Puerto Rico Open: Derek can dominate at Rio Grande, says The Punter

Derek Fathauer in action at the Honda Classic
Derek Fathauer in action at the Honda Classic

There may only be one player from the world's top-100 in the world teeing it up in Puerto Rico this week but there's a winner in there somewhere and our man's done his best to dig him out. Read Steve's in-depth preview here...

“Seemingly on an upward curve, Floridian Derek Fathauer has a very similar profile to the last two winners and I thought 66/1 was very fair.”

Tournament History

This will be just the eighth staging of Puerto Rico Open - an event that has always been staged the same week as the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral (previewed here).


Venue

Trump International Golf Club (Composite Course), Rio Grande, Puerto Rico


Course Details
Par 72, 7506 yards, stroke average in 2014 - 70.79

Trump International is a diverse wind-exposed and flat composite of two courses that were originally four nine hole courses, designed by Tom Kite in 2004. The grass is paspalum, which is the same surface used at El Camaleon, home of the OHL Classic, and at the Kuala Lumpur Golf and Country Club, which hosts the CIMB Classic. Water is in play on 13 holes and the average-sized greens usually run at around 11 on the stimpmeter.


Useful Sites
Event Site
Course Site
Course Details
Twitter Link
Tee Times
Weather Forecast


TV Coverage
No coverage in the UK


Last Five Winners

2014 - Chesson Hadley -21
2013- Scott Brown -20
2012 - George McNeill -16
2011 - Michael Bradley -16 (playoff)
2010 - Derek Lamely -19


What Will it Take to Win The Puerto Rico Open?

There were no stats produced for the inaugural staging of the Puerto Rico Open so I've only been able to analyse the last six years of results. The average Driving Distance ranking of the six winners is 21.5 and the average Accuracy ranking is 38.33, so what you do off the tee here hasn't been critical.

Scott Brown ranked 62nd for Greens in Regulation two years ago but he's the only winner in the last four years to rank outside the front-six for that stat. He made up for it on the greens, ranking first for Putting and that's been key, with four of the last five winners having ranked inside the top-four but the best stat to look at has to be Par 4 Scoring.

Stats for the first Puerto Rico Open were issued for par 3, 4 and 5 scoring and the winner, Greg Kraft, ranked first on the par 4s - as has every subsequent winner bar one, with Michael Bradley being the odd man out, but he still ranked third when he won the first of his two titles in 2009.

It usually gets quite blowy at the Trump International so an ability to handle windy conditions is essential most years.


Is There an Angle In?

A number of events are staged at courses similar to this. Look closely at the form of the Sony Open, the RBC Heritage, the McGladrey Classic, and in particular, the OHL Classic. As previously mentioned, El Camaleon, home of the OHL Classic, is also a wind-affected paspalum grass track and the other three event venues, Waialae Country Club, Harbour Town Golf Links and Sea Island Resort are all Bermuda, which is a very similar surface to paspalum, and all three are wind-affected coastal courses.

When Brown won here, he'd finished 30th at Pebble Beach and third and seventh on the Web.Com Tour in his previous three outings but four of the last five winners had played at the Honda Classic the week before. None of them had done especially well there but that recent outing proved a plus.

Kraft's form figures in 2008 were MC-MC-48-19 and Bradley hadn't played anywhere for months when he won a year later. Derek Lamely's form figures were MC-MC-MC-73 in 2010 and when Bradley doubled-up in 2011, he did so after four straight missed cuts. George McNeil had missed two of three cuts before winning here and the last two winners have been the only two to have shown anything at all of note. Hadley had only finished 24th in the Honda but that was after an opening 73 and he'd also finished inside the top-ten at Pebble Beach.

Strong current form is far from essential and last year's runner-up, Danny Lee, and third placed-finisher, Ben Martin, had missed seven of eight cuts between them prior to teeing it up here.


Is There an Identikit Winner?

All six winners have had a strong west coast connection, with Floridian residents faring really well. The four men that won the first five editions all live in the Sunshine State and the last two winners are very much west coast men. Hadley lives in North Carolina, where he was born and raised and he went to college in Georgia. And Georgia-born Brown lives in South Carolina, which is also where he went to college.

The first two editions were won with 14-under-par totals but the tournament scoring record has been broken in each of the last two years. Brown won with a 20-under-par total in 2013 and Hadley, despite winds gusting up to 25mph on Sunday, bettered that by a stroke last year.

The first five editions went to experienced vets, although none of them were prolific, with Bradley being the only one to have won more than once on the PGA Tour. Brown and Hedley were winning on the PGA Tour for the first time and this title remains the only one to have gone the way of Greg Kraft and Derek Lamely.

Hedley traded at around 50.049/1 before the off 12 months ago and that was short in comparison to previous winners. Don't be afraid to take a chance or two - this is an event where an out-of-form outsider could easily pop up and cause a surprise.

And finally, there might just be a real star in the field somewhere - Jason Day and Jordon Spieth have both finished runner-up here. Daniel Berger has unsurprisingly withdrawn after his heroics at the Honda on Monday so the classy young pup mantle may have to be picked up by Zac Blair.


In-Play Tactics

This is not a venue where you can play catch-up. Every winner has shot a first round in the 60s and they've all been within five strokes of the lead after round one. Lamely is the only winner not to be inside the top-seven at halfway and the last three winners have been second after 36 holes and in front with a round to go.

Given that the event isn't on TV anywhere and that it's up against the WGC-Cadillac Championship, the chances are that liquidity will be poor so it might be sensible to trade in-between rounds only.


Market Leaders

Brendon De Jonge is the only player in the field that's inside the world's top-100 and that probably tells you all you need to know about strength of the tournament. Someone has to be favourite and it looks like the long-standing Zimbabwean maiden is going to be the man but he wouldn't be for me at all.

Given he's from Florida, has form at all the right courses, is in reasonable form at present and that he knows how to win, former Ryder Cupper, Boo Weekley, is my idea of the most likely winner this week and should therefore be at the head of the market. It's very hard to pick holes in Boo's credentials this week and I can see him going well.

Jeff Overton is another still looking for is first win and he's another that looks far too short - as do European Tour stars, Emiliano Grillo and Peter Uihlein.


Selection

As already mentioned, Zac Blair has the potential to be the future star in the line-up here and his sixth at the Sony Open in January suggest this course short suit. I'd have liked fractionally bigger than the 40/1 currently offered on the Sportsbook for him but I was more than happy to take their 66/1 about Derek Fathauer.

Seemingly on an upward curve, the Floridian has a very similar profile to the last two winners. He won one of the same events that Hadley won on the Web.com Tour last year - the Web.com Tour Championship and like Scott Brown he's been placed at the Panama Championship - which looks to suit the same sort of player that prevails here. He impressed me greatly only recently at the Northern Trust Open when he started brightly on what is a very tough course and I thought 66/1 was very fair.


Selection
Derek Fathauer @ 66/1 (Sportsbook)


I may well back a few outsiders before the off if the prices are right and if I do I'll update the preview and tweet again.

You can read my previews for the Cadillac Championship 2015 and my Africa Open Preview behind the links.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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