raul Pereda. Pereda finished T60 at the Mexico Open last season after flirting with contention in the second round. He is the lone PGA TOUR member from Mexico… The Monday qualifier took place last week with Matt Atkins, Stuart Macdonald, Ben Sigel, and Preston Stanley earning spots in the field. Macdonald, Sigel, and Atkins won a 4-for-3 playoff. Stanley was the medalist. This will be his third career PGA TOUR start. Sigel will be making his PGA TOUR debut.

    World rankingFedExCup standings
    Tony FinauThomas Detry
    Nicolai Højgaard
    Mark Hubbard
    Emiliano GrilloNicolai Højgaard
    Ryan FoxCharley Hoffman
    Thorbjørn OlesenEmiliano Grillo
    Thomas DetryTony Finau
    Mark HubbardPatrick Rodgers
    Robert MacIntyreErik van Rooyen
    Keith MitchellStephan Jaeger
    Mackenzie HughesJake Knapp

    SPONSOR EXEMPTIONS: Fresh off shooting a 57 at the Korn Ferry Tour’s Astara Golf Championship — the lowest round ever recorded in a PGA TOUR-sanctioned event — Cristobal Del Solar is in action in Mexico. Del Solar missed the cut at last season’s Mexico Open, his PGA TOUR debut… Mexico’s Santiago De la Fuente, a senior at the University of Houston, returns to the Mexico Open after missing the cut last season. De la Fuente captured the 2024 Latin America Amateur Championship to earn starts at this year’s Masters, U.S. Open, and The Open Championship at Royal Troon… Fred Biondi is set to make his 2024 PGA TOUR debut this week in Mexico. Biondi was the 2023 NCAA individual champion and played his first PGA TOUR event as a pro at last year’s Fortinet Championship. Biondi’s played four times on the Korn Ferry Tour this season and has made every cut. His best result is a tie for seventh at The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay… Fellow Mexican Omar Morales is also back in action at Vidanta. The 20-year-old is a junior at UCLA and had three top-5 finishes in the fall 2023 collegiate season. He also earned a spot in the U.S. Open in 2023. Morales finished second to de la Fuente at the LAAC earlier this year by two shots… Ecuador’s Renato Naula will make his PGA TOUR debut. Naula, a sophomore at the University of San Francisco, was a decorated junior golfer in his home country and earned a spot in the field at Vidanta after winning the VALUE Next Generation by TaylorMade Qualifying Tournament… Jose Antonio Safa will return to the Mexico Open at Vidanta after making his TOUR debut in 2022. Safa, another Mexican pro-in-waiting, transferred to the University of Southern California for his sophomore year after a solid freshman campaign at the University of Missouri, where he was named SEC Freshman of the Week for Oct. 20… A handful of Mexican pros will look to take advantage of their spots in their home country’s event with Rodolfo Cazaubon, Roberto Diaz, Alvaro Ortiz, and Sebastian Vazquez all in action. Cazaubon is making his debut at Vidanta, Diaz returns to Vidanta after missing the cut in 2022, Ortiz (the winner of the 2019 LAAC) has one made cut and one early exit at Vidanta in his career, while Vazquez finished 55th at Vidanta last season… Rounding out the sponsor exemptions are M.J. Daffue and 2024 World Golf Hall of Fame inductee Padraig Harrington, who is playing his first PGA TOUR event of the season. Harrington played eight times last season on TOUR and made seven cuts.

    SIGNATURE EVENT STORYLINES: For the next Signature Event, the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, the Aon Next 10 will be comprised of the top 10 players in the current FedExCup standings who are not yet exempt for the field… Luke List and Will Zalatoris moved inside the Aon Top 10 after their runner-up results at The Genesis Invitational… The other eight players who currently sit inside the Aon Next 10 are Matthieu Pavon, Ludvig Åberg, Grayson Murray, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Justin Thomas, Thomas Detry, Mark Hubbard and Højgaard… The newly updated Aon Swing 5 will be populated after the Mexico Open at Vidanta. The top five FedExCup points earners in the Mexico Open at Vidanta and Cognizant Classic in the Palm Beaches will earn spots at Bay Hill.

    Hideki Matsuyama makes six-shot comeback for historic win at Genesis

    COMCAST BUSINESS TOUR TOP 10 UPDATES: Hideki Matsuyama’s win at The Genesis Invitational saw him make a hearty jump inside the Comcast Business TOUR TOP 10 thanks to his impressive 9-under 62 Sunday at The Riviera Country Club. Matsuyama climbed from No. 57 to No. 3 in the standings. It was Matsuyama’s fourth time moving inside the Comcast Business TOUR TOP 10 after a victory in his career… Xander Schauffele moved inside the Comcast Business TOUR TOP 10 after his tie for fourth at the Genesis. Schauffele zipped up 10 spots in the standings thanks to his career-best finish at Riviera… Jason Day moved back inside the Comcast Business TOUR TOP 10 after his top-10 result the Genesis. He went from No. 14 to No. 9… Scottie Scheffler moved up two spots in the standings to No. 2. This is Scheffler’s 53rd week in the Comcast Business TOUR TOP 10 since the start of the 2021-22 season, the most of any player at that time. It’s the third consecutive season Scheffler is inside the TOUR TOP 10 with 25 weeks left, the only player to be inside the TOUR TOP 10 in each of the last three seasons with 25 weeks left. He has finished in the top 10 in four of five starts this season, and his worst finish is T17.

    FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 FedExCup points.

    COURSE: Vidanta Vallarta, par 71, 7,456 yards. More than 250 yards were added to the golf course from its original design in preparation for the arrival of the PGA TOUR, along with 51 new bunkers (for a total of 106). The design originally opened in 2015 and meanders along the Ameca River while views of the Sierra Madres are offered on every hole. There are large landing areas off the tee while the large greens are protected by cavernous bunkers.

    72-HOLE RECORD: 260, Tony Finau (2023)

    18-HOLE RECORD: 61, Jon Rahm (third round, 2023)

    LAST TIME: Finau topped Jon Rahm to win by three shots at the Mexico Open, a year after finishing second. It was Finau’s second win of the season. Finau fired a 5-under 66 in the final round and after taking a two-shot lead into Sunday he was never seriously challenged. Rahm and Finau essentially swapped spots on the leaderboard, as Rahm captured the event in 2022. Wu was Finau’s biggest challenger Sunday as Wu was 5 under through seven holes and was tied for the lead briefly after an eagle on the par-5 6th. Wu bogeyed No. 8 and made a double bogey on No. 10, however, to fall back down the leaderboard and eventually finished third. Akshay Bhatia finished fourth and a trio of golfers, including eventual Rookie of the Year Eric Cole, finished tied for fifth.

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    Featured hole: 4-7 p.m.Featured hole: 4-7 p.m.Featured hole: 1-6 p.m.Featured hole: 1-6 p.m.
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