Puerto Rico Open: Course specialist chanced at 45/1

Golfer Nico Echavarria
The 2023 winner, Nico Echavarria

It's a busy week on the PGA Tour this week with action in Puerto Rico supporting the Tour's main event in Florida so read Steve's in-depth Puerto Rico Open preview here...

  • Strong current form not required

  • Accurate iron play key

  • Read my Arnold Palmer Invitational preview here


  • Tournament History

    Greg Kraft won the inaugural Puerto Rico Open in 2008 but this will be just the 16th 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, as it did 12 months ago.

    Venue

    Grand Reserve Country Club (Composite Course), Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.

    Course Details

    Par 72, 7506 yards, stroke average in 2023 - 71.26

    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 used at the recent Mexico Open, at the Corales Golf Club, which hosts the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship and at both the old and new venues used for the World Wide Technology Championship - El Camaleon and the Tiger Woods designed El Cardonal Golf Course.

    COCO BEACH 2024 1.jpg

    Water is in play on 13 holes and the average-sized greens usually run at around 11 on the Stimpmeter.


    Weather Forecast


    TV Coverage

    No live coverage on Sky Sports.

    Last Eight Winners with Pre-event Prices

    • 2023 - Nico Echavarria -21 110.0109/1
    • 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 14 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.

    Last year's winner, Nico Echavarria, ranked second for GIR and the 2022 winner, Ryan Brehm ranked 11th. 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.

    Nico Echavarria.jpg

    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 14 years to rank outside the top-eight for that key stat.

    This is an exposed layout, and the wind is nearly always a factor.

    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, the World Wide Technology Championship (especially at the old venue), and the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship.

    As previously mentioned, El Camaleon, which used to be the home of the World Wide Technology Championship, 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 linked with El Camaleon as the 2020 winner of this event Viktor Hovland, won two of the last three editions of the World Wide Technology Championship staged at El Camaleon

    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.

    Branden Grace, who won this event three years ago, also won the 2016 RBC Heritage at Harbour Town, and that's his only other victory on the PGA Tour.

    El Cardonal, the new venue for the World Wide Technology Championship, and Norman Signature Course at Vidanta, which hosts the Mexico Open, are both paspalum tracks so they're worthy of consideration in that respect but they're less wind-affected that this layout and they're much longer.

    After finishing 12th at the Sony Open, Echavarria, missed his next four cuts before winning here and that was fairly typical.

    Current form is definitely not something to worry about here and none of the previous 15 winners were setting the world alight before arriving here. A poor set of current form figures is nothing to worry about at all.

    Is There an Identikit Winner?

    Echavarria was only 28 when he won 12 months ago but 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 two years ago (his only PGA Tour win to date, DA Points had just turned 40 when he won seven 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 Finau and Hovland are the only Puerto Rico Open winners to win on the PGA Tour subsequently.

    Grace wins in Puerto Rico.jpg

    Grace was very well backed three 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 11 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 50/151.00 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. And last year's second, Akshay Bhatia, looks to be going places.

    Winner's Position and Price Pre-Round Four

    • 2023 - Nico Echavarria led by two strokes 2.111/10
    • 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

    In-Play Tactics

    Although he trailed the halfway leader, Carson Young, by four (sat tied for second), Echavarria was never outside the top-four places all week and he shot 67 on day one. And again, that was typical.

    Every winner has shot a first round of 70 or below and 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.

    Alex 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 Invitational (which I've previewed here), the chances are that liquidity will be poor so it might be sensible to trade in-between rounds only.

    Market Leaders

    Since finishing 16th in the Qatar Masters at the end of October, Rasmus Hojgaard has finished no worse than 11th in seven starts on the DP World Tour but his missed cut at last week's Cognizant Classic was a bit off putting.

    Away from the majors, that was Rasmus' first start on the PGA Tour since he finished 48th in the Barracuda Championship in July 2022 so he has very little experience Stateside and he's far from a solid looking favourite.

    This is the Dane's first appearance in Puerto Rico so that's an unknown too and he makes little appeal. And the same can be said of all the market leaders in an event where out of form longshots often thrive.

    Selection

    I'll be back later with at least one selection for the Find Me a 100 Winner column but my only pick before the off at a double-figure price is the course specialist - Nate Lashley.

    The 41-year-old has finished inside the top-ten in each of his three previous visits, so he clearly loves the venue and although he's missed six of his last seven cuts, his third placed finish at the Farmers Insurance Open at the end of January demonstrates just how classy he is when on song.

    Back Nate Lashley @ 46.045/1

    Bet now

    Read my Arnold Palmer Invitational preview here


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