Mexico Open preview and best bets

Ben Coley is sticking with Gary Woodland as part of a big-hitter attack on the PGA Tour’s newest addition to the schedule, the Mexico Open Vidanta.

Golf betting tips: Mexico Open

2.5pts ew Gary Woodland at 22/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

2.5pts ew Tony Finau at 22/1 (William Hill 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt ew Matt Jones at 50/1 (Paddy Power, Betfair 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt ew Danny Lee at 125/1 (William Hill, Betfred 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt ew Paul Barjon at 250/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook

Greg Norman is a difficult man to keep out of the news, from his involvement with the House of Saud to his brazen attempt to play in the Open Championship without qualifying for the Open Championship. Now, as the PGA Tour heads south for the Mexico Open, here he is again (I admit, this is a stretch, but you try writing 100 betting ledes per year): Vidanta Vallarta becomes the third Norman-designed course on the 2022 schedule , and poses a few difficult questions for punters to answer.

Opened in 2015, this resort course is wide off the tee and, at 7,456 yards, it’s also long. The impact of that length might be intensified if forecast 20mph winds play their part, and the paspalum grass which we also see in some other events held away from mainland USA should ensure that balls stop close to where they land. That’s what tends to happen at El Camaleon, the Norman-designed host of Mexico’s established event, the Mayakoba Classic, and however hard the wind blows it helps keep these players comfortable.

As you’ll see with a quick glance at the betting, Jon Rahm is the class act, even more so following Daniel Berger’s withdrawal. There are just five other members of the world’s top 50 taking part in one of the weakest events you’re ever likely to see at this level, and Rahm’s one-in-three strike-rate on the DP World Tour confirms that he’s been very good at taking advantage of such opportunities.

On the flip-side, the Spaniard isn’t quite at his best, and his career strike-rate of around one-in-11 confirms that the layers have taken a defensive view. If you’re going to back a 5/1 shot in a golf tournament featuring more than 140 players, you want to know everything. Heading to a new course, three weeks from when we last saw Rahm in action, we simply don’t. It only takes one player to have the week of their lives to send such a wager up in smoke.

Abraham Ancer (20/1) and Carlos Ortiz (66/1) represent the pick of the home challenge, and both have contended for Mayakoba honors. Of the pair, Ortiz is an ambassador for the sponsors and has played a lot of golf here, something which calls to mind Jason Kokrak’s victory in the CJ Cup back in 2020. Unfortunately, he has also missed all four cuts since watching friend Joaquin Niemann win at Riviera, so this comes at a bad time. Ancer meanwhile plays out of the Norman-designed TPC San Antonio and he’s shown signs of life of late, enough to suggest he can raise his game.

Both have to be respected in this field but the biggest threats to Rahm are GARY WOODLAND and TONY FINAUwhose power looks set to be a big advantage given the set-up of this course.

Not only is it a scorecard-long, but there’s a short par-four for big-hitters to attack off the tee, and five par-fours between 475 and 520 yards. There’s just a single par-four under 415 yards, and that’s the one these two should be able to try to drive throughout the tournament.

Woodland was selected on these pages for the Valspar at 60/1 (21st) and the Texas Open at 35/1 (8th), and given the drop in grade I’m happy to go in again at 20/1 and bigger. He has after all been dropping hints all spring, and if you’re worried about his Masters missed cut then don’t be: he was the worst putter in the field, and continued to hit the ball nicely at a course he’s never been able to quite figure out.

Similar comments apply to Sawgrass, where he missed the cut in The PLAYERS, but away from these elite events on unsuitable courses he’s been one of the form players on the PGA Tour, finishing fifth in the Honda Classic, fifth again at Bay Hill, 21st having faded at the Valspar, and then eighth when in the mix again in the Texas Open, at a course designed by Norman.

Over the last 12 and 24 rounds he’s the leader among this field in strokes-gained approach and with wide fairways and plenty of mid-iron approaches, this could well be a second-shot golf course where power counts for plenty. That’s Woodland to a tee and a bit of space is a positive given that if anything he’s just got the odd wild drive in him as he continues to put the pieces back together following an injury-enforced slump.

Woodland is also a former runner-up here in Mexico at El Camaleon so if the course designer form holds up he has that box ticked and beyond Rahm, the only player with comparable form credentials is Chris Kirk. Woodland’s power and the quality of his approach play since the Florida swing very much tip the scales in his favor and I can’t stress enough how poor this field is, so he rates a confident selection with eight places to play for.

Finau has two top-10 finishes to his name at El Camaleon, where he had another good chance to win in 2020, while back in 2017 he was the halfway leader on his way to third place at TPC San Antonio.

He’s been below his best this season, failing to do as many expected and kick on from winning The Northern Trust last August, but I don’t think he’s far away based on a string of mid-pack finishes lately. He certainly hit the ball nicely in the Texas Open having improved throughout the Match Play beforehand, and there was no disgrace in fading from 10th to 35th at Augusta where he continued to drive the ball well.

If Finau’s approach play is back where it was in Texas, where he ranked 12th and also improved on the greens, then he can have a big say having shown good form on paspalum grass in the Bahamas, in Mexico, in Puerto Rico, and when eighth, putting pretty well, in last year’s PGA Championship at Kiawah Island.

Aaron Wise and Sebastian Munoz also merit respect at 33/1. Wise has been driving it well, his approach play is often top-class, and he putted better in The Heritage when 21st last time. Like Finau, he played well in the US PGA last May, he’s gone close at El Camaleon and in Bermuda, and if he takes another step forward at a more suitable course then he’ll feature.

Munoz has been playing well without reward, has a top-10 at the San Antonio and strong Korn Ferry Tour form in Mexico, and is long enough to keep up. He’s been off a month but that was the case when he started the 2019-2020 season with seventh place followed by a win at the Greenbrier and the Colombian is another whose long-game suggests a big week should come along soon enough.

However, at bigger odds I’m drawn to MATT JONESwho looks to have been underestimated at 50/1 and is preferred to Cameron Champ, about whom the biggest prices have been swept up.

Jones is known for being the quickest player around but he boasts underestimated power in that brisk swing of his, ranking 34th in distance this year and 40th last. Right now his whole game looks in good shape as he’s gaining strokes in all departments bar putting, which hasn’t typically been a problem area for him and showed improvement in Texas last time.

There at TPC San Antonio, Jones finished runner-up to JJ Spaun and could well have won, and I’m surprised that performance hasn’t captured the imagination of punters in the same way his third place in Hawaii did at the start of the year. Back then, Jones was backed off the boards a week later, starting a much stronger Sony Open as a 33/1 chance only to disappoint supporters with a missed cut.

Such volatility is definitely a concern but he has strung together top-10 finishes more than once in the past, and his first win in Houston was the culmination of a strong start to the season. With two PGA Tour wins plus two more in the Australian Open, he’s got fewer questions to answer than most here, and he also has some paspalum form in Puerto Rico (twice led at halfway, best of fifth), Bermuda (fourth on sole visit ) and the Dominican Republic (28-18-14).

At this level, Jones ought to be able to build on his performance in Texas and rates a more reliable proposition than Charles Howell III, whose record in Mexico and similar effort at TPC San Antonio also put him on the radar.

Anirban Lahiri was the first name on the list having been runner-up in The PLAYERS, backed that up with strong ball-striking in Texas, and played about as well as he ever does in the RBC Heritage. He’s got stacks of paspalum form from his days on the DP World Tour plus in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, but I was hoping for a little more in the price.

Which outsiders are worth a bet?

Of those who arrive here on the back of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, the performances of Chase Seiffert and John Huh stood out and but for their relative lack of power, both might’ve been included.

Seiffert is having a quietly solid season, playing well just about wherever he can get a game, and that’s reflected in the fact he splits Howell and Scott Stallings in the strokes-gained total charts. Those two are far shorter in the betting and Seiffert also ranks sixth in this field for strokes-gained approach, leading early in Puerto Rico and closing with a 64 in the Dominican Republic.

Huh meanwhile was eight-under with his own ball in the round one of the Zurich Classic, and before that ranked 26th off-the-tee and 14th in approaches at the Texas Open, where he was once runner-up. His sole win came at Norman’s El Camaleon, where he was 15th just last November and so often plays well, but as with Seiffert he’s one of the shortest hitters in this field and that’s too big of an obstacle to overlook.

DANNY LEE is no beast off the tee but he’s above average in length and, like the above duo, he has stacks of form under similar conditions.

Seventh at San Antonio and second place at El Camaleon stand out but he’s also been runner-up in both Puerto Rico and Bermuda and this is very much his level, having won the Greenbrier Classic some seven years ago.

Lee hasn’t kicked on from that but he shaped better than his finish when selected at big odds for the Valspar, and last week in New Orleans played really nicely in the fourballs only to miss the cut alongside Sangmoon Bae, who has been struggling for a long time, his last stateside top-20 coming a year ago despite plying his trade on the Korn Ferry Tour these days.

It looked like Lee’s long game was very solid, as it was early on at Copperhead, and as a player I still rate, who has form in the places I was looking, he is backed to return to the form which saw him go 2- 7 across a pair of similar events in November last year.

Finally, PAUL BARJON is well worth a dart at huge odds.

A big-hitter who has produced a couple of brilliant driving displays during his rookie season, Barjon should be suited by this challenge. He’s been second at the TPC San Antonio on the Korn Ferry Tour, too, and on two previous trips to Mexico he’s been 59th (seventh at halfway) and second, losing a play-off back in 2020 on an extremely long course.

His putter caused him problems in the Zurich Classic where he nevertheless played well on Thursday, and though his results look poor he has continued to hit the ball well for the most part. In the Valspar for instance he ranked 16th in strokes-gained approach, and in the only subsequent event for which we’ve strokes-gained data he was strong off the tee and with his irons only to miss the cut narrowly because of his short- game in Texas.

Earlier this year he bagged his first PGA Tour top-10 in The American Express, gaining valuable experience in the final group of a weak tournament played on resort courses. A winner this time a year ago, as well as three times on the Canadian Tour, he’s good enough to contend at this level if his power does prove as advantageous as I suspect it will, and his short-game steps up.

Posted at 1020 BST on 26/04/22

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