Mexico Open at Vidanta: Champ a value bet in weak field

Mexico Open at Vidanta 2024 Betting Tips and Preview - Steve Rawlings Preview
The Greg Norman Signature course at Vidanta

Tony Finau returns to Vallarta to defend his Mexico Open title and our man has the lowdown ahead of Thursday's start here...

  • Big hitters set to prosper again

  • Course form counts for plenty

  • Read my Kenya Open preview here


  • Tournament History

    The Mexico Open has been in existence since it debuted at Chapultepec (the venue for the now defunct WGC - Mexico Championship) in 1944.

    Having previously featured on the Tour de las Américas, the Korn Ferry Tour, and even the European Challenge Tour, it became a PGA Tour Latinoamérica event in 2013 and it was elevated to an official PGA Tour event for the first time two years ago.

    The last two editions have been staged at the end of April and after the US Masters, so the tournament has shuffled forward six weeks in the schedule this year.

    Venue

    The Norman Signature Course, Vidanta Vallarta, Vallarta, Mexico.

    Course Details

    Par 71, 7456 yards

    Stroke Average in 2023 - 70.1

    Although situated around a mile from the Pacific Ocean and the Banderas Bay, the Norman Signature Course doesn't look like a typical coastal track.

    The 2015 Greg Norman design, which staged the event for the first time two years ago, winds along the banks of the Ameca River providing views of the Sierra Madres from every hole.

    It's a long, flat track with wide fairways and very little rough. The entire course is blanketed by Platinum paspalum and water is in-play on as many as 14 holes.

    VIDANTA VALLARTA MEXICO 2 2023.jpg

    The greens, which were set to 12 on the Stimpmeter for each of the last two editions, are undulating and protected by large bunkers, of which there are 106 in total.

    Indigenous trees, native grasses and jungle surround the course layout which is reached via the world's longest golf cart suspension bridge spanning the Ameca River from Nayarit to Jalisco.

    The longest sections of the rough were only two inches high last year but that was still an increase of half an inch on 2022, although it made no difference at all.

    With the players more familiar with the layout, the scoring improved last year and Tony Finau's 260 winning total was seven strokes better than Rahm's in 2022.


    Weather Forecast


    TV Coverage

    Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 15:00 on Thursday.

    First Two Winners with Pre-event Prices

    • 2022 - Jon Rahm -17 6.05/1
    • 2023 - Tony Finau -24 9.417/2

    What Will it Take to Win the Mexico Open?

    This is a long track with very little rough, so the big hitters are most definitely favoured.

    All bar one of the par fours are lengthy and the one that is shorter, the drivable seventh, which has been the easiest hole on the course over the last two years, also favours those that can give it a good biff off the tee.

    The winner, Jon Rahm, topped the Driving Distance rankings for the week two years ago (ranked second for Strokes Gained: Off the Tee) and the top three in the DD rankings all finished inside the top three.

    Rahm and Finau in Mexico.jpg

    The first and second last year, Finau and Rahm, only ranked 11th and 14th for DD but they ranked second and first for SG: Off the Tee.

    Rahm and Finau (first and second) ranked seventh and first for Greens In Regulation two years ago and they ranked third and fourth when they switched places last year.

    Is There an Angle In?

    Norman is also responsible for a couple of other courses used recently on the PGA Tour - the Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio which hosts the Valero Texas Open each year and he also designed El Camaleon, which used to host the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba.

    Like the Norman Signature Course here, El Camaleon is a paspalum track situated on the Mexican coast and there are other paspalum tracks used on the PGA Tour.

    Both the Puerto Rico Open and the Corales Puntacana R & C Championship are played out on paspalum tracks and the 2021 US PGA Championship was staged at Kiawah Island, another track with paspalum fairways.

    All those courses are worth bearing in mind, but two years ago, Rahm compared this track to Kapalua in Hawaii, where The Sentry is staged each year and that makes a lot of sense.

    Like Kapalua, Vidanta is wide-open and exposed.

    Will Course Form be Key Again?

    We've only had two editions here but what little evidence we have suggests we need to be prioritising previous course form highly.

    When Rahm won the first edition in 2022, last year's winner, Finau, finished second alongside Brandon Wu, who finished third last year.

    Cameron Champ, who finished sixth two years ago arrived in Mexico in awful form last year, having missed six cuts in-a-row, but he was on the fringes of contention over the weekend and but for a poor finish, he'd have been placed again.

    Champ sat fifth with three holes to play but he bogeyed both 16 and 17 before birdying the last and he eventually finished tied for eighth.

    And Patrick Rodgers finished tenth in both the first two editions staged here.

    Winner's Position and Price Pre-Round Four

    • 2022 - Jon Rahm led by two 1.684/6
    • 2023 - Tony Finau led by two 1.9620/21

    In-Play Tactics

    Rahm won wire-to-wire in 2022 and Finau was never headed after he struck the front at halfway, having sat only fourth and two off the lead after round one, but I wouldn't rule out an off the pace winner here.

    Rahm was matched at 1.758/11 when he hit the front during round three last year, having sat tied for 12th and six back after two rounds, and in the inaugural edition here, Finau and Wu made up a lot of ground to finish tied second, alongside Kurt Kitayama.

    They were beaten by just a stroke having trailed by nine in a tie for 47th at halfway and having sat tied seventh and seven back with a round to go.

    If you're betting in running, there's a tough stretch around the turn (holes eight, nine and ten) and the 16th and 17th are both tricky.

    Those two holes were the second and fourth hardest two years and the third and second toughest last year, but the par five finishing hole has averaged only 4.53 and 4.59 in the last two years.

    Over the first two days, there was a draw bias in favour of the morning starters on day one of 1.52 strokes two years ago but the afternoon starters on day one got the better of it last year to the tune of 1.09 strokes.

    Market Leaders

    In what is an exceedingly weak renewal, the defending champ, Tony Finau, is the uneasy favourite.

    The six-time PGA Tour winner has drifted from an initial price of less than 7/18.00 out to around 10.09/1 and that looks worth a saver at least.

    Finau arrives in fair form with 2024 figures reading 38-25-6-47-19 and he's most definitely the one they all have to beat.

    Since opening up the 2022 edition with rounds of 71 and 68, 66 is the worst he's shot around the track in six spins so he clearly loves the venue and I was happy to get him onside for small stakes.

    Nicolai Hojgaard is the second favourite, ahead of Stephan Jaeger, Emilliano Grillo and Thomas Detry.

    Of the four, Grillo is the only one to have won on the PGA Tour and none of them make much appeal.

    Hojgaard looks destined for great things but since finishing second to Mathieu Pavon at Torrey Pines he's finished 31st at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and 39th last week at Riviera. Hojgaard finished 33rd on debut here last year.

    This is Grillo's third appearance, and he's fared OK previously. The Argentine was tied 33rd behind Rahm in 2022 and he was fifth behind Finau last year.

    With 2024 form figures reading 43-7-20-14-22-44, he's arguably the one most likely to contend after Finau but I'm more than happy to swerve him.

    Selections

    Cameron Champ has been in poor form of late, but he was just as bad last year before finishing eighth, 12 months after finishing sixth so I'm happy to take a small chance on him at 70.069/1.

    Cameron Champ shriners.jpg

    He clearly loves the venue and I thought that was a fair price given how well course form held up last year.

    Back Cameron Champ @ 70.069/1

    Bet now

    I may have one or two later today or tomorrow for the Find Me a 100 Winner column but my only other pre-event pick for now is Johnnathan Vegas.

    The big hitting Venezuelan finished an encouraging tied for 22nd last time out in the Phoenix Open and this place looks ideal.

    Vegas has finished second recently at two events that Finau has won - the Puerto Rico Open and the 3M Open and he was fourth two years ago at the Corales Puntacana R & C Championship, so he clearly loves paspalum greens.

    Back Jhonattan Vegas @ 80.079/1

    Bet now

    It's seven years since he successfully defended his Canadian Open title so it's been a while since he tasted victory on the PGA Tour, but I thought he was fractionally over-priced at 80.079/1 in what really is a weak event.


    *You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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