Mexico Open 2024 Tips: 500/1 shot leads Jamie’s six picks

 | February 19 | 

17 mins read

jamie worsley pga tour

The PGA Tour takes a break from mainland America this week as we head to the Mexico Open on Thursday. As always, Jamie Worsley is back with his comprehensive preview and six more each-way selections for victory. 

Mexico Open Tips

  • 1.75 pts Keith Mitchell each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 28/1 
  • 1.5 pts Erik Van Rooyen each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 33/1
  • 1 pt Jhonattan Vegas each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 60/1 
  • 1 pt Nate Lashley each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 70/1
  • 0.5 pts Pierceson Coody each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 200/1 
  • 0.5 pts Ryan Brehm each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 500/1

Though not surprising in the same sense as the majority of other PGA Tour winners in 2024, Sunday’s final round of the Genesis Invitational at Riviera provided us with yet another exciting finish, and a winner who looked tremendously unlikely at the start of the day.

Hideki Matsuyama had been in middling form for the best part of eighteen months and entering the final round six off the lead, he wasn’t really on the radar for many. Especially with the proven quality he had in front of him.

However, as overnight leader Patrick Cantlay and friend, Xander Schauffele failed to spark each other into life, and contenders such as Luke List and Will Zalatoris started to wobble, Hideki reminded us all of the ability he possesses; a level which makes him an owner of a Green Jacket and means he is a now nine-time PGA Tour winner.

The Japanese star started his fourth round excellently with three birdies on the spin and repeated the feat at the start of his back nine, to go -6 on the day and into a share of the lead. He then pulled away from those other would-be winners with another scintillating three-birdie stretch over the closing holes; knocking it to a matter of inches for birdie on 15 and 16, before getting up-and-down on the par 5 17th for a third trio of birdies of the day.

A par at the last hole completed a sensational final-round 62 for Matsuyama – one shy of the course record – and in the process took him to a commanding three-shot victory.

It was a remarkable performance at such a renowned, difficult course and he’ll be hoping to maintain the momentum as the beginning of major season gets ever nearer.

Before play moves to the East Coast for the newly-named Cognizant Classic (formerly the Honda Classic) next week, we take a slight detour to Mexico for the Mexico Open at Vidanta Vallarta this week.

TOURNAMENT HISTORY

This year marks eighty years since the first edition of the Mexico Open, however it has only spent the last two of those as a PGA Tour event.

Prior to receiving upgraded status in 2022, the tournament was part of the PGA Tour Latinoamerica; having also previously spent time on the Korn Ferry Tour (2008-2012) and the Euro Challenge Tour (2004-2006).

The list of pre-PGA Tour winners includes esteemed names such as Bobby Locke (1952), Lee Trevino (1973, 1975) and Ben Crenshaw (1981).

Jon Rahm won the first PGA Tour renewal in 2022, firing -17 to beat off the trio of Tony Finau, Kurt Kitayama and Brandon Wu by one stroke.

Finau returned to gain revenge last year, this time beating the Spaniard into 2nd with a -24 winning score. He is back in defence of the trophy this week, as the event moves from a late April/early May spot on the calendar to this earlier February start date.

THE COURSE

The Greg Norman Signature Course at the Vidanta Vallarta Resort opened in 2016, and has hosted the previous two editions of this PGA Tour-sanctioned event.

The course is a long 7456-yard par 71; containing just 9x par 4s (297-520 yards), 5x par 3s (170-226 yards) and 4x par 5s (548-637 yards).

The holes are framed by large sandy waste areas and mature trees/indigenous vegetation on this well-maintained and spacious venue, which is covered head-to-toe in paspalum. From the generous and strategically bunkered fairways; to the large and gently undulating putting surfaces.

Bunkers provide one of the primary defences of Vidanta Vallarta, with over one-hundred spread around the course, some of which are cavernously deep. Water is an additional and equally prominent feature, in-play on twelve holes.

A lack of troublesome rough tempts players to let fly with driver around much of the course and it’s hard not to think it sets up well for the big hitters. Four of the par 4s will play at over 500 yards over the course of this week, including the 520-yard 4th; whilst two of the four par 5s – three of which come over the final seven holes – measure above 600 yards.

Having said that, as proven by Tony Finau’s low scoring last year, the course is fairly straightforward and if the wind doesn’t blow, it is there to be got at. With excellent scoring opportunities to be had, particularly on the drivable 297-yard par 4 7th and closing 548-yard par 5 18th.

THE WEATHER

With warm, sunny conditions forecast throughout and little in the way of severe winds, the defence will have to come almost entirely from the course this week.

THE STATS

Key stats:

  • SG: Off-the-Tee/Driving Distance
  • SG: Approach
  • Proximity 175-200/200+
  • SG: Putting (Paspalum)
  • Par 5 Scoring

This course looks to set up perfectly for top class and lengthy drivers of the ball, which has certainly been the case in the last two years.

Jon Rahm and Tony Finau have each recorded 1st and 2nd-place finishes in the two renewals here and fall into that category. Rahm drove it excellently on each start, ranking 2nd when winning in 2022 and was the best driver in the field last year when finishing 2nd; meanwhile, Finau was 2nd off-the-tee last year.

Further to that, Brandon Wu has ranked 7th OTT in his two top 3s here; whilst each member of the top 5 in 2022 ranked 17th or better OTT and were all in the top 25 in driving distance.

Quality approach play is always vital and with those lengthy par 4s and par 5s, along with three of the par 3s coming in at over 190 yards, it’s those who excel best with the long irons that appeal most here; approaches at over 175 yards account for 60% of approach distances in each renewal.

Those who have demonstrated an ability on paspalum surfaces will have an advantage, especially if it turns into somewhat of a putting contest like last year, where each of the top 4 ranked top 8 on the greens.

Finally, with three of the four par 5s coming over the final seven holes, they should have added importance in deciding the outcome of this event.

CORRELATING EVENTS (COURSES)

It’s still very early days for this course on tour, therefore, correlating form is very thin on the ground. However there are a number of avenues to go down and some predictable form-lines have developed.

Puerto Rico Open (Grand Reserve Golf Club)

Most significant of these is the Puerto Rico Open at Grand Reserve Golf Club. The course uses paspalum throughout and ranks similarly to Vidanta Villarta in most aspects statistically.

Notable correlating form:

Tony Finau:

Mexico (1st, 2nd) / Puerto Rico (1st)

Brandon Wu:

Mexico (2nd, 3rd) / Puerto Rico (3rd, 7th)

Akshay Bhatia:

Mexico (4th) / Puerto Rico (2nd)

Emiliano Grillo:

Mexico (5th) / Puerto Rico (2nd, 3rd)

Harry Hall:

Mexico (10th) / Puerto Rico (7th)

Joseph Bramlett:

Mexico (10th) / Puerto Rico (9th)

 

3M Open (TPC Twin Cities)

TPC Twin Cities provides a similar test to Vidanta Vallarta off-the-tee, where it’s generous and typically non-penal fairways have played into the hands of many big hitters.

Notable correlating form:

Tony Finau:

Mexico (1st, 2nd) / 3M Open (1st, 3rd)

Cameron Champ:

Mexico (6th, 8th) / 3M Open (1st)

Emiliano Grillo:

Mexico (5th) / 3M Open (2nd, 3rd)

John Deere Classic (TPC Deere Run)

The John Deere Classic is another kind driving course that has generally seen strong and long drivers go well. It possesses similar averages to this week’s course in most aspects from tee-to-green.

Notable correlating form:

 

Emiliano Grillo:

Mexico (5th) / John Deere (2nd)

Alex Smalley:

Mexico (6th) / John Deere (2nd)

Patrick Rodgers:

Mexico (10th, 10th) / John Deere (2nd)

Additionally, whilst the Corales Puntacana Championship (Corales Golf Club) and the World Wide Technology Championship (El Camaleon & El Cardonal) don’t have especially significant correlating form as yet – though Emiliano Grillo, Brandon Wu and Alex Smalley do show up across those events – they are the three other courses that use paspalum grass and can also be leaned on for clues this week.

 

THE FIELD

This is our weakest field on the PGA Tour so far this year but with that comes plenty of opportunities for those players who have been on the periphery in 2024.

Reigning champion, Tony Finau is the top-ranked player at #24 and one of only four players from inside the world’s top 50; whilst there are just a further nineteen from inside the top 100.

Eight of the ten players who earned their PGA Tour cards via the DP World Tour last year will be in attendance, excluding Adrian Meronk (now on LIV) and Torrey Pines winner, Matthieu Pavon. Recent Ras Al Khaimah winner, Thorbjorn Olesen is among these, making his first start on the PGA Tour this year.

We are also joined by a couple of highly-rated Mexican amateurs, in the shape of Santiago De La Fuente and Omar Morales, who occupied the top 2 positions in the prestigious Latin American Amateur Championship at the start of the year and currently sit inside the top 50 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.

SELECTIONS

Market leaders: Tony Finau 7/1, Emiliano Grillo 20/1, Nicolai Hojgaard 20/1, Thorbjorn Olesen 25/1, Stephan Jaeger 28/1, Thomas Detry 28/1

Tony Finau has been hitting the ball well so far this year; has an excellent record at the course and this is the type of field in which he’s started to win convincingly in recent years. He was seriously considered at a 7/1 price that looks fair enough but ultimately didn’t have quite enough juice to tempt me in.

The market looks wide open outside of Finau and I’m going to kick off with Keith Mitchell, whose quality driving and current consistent run with the putter should make him a big player at Vidanta Vallarta.

1.75 pts Keith Mitchell each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 28/1 

Mitchell has been in good form at the start of 2024. He’s missed just one cut in five starts – narrowly so at the Farmers Insurance Open – and has recorded two top 20s in the other four, with a best of 9th in The AmEx.

The driver has been in typically fine form for the big hitter, ranking 4th so far this season, whilst he’s also gained strokes on the greens and in approach in each of his last four starts. A ranking of 4th in proximity at 200+ yards makes for a hugely appealing ball-striking profile this week.

Mitchell is making his debut at Vidanta Vallarta but has several pieces of correlating form that makes him an attractive proposition for the test. The best of these efforts comes courtesy of a runner-up finish on the paspalum surfaces of the Corales Puntacana in 2018.

Two 5th-place finishes at the 3M Open and a 7th at the John Deere Classic in 2018 indicate further how comfortable he is on courses where you can keep taking driver out of the bag, suggesting he’ll feel right at home this week.

Mitchell

1.5 pts Erik Van Rooyen each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 33/1

Erik Van Rooyen won in Mexico at the end of 2023 for a second PGA Tour success and continuing to hit the ball well this year, he should have every chance of adding to those titles here.

That win came in the World Wide Technology Championship at El Cardonal and was the culmination of a great run of form for the South African, as he entered that week with five top 25s and two top 10s in his previous eight starts.

Signs have once again been positive at the start of 2024, as he’s recorded top 25s in three of his five starts and only missed the cut by one on his latest start in the Phoenix Open; largely due to an unusually poor first round with the driver.

I say unusual as Van Rooyen had gained strokes off-the-tee in six of his previous seven starts and ranks 27th on tour with driver so far this season. This is part of a strong all-round ball-striking game, as he ranks 13th in approach over the last six months – top 30 when taking into account just the last 50 rounds – and as the 5th-best par 5 scorer on tour, he should be well suited to this course.

He certainly looked to enjoy the venue last year, sitting 2nd at the halfway point before a disappointing weekend dropped him down the leaderboard to 33rd. However, he was in nowhere near the same level of form that he is now and with his win at El Cardonal providing added encouragement, I’m confident that if he can get himself in the mix again this week, he’ll have no trouble maintaining a challenge over the weekend.

erik van rooyen

1 pt Jhonattan Vegas each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 60/1 

After a 2023 that was blighted by an elbow injury, Jhonny Vegas looks to be on his way back. He is a player well worth chancing on this suitable course, after a promising 22nd-place finish in the Phoenix Open on his latest start.

Before making his season debut at the Sony Open four starts ago, Vegas hadn’t played on tour since missing the cut in the Valspar Championship last year – though did show promise when 17th in the Australian Open on his last start of 2023 - but he immediately started to catch the eye.

Despite missing his first three cuts of the year, he drove the ball well across each start and was only a shot or two out in each. He fired two rounds in the 60s at The AmEx and responded to a disastrous 78 in round one of the Farmers Insurance Open with a 65 in round two.

Vegas then built on that promise in the Phoenix Open, as he found some quality in approach to match his driving to rank 6th overall in ball-striking. He shot three consecutive rounds in the 60s to begin his week and sat 13th entering the final round, before a level-par 71 saw him fall nine spots.

Quality ball-striking has been the hallmark of his professional career and with the length he possesses, this looks an ideal place for the three-time PGA Tour winner to build on that effort in Phoenix. Especially when we counter in a book of correlating form to rival anyone else, having recorded finishes of 2nd in the Puerto Rico Open and 3M Open; 3rd in the John Deere Classic and a 4th in the Corales Puntacana.

vegas

1 pt Nate Lashley each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 70/1

Nate Lashley has produced one of the best performances of his career in the early part of this season. If able to transfer that positivity to a type of course that would seem to suit just about as much as any, he would look great value this week.

Though Lashley has missed three of his four cuts in 2024, he made his one weekend count when finishing 3rd in the Farmers Insurance Open. A performance that rates as the second-best of his career; only behind his victory in the 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic.

He also looked perfectly solid when missing the third-round cut at The AmEx, recording rounds of 67 and 66 in rounds two and three; whilst there was nothing alarming about his missed cut in the Phoenix Open last time out.

Lashley has looked right at home at Vidanta Vallarta in each of his two visits, finishing 11th in 2022 and returning to finish 39th last year. In that 2022 edition, he ranked 8th on the greens and after a best-of-the-day 64 in round three, he entered the final round in 4th, three off the lead; before a lowkey 71 saw him slip to just outside the top 10.

His good record here should come as no surprise, as he is something of an expert on paspalum golf courses. He won the Corales Puntacana on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2017 and has since finished 4th there on the PGA Tour in 2021. In addition he finished 3rd in Puerto Rico last year, to go with two further top 10s and with a 10th-place finish in last year’s World Wide Technology Championship also boding well, I’m willing to look past his less-than-ideal statistical profile.

nate lashley

0.5 pts Pierceson Coody each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 200/1 

A couple of huge prices to finish, first of whom is the highly-talented yet unpredictable Pierceson Coody.

Coody turned pro in 2022 along with twin brother, Parker; both having enjoyed quality amateur careers and now finding themselves on the PGA Tour. Yet despite Pierceson being the standout player at collegiate level - reaching the top of the amateur rankings compared to Parker only climbing as high as #40 - and also recording three victories on the Korn Ferry Tour, he finds himself double the price of his brother this week.

It's easy enough to see why. Pierceson has missed each of his three cuts so far this season, generally struggling with his ball-striking, whereas Parker’s more reliable ball-striking took him to a top 25 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open on his latest start.

However, Pierceson has shown himself to be an unpredictable but explosive player in his career so far. He won on his third professional start in the Maine Open on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2022, this was following a 4th-place finish the week prior and caused you to believe this former amateur star would consistently run riot at that level, but he’s found consistency tough.

Despite that, he recorded two further wins on that tour last year to earn his step up to the PGA Tour in 2024. The first of them came in the Panama Championship following two missed cuts in the Bahamas and the second came in the Price Cutter Championship in July, after he had missed four cuts and recorded a best of 35th in his six prior starts.

It’s hard not to compare him to Cameron Champ; another similarly elite amateur who found consistency tough but winning easy in the early stages of his pro career.

Coody is a player who can burst into life at any time and possesses a level of ability outweighing many in this field. Coming into a much more winnable event than in his first three starts of the year, and at a course that will be more forgiving of his long-hitting but occasionally erratic driving, he was an easy selection this week.

coody

0.5 pts Ryan Brehm each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 500/1

Ryan Brehm looked good at the Farmers Insurance Open two weeks ago. With the right type of game for this test and possessing an especially strong piece of correlating form, I’m taking him to far outplay his huge odds this week.

Brehm misses a lot of cuts but when he finds a course that suits he’s often able to considerably up his level. He showed it at the end of last year, missing six of his last nine cuts but recording a top 25 in each event at which he did see the weekend, and he’s done the same this year; with a 20th-place finish in the Farmers Insurance Open surrounded by three missed cuts.

When he does show up, it’s often due to finding a little something with the driver, therefore Torrey Pines makes sense as a course where strong drivers typically excel and it is what makes him appeal this week.

Brehm hasn’t played in the two previous editions of the event here but he does have a great record in the Puerto Rico Open, which includes a solo PGA Tour success in 2022, as he routed the field by six strokes. This was following a finish of 11th there the previous year and with some positive efforts at the Corales Puntacana and 3M Open, I’m expecting him to be comfortable in the surrounds of Vidanta Vallarta this week.

ryan brehm

You can find all Jamie's latest Golf Betting Tips over on our dedicated golf Insights hub.

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