This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
MEXICO OPEN AT VIDANTA
Winner's Share: $1.314M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Vallarta, Mexico
Course: Vidanta Vallarta Golf Course
The world's best golfers have been playing tournaments in Mexico forever, long before the PGA Tour established a footprint there. Mayakoba has been a regular Tour stop for 15 year now, and there was the WGC-Mexico briefly from 2017 to 2020. But this week is different. This is Mexico's national championship. This storied tournament has been around since World War II.
Lee Trevino heads the list of great golfers who have won it, joined by Ben Crenshaw, Billy Casper, Stewart Cink, Jay Haas, Fred Funk, Bobby Locke, Roberto De Vicenzo and even golfers more familiar to many of us as broadcasters, Frank Nobilo and Bob Rosburg. More recently, the tournament was affiliated with the Korn Ferry Tour, PGA Tour Latinoamerica and even Europe's Challenge Tour. Now, at least for the next three years, it will be a part of the biggest tour in the world, a huge turning point for golf in Mexico and a sense of pride for this nation.
The Mexico Open will be played at Vidanta Vallarta Golf Course, and it's never been played there before, so even looking back at past Korn Ferry events won't help. The first thing we'll tell you about the course it is that it's only six years old. The second is that it's VERY long. And the third is that it's yet another Greg Norman design. Hasn't the Tour had enough of Norman for a while? More on the course in a moment.
The 144-man field has one big name in No. 2-ranked Jon Rahm, but unfortunately it has only one big name. A couple more if you want to include favorite sons Abraham Ancer and Carlos Ortiz (who by the way is a Vidanta spokesperson). But there are only six golfers in the top-50 in the world rankings on hand. Besides Rahm and Ancer, there are Tony Finau, Patrick Reed, Kevin Na and Cameron Tringale. Other names of note include Gary Woodland, Cameron Champ, Charles Howell III, Chris Kirk and Sahith Theegala. There are many players of Latin/Spanish heritage entered, which is great to see. There are also 12 sponsor exemptions, four of whom must be Latin American. The depth of the field surely is a disappointment for all involved. Perhaps it's because it's a new event, perhaps it's because it's a bit of a hike with the Tour in the Eastern Time Zone this month. But more likely, it's because of its position on the PGA Tour calendar, situated in the stretch between the Masters and PGA Championship and with the wildly popular Wells Fargo Championship coming next week.
Vallarta is located on the western edge of Mexico, just off the Pacific, some 500-600 miles west of Mexico City. So expect it to be very windy, especially in the afternoon. Befitting a Norman track, the course is super long and wide open off the tee. Unlike with the WGC-Mexico at Chapultepec, this course is at sea level and there is no elevation to make it play shorter. So nearly 7,500 yards and a par-71 is long, even by today's standards. And it is not a stock-par-71, if that's even possible. There are four par-5s, five par-3s and only nine par-4s. Two of the par-5s exceed 600 yards, including the massive 637-yard 12th. Three of the par-3s are around 200 or more. And four of the par-4s are in the neighborhood of 500 yards. The back-nine has three par-3s and three par-5s, odd indeed.
Okay, so what else do we know about this new course? The Vidanta website says there's "wall-to-wall paspalum playing surfaces. The layout winds along the Ameca River, providing views of the Sierra Madres from every hole. Large landing areas off the tee give way to large undulating greens protected, in typical Norman fashion, by cavernous bunkers." There are more than 100 bunkers, ware coming into play on more than half holes and plenty of those "sandy waste areas" (which are not hazards, you can ground your club!). Most of the golfers should be at least a little familiar with paspalum greens from their time at Mayakoba and other courses in the general region. As a reminder, paspalum tends to run slower.
Weather-wise, every day of the week is a mirror image: highs in the 80s, no chance of rain, moderate wind in the morning leading to gustier conditions in the afternoon.
Mexico Open historical factoid: The first winner of the first edition of tournament in 1944 was Al Espinosa, who in fact won the first four Mexico Opens. You may not know the name, but Espinosa was and accomplished golfer, winning nine times on the PGA Tour in the 1920s and '30s and being named to three Ryder Cup teams. He played in 30 majors and finished in the top-25 20 times. He was runner-up twice in majors, at the 1928 PGA and also in the 1929 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, where he lost a 36-hole playoff to Bobby Jones – by 23 shots!
Key Stats to Winning at Vidanta
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Driving Distance
• Strokes Gained: Approach/greens in regulation/Approaches from 175-200 yards
• Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green
• Strokes Gained: Putting
• Birdie Average/Birdie-or-Better Percentage
The course is relatively new, just six years old. It's completely knew to us. We're largely flying blind. But it surely seems as if length will be an advantage for the first time in a few weeks, not only off the tee but from the fairway. It also sounds as if there's at least some opportunity to get into trouble around the greens. We would think despite all that, even with windy conditions right off the Pacific, this could turn into a full-blown birdie-fest. That's something we tend to see with new tournaments at new tracks. So look for guys who can hit it far and who can make birdies. The over/under on the winning score as determined by golfodds.com is 262.5 – 21.5 shot under par.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Jon Rahm - $11,300 (Winning odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook: +350)
Rahm opened at 4-1 odds on DraftKings, and he is now down to a minuscule 7-2. However, his DFS price is more befitting of a 12-1 or 14-1 favorite, so in that regard he is a bargain. Of course there's that important little factoid that he is not too sharp at the moment. But he's not playing well by his standards, not the average golfer in this week's event. And we feel Rahm will not be swayed by the anemic field, that he will treat a tournament in Mexico with respect and importance.
Tony Finau - $10,400 (+2200)
We could be snarky and say that Finau excelled on paspalum greens when he won the 2016 Puerto Rico Open. But we won't do that. Seriously, Finau – like Rahm – is not playing well of late, and in fact worse. But we are contractually obligated to pick four golfers in each tier – not actually – and so here we are with Finau. For all his shortcomings this season, he's still 41st on Tour in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, which is not elite but in this field would get him in the Hall of Fame.
Gary Woodland - $9,900 (+2000)
Now we're getting to a sweet spot where we could see some high ownership. Woodland is a long hitter, he's playing his best in years and he's under $10,000. He's basically on par with Finau in SG: Tee-to-Green – he's 38th – and is also ranked 40th in putting.
Cameron Tringale - $9,700 (+2000)
Tringale is part of a four-way tie for the second best odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook. He's a top-50 golfer who really has good stats across the board and ranks 19th in greens in regulation.
Tier 2 Values
Matt Jones - $9,000 (+5500)
Jones really lets fly off the tee, averaging over 305 yards. However, he seemingly has little concern where his ball lands, as he's ranked 189th on Tour in driving accuracy. That likely won't hurt him this week with the wide-open fairways. He's ranked a decent 67th in approaches from 175-200 yards, which measures how far from the hole the ball comes to rest. Jones is also ranked fifth on Tour in SG: Around-the-Green and 35th in SG: Tee-to-Green. He is coming off a shared runner-up a the Valero and finished 15th earlier this year at Riviera.
Sahith Theegala - $8,800 (+8000)
Theegala is another golfer who is wildly inaccurate off the tee but might be able to get away with it this week. He has made five of seven cuts since his coming-out party at Phoenix in February, including a T7 at the Valspar.
Davis Riley - $8,500 (+7000)
Somehow, Riley is ranked outside the top 100 in both SG: Tee-to-Green and Putting yet is 23rd on Tour in birdie average. He's a better-than-average long iron player, ranked 90th in approaches from 175-200. He's coming off a tie for fourth with former roommate Will Zalatoris at the Zurich. And you may recall he finished runner-up at the Valspar.
Charles Howell III - $8,400 (+6000)
At 42, Howell is not the player he once was, but he can still bring it from time to time – notably his tie for fourth at the Valero. He hits it over 300 off the tee, remains an excellent wedge player and is ranked 26th on Tour in greens in regulation.
Tier 3 Values
Chad Ramey - $7,900 (+8000)
Ramey won less than a month ago on paspalum greens at Puntacana, in a field that won't be significantly worse than this one. We also like that he didn't have a post-win hangover, making his next two cuts in San Antonio and Hilton Head Island. Ramey is not a long hitter by any stretch, but he still has good greens in regulation numbers, ranked 67th, and he's 20th in birdie average.
Austin Smotherman - $7,800 (+11000)
Smotherman actually won this tournament four years ago when he was on the PGA Tour Latinoamerica. But it was on a different course in a different part of Mexico and that's not why we're picking him. He's made five of his past seven cuts, highlighted by a tie for 11th at Torrey Pines. Smotherman averages over 300 off the tee and is ranked 18th on Tour in Strokes Gained: Approach and 47th in Tee-to-Green. He's also ranked 14th in approaches from 175-200 yards – a key metric this week.
Wyndham Clark - $7,600 (+10000)
We have often written about Clark being a big hitter off the tee while also a quality putter (third in distance, 39th in SG: Putting). Somehow, that combination has not elevated his career much. After a terrible slump to start the year, he's made his past three cuts, including a tie for 35th last time out at Harbour Town (a short track, oddly enough).
Alex Smalley - $7,400 (+8000)
Smalley finished runner-up to Ramey at Puntacana last month, negotiating the paspalum greens. His putting numbers for the season are terrible, but they were decent at Puntacana. Smalley is a pretty long hitter with better-than-average accuracy who ranks 56th in greens in regulation, plus 65th in approaches from 175-200. He has played a lot this year already – 11 times, to be exact – and has made six cuts, including at Torrey Pines and Riviera in far, far stronger fields.
Peter Uihlein - $7,000 (+15000)
Uihlein has been really struggling to stay on the PGA Tour the past few years. But he did get his card for this year via the Korn Ferry Tour last season. He hits it a ton off the tee, yet is almost last – he sits 209th out of 210 – in accuracy. The wide fairways should help him this week. Uihlein is playing well of late, having made his past six cuts – four on the PGA Tour, including the Honda and Valero, and two on the Korn Ferry.
Callum Tarren - $6,700 (+20000)
The 31-year-old Englishman is a rookie via the Korn Ferry Tour. He's top-25 on Tour in driving distance, top-80 in greens in regulation and ninth in eagles made. Like Uihlein, he's been playing both Tours of late. He was 30th at the Honda and fifth at Puerto Rico putting on paspalum greens.
Kevin Tway - $6,500 (+30000)
In his past six starts, Tway has five missed cuts and a WD from the Valero citing a wrist injury. But he played the RBC Heritage two weeks later, then the Zurich last week, so we'll take a leap of faith and say the wrist is not a major issue. Earlier this year, when presumably fully healthy, Tway was on a roll, making cuts at Torrey Pines, Phoenix and Riviera. He is averaging more than 310 off the tee but is also 30th in SG: Putting.
Jim Knous - $6,100 (+40000)
We don't often turn to a guy ranked 787th in the world, but here we are. Knous hasn't made many cuts in 2022, but two of them were in Puerto Rico and Puntacana, and another came at the Sony Open. His stats wouldn't lead you to think he was ranked around 800th in the world, and some are downright great. For instance, he's first on Tour in SG: Around-the-Green. He's also 20th in Putting and 23rd in birdie average. Lastly, he's ranked 101st in approaches 175-200, slightly better than average. In this field, a made cut sounds doable.