Puerto Rico Open playing second fiddle to API
Wind nearly always a factor
Out-of-form long shots have a good record
Greg Kraft won the inaugural Puerto Rico Open in 2008 but this will be just the 15th edition after the 2018 renewal was postponed due to Hurricane Maria in September 2017.
The Puerto Rico Open has always been played opposite another event and this year it plays second fiddle to the Arnold Palmer Invitational (previewed here).
Grand Reserve Country Club (Composite Course), Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.
Par 72, 7506 yards, stroke average in 2022 - 71.34
Sitting at the foothills of the El Yunque Rainforest and formally named the Coco Beach Golf Club, the Grand Reserve 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 previously used on the PGA Tour at El Camaleon, home of the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba, and at the Corales Golf Club, which hosts the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship.
Water is in play on 13 holes and the average-sized greens usually run at around 11 on the Stimpmeter.
No UK coverage on Sky but it will be live on the Golf Channel.
Last Seven Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices
2022 - Ryan Brehm -20 70.069/1
2021 - Branden Grace -19 21.020/1
2020 - Viktor Hovland -20 18.017/1
2019 - Martin Trainer -15 120.0119/1
2018 - Tournament Cancelled
2017 - D.A Points -20 220.0219/1
2016 - Tony Finau -12 50.049/1 (playoff)
2015 - Alex Cejka -7 100.099/1 (playoff)
What Will it Take to Win the Puerto Rico Open?
No Strokes Gained data has been produced for this event and there were no stats at all for the inaugural staging so I've only been able to analyse the last 13 results.
The driving metrics appear largely irrelevant with neither length nor accuracy being close to crucial and the main stat to consider is Greens In Regulation.
The first and second in 2021, Branden Grace and Jhonattan Vegas, ranked third and seventh and a year earlier, the winner, Viktor Hovland, ranked eighth and the runner-up, Josh Teater, ranked first.
Ryan Brehm ranked 11th last year, the 2016 winner, Tony Finau, only ranked 18th for GIR and the 2013 champ, Scott Brown, ranked a lowly 62nd but they're the only winners in the last 13 years to rank outside the top-eight for that stat.
This is an exposed layout and the wind is nearly always a factor, as it will be throughout the tournament this week. We can probably expect the winner to have plenty of experience of playing in windy conditions.
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 RSM Classic, and in particular, the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba and the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship.
As previously mentioned, El Camaleon, which used to be the home of the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba before the venue burnt it's bridges by hosting last week's LIV Tour event, and the Corales Golf Club, host venue for the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, are both wind-affected Paspalum grass tracks and we've recently witnessed how nicely this event and the Mayakoba link as the 2020 winner, Hovland, has won two of the last three editions of the World Wide Technology Championship in Mexico.
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.
Grace's only other PGA Tour victory was the 2016 RBC Heritage at Harbour Town.
Current form is definitely not something to worry about here - none of the previous 14 winners were setting the world alight before arriving here and a poor set of form figures is nothing to worry about at all.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Out of form veterans seem to do really well here.
Playing on the final start of his Minor Medical Extension, Brehm won at the age of 35 last year (his only PGA Tour win to date, DA Points had just turned 40 when he won six years ago, and the 2015 champ, Alex Cejka, was winning on the PGA Tour for the first time at the age of 45.
The first five editions went to experienced vets, although none of them were prolific, and the top-class Grace, Finau and Hovland are the only Puerto Rico Open winners to win anywhere else subsequently.
Grace was very well backed two years ago, Hovland went of favourite 12 months earlier, Finau was matched at a high of 55.054/1, and Chesson Hadley was around that price ten years ago too, but every other winner has been matched at a triple-figure price before the off.
Hovland, in 2020, was the first winner under 50/1 so don't be afraid to take a chance or two. This is an event where an out-of-form outsider could pop up and cause a massive surprise.
And finally, there might just be another real superstar in the field somewhere. In addition to Hovland and Finau winning here, Jason Day, Jordon Spieth, Daniel Berger and Bryson DeChambeau have all finished runner-up here.
Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four
2022 - Ryan Brehm led by three strokes 2.35/4
2021 - Branden Grace tied third, trailing by one 5.49/2
2020 - Viktor Hovland led by a stroke 1.784/5
2019 - Martin Trainer alone in third, trailing by two 12.011/1
2018 - Tournament Cancelled
2017 - D.A Points tied second, one off the lead 9.28/1
2016 - Tony Finau tied second, one off the lead 7.26/1
2015 - Alex Cejka tied fifth, trailing by two 21.020/1
Brehm sat third, trailing by one, after round one before winning wire-to-wire from halfway and every winner has shot a first round of 70 or below. They've all been within five strokes of the lead after round one.
Finau, who sat 15th and four adrift in 2016, and Derek Lamely, who was 35th and six off the lead after 36 holes in 2010, are the only winners not to be inside the top-seven at halfway.
Cejka dropped from first to fifth between rounds two and three but he and Lamely, who also sat fifth after three rounds are the only winners to be outside the top-three places with a round to go so it's a tough place to make up ground.
Given that the event isn't on Sky and that it's up against the Arnold Palmer (which I've previewed here), the chances are that liquidity will be poor so it might be sensible to trade in-between rounds only.
The fact that the world number 264, Nate Lashley, whose sole success on the PGA Tour occurred four years ago, heads the market tells you all you need to know about the strength of the field here, but the 40-year-old's chance is a reasonable one.
Lashley won the Corales Puntacana Championship when it was still a Korn Ferry Tour event in 2017, his best result on the PGA Tour this year was his seventh placed finish at the Sony Open in January, and in two previous visits here, he's finished eighth and seventh. His credentials are fairly strong.
Everyone else is trading at in excess of 20.019/1 and the only two I considered carefully were Akshay Bhatia, who found himself in a sticky situation twice in one round at the Honda Classic last week, and Ryan Gerard, who Monday qualified for the Honda and went on to finish fourth, having finished third on the Korn Ferry tour on his penultimate start.
I'll have another look at the market before the off and if Brice Garnett drifts a bit I'll play him but other than, given the history of the event, I'm concentrating on outsiders, so I'll be back later today or tomorrow with at least one selection for the Find Me a 100 Winner column.
Brice Garnett backed at 55.054/1 this morning.
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