The Punter

Mexico Open at Vidanta: Red-hot Rahm looks to defend

Golfer Jon Rahm
Jon Rahm with the Mexico Open trophy 12 months ago

After a well-earned week off, the US Masters winner, Jon Rahm, returns to the fray on the PGA Tour to defend his Mexico Open title. Steve Rawlings previews the event here...

  • Second edition of the Mexico Open as a PGA Tour event

  • Masters champ John Rahm out to defend title

  • Read Steve's in-depth preview of the tournament 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 last year it was elevated to an official PGA Tour event for the very first time.

Venue


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

Course Details


Par 71, 7456 yards
Stroke Average in 2022 - 70.32

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.

Vidanta golf course.jpg

The 2015 Greg Norman design, which staged the event for the first time 12 months 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.

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

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

Weather Forecast

TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 13:45 on Thursday.

2022 Winner with Pre-event Exchange Price

2022 - Jon Rahm -17 6.05/1

What Will it Take to Win the Mexico Open at Vidanta?

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, also favours those that can give it a good biff off the tee.

Last year's winner, Jon Rahm, topped the Driving Distance rankings for the week (ranked second for Strokes Gained Off the Tee) and the top three in the DD rankings all finished inside the top three.

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 Rahm compared the track to Kapalua in Hawaii, where the Tournament of Champions is staged each year and that makes a lot of sense.
Like Kapalua, Vidanta is wide-open and exposed.

In-Play Tactics

The wind got up in the afternoons last year and an early start on Thursday proved beneficial.

With the course at its pristine best on day one, the early starters on day one averaged 69.18, compared to the afternoon wave's 71.29 (a difference of 2.21 strokes) and overall, the AM-PM side of the draw averaged 1.52 strokes better than those that began the tournament on Friday afternoon so keeping an eye on the weather forecasts is a worthwhile exercise.

Rahm was one of six players to open up the event with a seven-under-par 64 and he was never headed after that but I wouldn't rule out an off the pace winner.

Tony Finau and Brandon Wu finishes tied second, alongside Kurt Kitayama, beaten by one, having trailed by nine in a tie for 47th at halfway and the two were still seven back with a round to go.

Looking at the hole averages from 12 months ago, it's a fairly balanced track but there's a tough stretch around the turn after the drivable par four seventh, which was the easiest hole on the course. Rahm, who made a two there in round one, was one of 16 to record an eagle there. Holes eight to 11 all averaged over-par.

Market Leaders

Jon Rahm may look short at a shade under 3/1 but he isn't.

He arrived in Mexico in poor form 12 months ago but was still only trading at around 5/1 to win a brand new event around a course he'd never played before.

Here we are 12 months later, and the world number one is now looking to win for the seventh time in 15 starts.

Anyone wanting to take the Spaniard on will argue that it's never easy to defend a title and that's certainly true. Rahm won the Open de España back-to-back in 2018 and 2019 and so far, that's his only successful defence but he's gone on to win that title a third time and he has a habit of winning the same events on multiple occasions.

In addition to his three victories in his home Open, he's won the American Express twice on the PGA Tour, the Irish Open twice and the DP World Tour Championship three times.

A more legitimate argument against the favourite is that he's only just won the US Masters.

Winning the year's first major is a huge deal and a dip in form following such a success is understandable.

Tiger Woods was able to win in one of his two starts after winning at Augusta a couple of times and the likes of Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson came close soon after winning there but the vast majority of US Masters winners take a few months to win again.

Last year's fast-finishing runner-up, Tony Finau, is Rahm's biggest danger according to the market but he makes no appeal at all at less than 10/1.

Tony Finau.jpg

He doesn't have a single top-ten finish since he finished ninth at the Farmers Insurance Open back in January and the third-favourite, Wyndham Clark looks very short too at just over 20/1 given he's yet to win on the PGA Tour and he needs to lift himself after Sunday's disappointing defeat at the Zurich Classic.

Selection

How someone views Rahm's price is to a certain extent dependent on whether they've been backing him over the last six months or so.

Anyone that hasn't been backing him while he's been winning almost 50% of the tournaments he's played in since October last year is going to struggle to press the blue button.

I missed his win in Spain that kicked off the run and I didn't back him when he won at Riviera in February but having backed him before the off when he won in Dubai, Hawaii, California and Augusta, I'm happy to roll the dice again at a price I thought was fair in such a weak field.

Selection:
Jon Rahm @ 3.9

I'll be back later today or tomorrow with the Find me a 100 Winner column.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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