The world number one, Jon Rahm, is in the Mexico Open field this week to defend his title from last year at Vidanta Vallarta. Last year's event was the first-ever trip to Vidanta Vallarta, and Rahm fended off a trio of Tony Finau, Kurt Kitayama, and Brandon Wu, who all finished T2 by a stroke.
What did we learn from last year's event, and what does it mean for this week?
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Vidanta Vallarta Course Info & Key Stats
Distance: 7,456 (about 150 yards longer than the average par 71)
Fairway Width: 40.4 yards (wide; 72nd of 80)
Average Green Size: N/A
Green Type: Paspalum
Recent Winning Scores: -17
Recent Cut Lines: Even
Key Stats (in Order of Importance): Strokes Gained: Approach, Driving Distance, Strokes Gained: Putting, Birdie or Better Rate, Total Strokes Gained
Vidanta Vallarta is a long par 71 with the longest average par 4s and par 5s on the PGA Tour. Along with that length, we get wide fairways that aren't problematic to miss based on last year's data.
It also isn't particularly hard to get up and down from within 30 yards of the green.
What this means, then, is that ball-striking wins out.
Among the top 10 by strokes gained: tee to green last year, only two were outside the top 25 in the actual tournament, and both were basically the worst putters in the field: Charles Howell (T33 finish; 4th in T2G; 74th in putting) and Kevin Na (T42; 9th; 72nd).
Golfers With Great Course/Event History
Golfers who finished T15 or better in the field last year and are in the field this year include:
Winner: Jon Rahm
T2: Tony Finau, Brandon Wu
T6: Alex Smalley, David Lipsky, Cameron Champ
10th: Patrick Rodgers
T11: Nate Lashley, Martin Trainer
T13: Chez Reavie, Grayson Murray
T15: Stephan Jaeger, Lanto Griffin, Peter Malnati, Adam Long, Andrew Novak, Kelly Kraft
Win Simulations for the Mexico Open at Vidanta
Here are the most likely winners this week, according to my win simulation model, as well as their golf betting odds at FanDuel Sportsbook.
Win Simulation Analysis and Best Bets for the Mexico Open at Vidanta
Believe it or not, Jon Rahm at +260 is around where he should be, so if you're into betting a winner at +260, I think you can justify it this week with Rahmbo.
I'm more interested in Tony Finau at +850 between the two. He was the runner-up last year and led the field in strokes gained: tee to green at Vidanta Vallarta.
With some actual value on the two heavy, heavy favorites, that naturally doesn't bode well for finding value on long shots and in the mid-range.
Alejandro Tosti bombs it off the tee and has had some good results on the Korn Ferry Tour lately but is someone I'm still really only targeting for top-20 status rather than an outright.
Daily Fantasy Golfer Picks for the Mexico Open at Vidanta
All stats cited below originate at datagolf and reference ranks relative to the field over the past 50 rounds. References to my combo model refer to a combination of long-term, field-adjusted form, key stat performance, and hole-by-hole-level strokes gained data.
Best of the Best
Jon Rahm (FanDuel Salary: $12,600 | Golf betting odds: +260) - There's game theory and then there's being careless. Rahm is +290 to win this week via FanDuel Sportsbook, he won here last year, he's in fantastic form, and the course fit is ideal for the big hitter. What else can we ask for? As far as cash games go, you're doing yourself a disservice to avoid Rahm even at the elevated salary. There just isn't enough reason to go elsewhere for head-to-heads. The bigger question is tournament strategy. Rahm is 28.1% likely to win and 93.0% likely to make the cut, per my simulations, and what you're really hoping for is a missed cut or a horrible finish, which just isn't that probable. Fading him in tournaments in the slim chance that he misses the cut could be very fruitful, but there are better ways to differentiate than fading the world's top-ranked golfer with only one other golfer better than 50th in the field (that'd be Tony Finau, who is 16th in the OWGR).
Tony Finau ($12,300 | +850) - One way to differentiate a little from playing Rahm is to force both Rahm and Finau together. The salary cap involved does lead to some restrictions throughout the lineup otherwise. However, there isn't a lot of separation between the guys at the bottom of the field, so maximizing win equity pretty much means being open to playing Rahm and Finau together. Finau was runner-up here last year and easily led the field in strokes gained: tee to green (+3.69 per round, on average, with nobody else above +2.58). Finau's putter is pretty great right now, and that puts him close to -- but definitely not in -- the same tier as Rahm. You'll have just $8,775 left per golfer for your final four if you start with these two...but you can do it this week.
Luke List ($9,500 | +6500) - A pretty dominant tee-to-green player, List will be able to pick up distance on the field this week without much of an issue, and he is always a threat to pick up substantial strokes with his irons. The short game is always a worry, but we'll forgive that more this week than most. List has missed four of his past five stroke-play event cuts, yet he's frankly better relative to this field than the salary indicates. The course is still fresh for most of the field, and the greens are a rare surface (paspalum), so if the putting levels out, then List gets a huge boost.
Joseph Bramlett ($9,300 | +4700) - Another golfer whose putter can cause him to miss cuts (like he's done in three of his past five starts), Bramlett can also pick up substantial distance off the tee, and his wedge game is quite good. Lately, he's -- at worst -- been neutral with his irons. At his best, he's just one of the best ball-strikers in any field he's in. He missed the cut here on the number last year while nuking it off the tee and just not making enough putts.
Peter Malnati ($8,800 | +12000) - Malnati has been more down than up, which is going to be the case if you're a value play in a field like this one. He missed the cut at the RBC Heritage after a T22 at the Valero Texas Open, which snapped a four-even missed cut streak. Other notable finishes this year for Malnati include a T20 at the Genesis Invitational, a T4 at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and a T20 at the Farmers Insurance Open. Malnati ranks around the field average in distance and is seventh in short game.
Callum Tarren ($7,900 | +15000) - We can be open to value plays more this week than most because the field is so top-heavy and because the rest of the field is pretty flat in terms of the drop-off. Put another way, someone around Tarren's salary isn't that much different than most of the options in the upper-$8,000 range, so let's rock. Tarren is a plus in driving distance virtually every single week, and well, that should help him make his first cut since the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in early February. Yes, he's missed eight straight cuts. No, this field is not as tough as most of -- if not all of -- those were.