This article is part of our Golf Picks series.
Mexico Open Betting Preview
This week the PGA Tour heads to Vallarta for the second installment of the Mexico Open at Vidanta Villarta.
Most of the top players are taking the week off in advance of the latest designated event, but the field is headlined by the world's top-ranked golfer in Jon Rahm, who checks in with minuscule 26-10 odds and is one of just three players among the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking who have made the trip to Mexico.
Last year, tournament favorite Rahm -- at 5-1 -- secured his seventh Tour victory by one stroke over Tony Finau, Kurt Kitayama and Brandon Wu.
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Par 71, 7,456 yards
Average Strokes Gained Rankings: 2022 Top-5 Finishers
- SG: Off-the-Tee: 10.4
- SG: Approach: 25.0
- SG: Around-the-Green: 32.4
- SG: Putting: 19.4
- SG: Tee-to-Green: 14.0
- Driving Distance: 13.2
- Driving Accuracy: 26.6
Although we have just one year worth of data to draw from, SG: Off-the-Tee stands out as the primary statistic to focus on, as the top five finishers in the inaugural event ranked no worse than 17th in that category. Driving distance played a premium over accuracy and that bears out when looking at the scorecard -- three of the four par-5s are at least 585 yards and four of the nine par-4s play at least 475 yards. The fairways are wider than usual at around 40 yards, and with minimal rough this is clearly a course that favors the longer hitters. I'll also be looking at players who approach it well from 200 yards and up, as we will see more approaches in that range than a typical setup.
Trending off the Tee
The following golfers, on a per-round basis, gained the most strokes off the tee over their last 20 rounds.
- Gary Woodland: 0.81
- Luke List: 0.80
- Brent Grant: 0.52
- Aaron Rai: 0.42
- Emiliano Grillo: 0.30
This list illustrates the lack of depth in the field, with only three golfers gaining more than half a shot off the tee over the referenced time period. Woodland ranks 13th in SG: Off-the-Tee and ninth in driving distance this season, and he has only lost strokes in that category in one tournament. However, he has lacked elite results due to an abysmal short game, losing 1.16 strokes per round around the green and putting combined. Right behind him is the long-hitting List, who is listed at 60-1 and has had similar struggles with his short game. List is second to last in SG: Putting this season, and while it's tough to predict a good week on the greens, his ceiling is rather high when he finds his form with the flat stick. In fact, his best putting week since the start of last season resulted in a win at Torrey Pines.
Mexico Open Bets: Outright Picks
Stephan Jaeger (40-1)
With only five players less than 30-1 this week, I'll pivot away from the top choices and look for some value in the hopes that Rahm is unable to defend his title. With six Korn Ferry Tour victories to his name, Jaeger certainly knows how to win. Plus, he played well here last year, notching a top-15 finish. He his faring well from tee to green this season, ranking 44th in that category.
Taylor Pendrith (55-1)
Pendrith missed this event last year due to injury, but he should fit the course well as a long hitter who ranks 36th in SG: Off-the-Tee. Although he has struggled to maintain the momentum he picked up at the end of last season, I am expecting him to build upon the T13 he tossed up in last week's team event.
Robby Shelton (65-1)
If you're looking for a quality ball striker at generous odds, look no further than Shelton, who has driven the ball much better since the start of the Florida Swing and is 34th this season in SG: Approach. He has lacked high finishes but has been in the mix often, posting eight top-25s over his last 16 starts.
Mexico Open Bets: Top-10 Wagers
Garrick Higgo (5-1)
Higgo made only two of seven cuts in the fall, but he has gotten going a bit, making four cuts in a row -- two of which came in designated events. His only top-10 this season came at the Sanderson Farms Classic, and the host course for that tournament -- the Country Club of Jackson -- has a lot in common with Vidanta.
Michael Kim (9-1)
After starting the season with a best result of T35 through 10 events, Kim seems to have found something, posting a pair of top-12s and missing only one cut in seven starts since. He has slightly above average length with the driver and doesn't have any major weakness in his game. I expect him to take advantage of the weaker field.
Cameron Champ (10-1)
Champ has missed six cuts in a row, but in a weak field that prioritizes his strength -- he ranks sixth in driving distance -- he's difficult to overlook. He has been held back mainly by his short game, but that's less of an issue this week, and this certainly wouldn't be the first time he broke out unexpectedly. I love the value considering he finished sixth here last year.
Mexico Open Bets: Head-to-Head Matchups
S.H. Kim (-120) over Will Gordon
Coming off a second straight undefeated week in one-on-one bets, I'll try to keep things rolling with Kim. Even though Gordon has superior length, he's a risky bet in matchups having made only 5-of-10 cuts this year and recording a best finish of T28. Kim is in good form, recording consecutive top-15 finishes. The 24-year-old rookie has quietly had a good season and is someone to keep an eye on the rest of the way.
Eric Cole (-110) over David Lipsky
I like the value on Cole, who I view as the better golfer of the two but has the same odds as his counterpart. This isn't a great course fit for Lipsky, who relies on precision and is better suited for shorter tracks. I think he's being overvalued due to his top-10 here last year, and he has struggled of late, missing five cuts and recording no finish better than a T36 over the last eight starts he made without a teammate.
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