Puerto Rico Open 2024 Tips: 125/1 shot one of Jamie’s five picks

 | March 06 | 

17 mins read

jamie worsley pga tour

There is plenty of golf on Betfred Insights this week, with two PGA Tour events, a DP World Tour and LPGA Tour event all running over the weekend. Here, ace golf tipster Jamie Worsley gives us the second of his PGA previews at the Puerto Rico Open, as well as five more each-way predictions for glory. 

Puerto Rico Open Betting Tips

  • 1.75 pts Brandon Wu each-way (1/5 - 8 places) - 30/1 
  • 1.25 pts S.H. Kim each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 45/1
  • 1 pt Jorge Campillo each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 55/1 
  • 1 pt Taiga Semikawa each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 70/1
  • 1 pt Ryan Brehm each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 125/1

As a collection of the world’s best slug it out in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, a less established but no less interesting group of players will instead head to Grand Reserve Country Club for the Puerto Rico Open this week.

TOURNAMENT HISTORY

Though there were a few iterations of this event prior, the Puerto Rico Open as we know it now landed on the PGA Tour in 2008. It has always played the role of an opposite-field (alternate) event, giving the opportunity of a potentially career-altering win to players who may be on the fringes of those very top-level tournaments on tour.

What a win in an event like this can do for a player shouldn’t be underestimated, and the Puerto Rico Open has been frequented by an esteemed group of winners/contenders.

Tony Finau won the event in 2016 and it was also the scene of Viktor Hovland’s first tour victory in 2020; meanwhile, major winning golfers, Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Bryson DeChambeau have each finished 2nd here.

Last five winners:

  • 2023 – Winner: Nico Echavarria (-21); runner-up: Akshay Bhatia (-19)
  • 2022 – Winner: Ryan Brehm (-20); runner-up: Max McGreevy (-14)
  • 2021 – Winner: Branden Grace (-19); runner-up: Jhonattan Vegas (-18)
  • 2020 – Winner: Viktor Hovland (-20); runner-up: Josh Teater (-19)
  • 2019 – Winner: Martin Trainer (-15); runners-up: Aaron Baddeley, Daniel Berger, Roger Sloan, Johnson Wagner (-12)

Nico Echavarria converted a 54-hole lead to win the event last year and became only the third Colombian to win a PGA Tour event. He returns to defend this week and would become the first player to win back-to-back titles if successfully doing so.

THE COURSE

The Tom Kite-designed Championship Course at Grand Reserve Country Club sits on the north-east coast of the Caribbean island – sharing coastline and spectacular views with the Atlantic Ocean - and has hosted each prior edition of this event.

Whilst the layout of this exposed, open resort course is simple enough, things are never plain-sailing in this part of the world, and the difficulty of this test almost entirely depends on the elements. If the wind blows, it becomes a significantly different challenge and we’ve seen winning scores ranging from Alex Cejka shooting -7 to win in 2015, to Nico Echavarria and Chesson Hadley firing -21 to win in 2023 and 2014 respectively.

Little has changed at this flat venue over the years and it once again measures as a lengthy 7506-yard par 72 this week. It possesses 10x par 4s (386-465 yards), 4x par 5s (535-630 yards) and 4x par 3s (192-236 yards).

Fairways are framed with a smattering of palm trees and are about average in width overall; ranking similarly average in terms of driving accuracy percentages on the PGA Tour. However, whilst many fairway bunkers are smartly positioned, they’re easy to play out of and with little in the way of penal rough – as the ball tends to sit up in paspalum anyway – players are rarely punished for slightly wayward driving. Providing you don’t spray it too much and find the native foliage or water, which is in-play on twelve holes.

The large, slow and receptive paspalum greens have some subtle undulations on them and rank averagely on the PGA Tour in GIR percentages. Although, much like when missing the fairways, there’s a lack of severe penalty when you fail to find them, ranking in the top 25% of easiest scrambling courses on tour.

The routing of Grand Reserve CC sees the majority of the water holes coming early on but holes 12-18 have the potential to be trickier; with all built on a peninsula protruding out into the Atlantic, they will be more open to wind-triggered chaos if anything blows in from the ocean over the course of the week.

Though if it stays away, a kind set of par 4s and four scorable par 5s will be there for the taking, and we would be set for another low-scoring edition of the Puerto Rico Open.

THE WEATHER

The forecast is predicting largely clear, warm and sunny conditions, with only a few spots of rain about prior to the start of the event, potentially returning again for a small period on Saturday.

A steady 10mph breeze shouldn’t be too problematic for the players but if the predicted 25mph gusts become a constant feature, it may make things interesting.

KEY STATS

  • SG: Off-the-Tee/Driving Distance

Despite a lack of shot-tracker and strokes-gained data for this event, past winners of the Puerto Rico Open give us a pretty clear idea of the type of players to side with this week. As a lengthy course with a lack of penalty for missing fairways, it’s been no surprise to see bombers enjoy success here.

Ryan Brehm has always been inaccurate off-the-tee but that didn’t stop him bombing his way to an impressive six-stroke win around here in 2022, where he ranked 2nd in driving distance.

Other winners, Nico Echavarria (2023), Martin Trainer (2019) and Tony Finau (2016) all ranked top 7 in driving distance when winning, whilst 2021 and 2020 winners, Branden Grace and Viktor Hovland are not short on length themselves.

  • SG: Approach
  • Proximity 125-150 yards
  • Greens-in-regulation

With those receptive paspalum greens, working magic on approach will be key and it looks specifically important to have a strong wedge game, with that 125-150 yard range common on the mid-length par 4s.

Each of the last eight winners here have ranked no worse than 16th in greens-in-regulation, with D.A Points in 2017 ranking 1st; Echavarria last year ranking 2nd; and Branden Grace (2021), Martin Trainer (2019) and Alex Cejka (2015) all sitting inside the top 5.

  • SG: Putting (Paspalum)
  • Par 5 Scoring

Finally, anybody who has putted well on paspalum surfaces before will be of obvious interest and taking down the par 5s - particularly the two shorter ones on the front nine - will be another important factor in determining the winner of this event.

CORRELATING EVENTS (COURSES)

World Wide Technology Championship/Mayakokba (El Camaleon Golf Course)

Though shorter and more densely tree-lined, El Camaleon is another coastal course that features slow paspalum greens. Possessing similar averages to Grand Reserve in driving accuracy, GIR and scrambling, it looks an ideal comp course this week.

Notable correlating form:

Viktor Hovland:

Puerto Rico (1st) / El Camaleon (1st, 1st)

Scott Brown:

Puerto Rico (1st, 5th, 5th) / El Camaleon (5th, 6th)

Alex Cejka:

Puerto Rico (1st) / El Camaleon (9th)

Johnson Wagner:

Puerto Rico (2nd) / El Camaleon (1st)

Steve Marino:

Puerto Rico (2nd) / El Camaleon (2nd)

Danny Lee:

Puerto Rico (2nd) / El Camaleon (2nd, 3rd)

Emiliano Grillo:

Puerto Rico (2nd, 3rd) / El Camaleon (8th, 9th, 10th)

Brian Stuard:

Puerto Rico (4th) / El Camaleon (2nd, 2nd)

Shawn Stefani:

Puerto Rico (6th) / El Camaleon (2nd)

Vaughn Taylor:

Puerto Rico (7th) / El Camaleon (2nd)

Corales Puntacana Championship (Corales Golf Club)

Corales Golf Club is a big, open resort course that uses paspalum. It ranks closely to Grand Reserve in most aspects, though more so in short-game difficulty.

Notable correlating form:

George McNeill:

Puerto Rico (1st, 5th) / Corales (7th)

Martin Trainer:

Puerto Rico (1st) / Corales (7th)

Jhonattan Vegas:

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

Emiliano Grillo:

Puerto Rico (2nd, 3rd) / Corales (6th)

Nate Lashley:

Puerto Rico (3rd, 7th, 8th) / Corales (1st, 4th)

Ben Martin:

Puerto Rico (3rd) / Corales (2nd)

Rafael Campos:

Puerto Rico (3rd) / Corales (2nd)

Sam Ryder:

Puerto Rico (3rd) / Corales (2nd)

Chad Ramey:

Puerto Rico (5th) / Corales (1st)

Brice Garnett:

Puerto Rico (5th, 7th) / Corales (1st)

Mexico Open (Vidanta Vallarta)

The Mexico Open at Vidanta Vallarta has only been going for a couple of years but as a generous driving course with large greens it has been taken apart by big hitters. Add in the head-to-toe covering of paspalum and it looks an obvious comp for this week’s test.

Notable correlating form:

Tony Finau:

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

Akshay Bhatia:

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

Emiliano Grillo:

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

Brandon Wu:

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

Carson Young:

Puerto Rico (3rd) / Mexico (8th)

John Deere Classic (TPC Deere Run)

TPC Deere Run is a place where players feel comfortable taking driver out of the bag and rewards quality wedge play, with approaches from 125-150 yards important. This has resulted in there being swathes of crossover form between the John Deere Classic and the Puerto Rico Open:

Notable correlating form:

Alex Cejka:

Puerto Rico (1st) / John Deere (3rd)

Scott Brown:

Puerto Rico (1st, 5th, 5th) / John Deere (4th, 5th)

Michael Kim:

Puerto Rico (5th) / John Deere (1st)

Emiliano Grillo:

Puerto Rico (2nd, 3rd) / John Deere (2nd)

Troy Matteson:

Puerto Rico (2nd) / John Deere (2nd, 3rd)

Brett Quigley:

Puerto Rico (2nd) / John Deere (2nd)

Jhonattan Vegas:

Puerto Rico (2nd) / John Deere (3rd)

Danny Lee:

Puerto Rico (2nd) / John Deere (3rd)

Johnson Wagner:

Puerto Rico (2nd) / John Deere (5th, 5th)

Sam Ryder:

Puerto Rico (3rd) / John Deere (2nd)

Ben Martin:

Puerto Rico (3rd) / John Deere (2nd)

Sony Open (Waialae Country Club)

The Sony Open is played on an often windy coastal location and ranks closely to Puerto Rico in ball-striking difficulty.

Notable correlating form:

Johnson Wagner:

Puerto Rico (2nd) / Sony (1st)

Fabian Gomez:

Puerto Rico (2nd) / Sony (1st)

Steve Marino:

Puerto Rico (2nd) / Sony (4th, 7th)

Brett Quigley:

Puerto Rico (2nd) / Sony (5th)

Grayson Murray:

Puerto Rico (3rd) / Sony (1st)

Andrew Putnam:

Puerto Rico (5th) / Sony (2nd, 4th)

Ted Potter:

Puerto Rico (6th, 7th) / Sony (7th)

Korn Ferry Tour

In addition, with the weak strength of this field it may pay to search the Korn Ferry Tour for clues. Both The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic and The Bahamas Great Abaco Classic are played on paspalum surfaces.

The Panama Championship has plenty of strong correlating form, including Carson Young being a winner there and 3rd-place finisher here; Sam Saunders finishing runner-up at both of these events; and 2013 Puerto Rico Open winner, Scott Brown, finishing 3rd in Panama.

THE FIELD

We have a trio of Europeans leading the way as the top-ranked players in this week’s field, in the shape of #68 Robert MacIntyre, #75 Rasmus Hojgaard and #78 Aaron Rai.

There are a further four from inside the top 100: #84 Ryo Hisatsune, #91 Justin Suh, #94 Ben Griffin and #97 Victor Perez.

Nico Echavarria is back to defend the trophy and joined by a further six former winners, namely: Ryan Brehm (2022), Martin Trainer (2019), DA Points (2017), Scott Brown (2013), George McNeill (2012) and Derek Lamely (2010).

Daniel Berger comes here looking to make further progress after his return from injury; Aaron Wise makes his first PGA Tour start since stepping back in June last year to deal with his mental health; and Japanese former #1 amateur, Taiga Semikawa looks to take advantage after gaining an exemption into this week’s field.

SELECTIONS

Market leaders: Rasmus Hojgaard 14/1, Daniel Berger 18/1, Aaron Rai 22/1, Chris Gotterup 22/1

The market is wide open as expected. I was tempted by Daniel Berger at 18/1, he’s the class of the field and finished 2nd here on his only previous visit in 2019, which again came not long after a spell on the sidelines. Ultimately I thought 18/1 was probably just about short enough in a tournament that tends to breed first-time winners.

In an event where Chris Gotterup is priced as a 22/1 shot, I feel it may pay to head away from that very top of the market and at almost ten points bigger than him, it’s Brandon Wu who leads the way for me in Puerto Rico.

1.75 pts Brandon Wu each-way (1/5 - 8 places) - 30/1 

What immediately catches the eye with Wu is that his two best performances so far in 2024 have come on comp courses mentioned. He finished 18th in the Sony Open on his first start of the year and then followed three more subdued efforts with a 13th-place finish in the Mexico Open.

He was quite poor when missing the cut in the Cognizant Classic last week, however I’m willing to forgive that minor blip. Prior to that event he’d been doing everything to a solid level over his first five starts of the season and again looked sharp in most areas last week, though was undone by having a shocker with the irons.

That came as somewhat of a surprise for the 12th-best approach player in the field based on his last fifty rounds, whilst he’s also top 40 in GIR this season. As someone who is rock-solid with the driver too - where despite being more accurate than long, he’s certainly not short -  he has the all-round ball-striking profile that should make him a contender at Grand Reserve.

The proof is in the pudding for the American, as he has recorded finishes of 3rd and 7th on his only two starts in this event; shooting under par in each of his eight rounds. An excellent record at Vidanta Vallarta, where he’s finished 2nd, 3rd and 13th in three starts is another example of how comfortable he is on similar courses.

As a #5 amateur before turning pro in 2019, during which time he competed and held his own against players such as Collin Morikawa, big things were expected of Wu in the professional game. Whilst his progression hasn’t matched the velocity of peers like Morikawa and Viktor Hovland, he’s continually showed promise and this event provides the perfect opportunity for him to get that PGA Tour breakthrough.

1.25 pts S.H. Kim each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 45/1

S.H. (Seonghyeon) Kim’s early-season form his hit a bit of a flat spot on his last two starts but he can get things going again at a course where his strong-driving game looks well suited.

Kim enjoyed a great rookie season on the PGA Tour in 2022/23; almost signing it off in perfect fashion when finishing runner-up to Sahith Theegala in the Fortinet Championship in September last year.

2024 began with an encouraging 30th-place finish in the Sony Open and following a missed cut in The AmEx, he made his next three cuts on the spin, again looking good when 31st at Pebble Beach and 28th in the Phoenix Open.

However a missed cut in Mexico and 67th-place finish in the Cognizant Classic were disappointing – despite bursting into the first-round lead at PGA National - and he will need to bounce back here.

I am sure Kim can do just that. Not only is he an excellent and long driver, ranking 28th off-the-tee and 36th in driving distance last year, but he displayed a liking for paspalum on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2022, finishing 3rd and 19th in the two event in The Bahamas; a good record at the Sony Open, where he finished 12th last year, shows further his potential on coastal setups.

1 pt Jorge Campillo each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 55/1 

The players who earned their PGA Tour cards via the DP World Tour last year have been performing beyond many people’s expectations in 2024, with Matthieu Pavon winning the Farmers Insurance Open and Sami Valimaki finishing 2nd in the Mexico Open. Jorge Campillo has also started the season encouragingly and with this course sure to suit, I fancy him to throw himself into contention this week.

The three-time DPWT winner began his year out in the Middle East and following some solid performances, he headed off across the Atlantic off the back of a 5th-place finish in his beloved Qatar.

He made the first start of his PGA Tour rookie season two weeks following that and impressed by finishing 19th in Mexico; a finish of 53rd on debut at PGA National last week acts as another tidy piece of form.

His short game has impressed most this year, as it almost always does, although there have been plenty of positive signs in approach, and whilst not as long as he was a few years ago, he’s not a player you would describe as a short hitter. Having said that, it is not the Spaniard’s statistical profile that drew me to him this week.

Campillo hinted at his suitability to coastal paspalum courses in Mexico but we needn’t just look there. Both the courses used as host of the Qatar Masters in recent years, Doha Golf Club and Education City Golf Club, are exposed, wind-affected layouts, plastered with paspalum. He won his second DPWT title at the Education City course in 2020 and has recorded two runner-up finishes at Doha GC, coming in 2019 and 2023.

After two taking performances in better company to begin his PGA Tour journey, he looks a handy price to considerably better those efforts this week on a course that looks ideal.

1 pt Taiga Semikawa each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 70/1

Taiga Semikawa is a former #1 amateur who has already amassed five wins in his native Japan. With the driver ranking as this big-hitter’s primary asset, he looked great value against this winnable field.

The final year of Semikawa’s amateur career in 2022 is littered with high-class performances, including a runner-up finish in the Eisenhower Trophy, where he had players such as Ludvig Aberg and American amateur stars, Gordon Sargent and Michael Thorbjornsen in behind.

Though it is perhaps the fact that he still had amateur status when winning twice on the highly-competitive Japanese Golf Tour – including in the prestigious Japan Open – that suggested there was maybe something a little big special about the man whose given name was inspired by a certain my Woods.

Semikawa added two more titles to his name in 2023 in Japan and with that rising status, has began to play among more esteemed company worldwide.

He was super-encouraging in the Sony Open on his first start of the year, sitting 4th and in with a shot heading into the final round, before some Sunday struggles saw him dropping to 30th; little to be concerned about in his first attempt at winning a PGA Tour title and means he may be more composed when next afforded that opportunity.

Semikawa has since missed the cut but played solidly enough in The AmEx and enjoyed a respectable debut at the often brutish Torrey Pines, where he played really well for three rounds but could only manage a finish of 64th due to a third-round 79.

The driver continues to stand out, ranking 3rd off-the-tee in Hawaii and with that being hugely beneficial here, he was well worth rolling the dice on in Puerto Rico.

1 pt Ryan Brehm each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 125/1

I backed Ryan Brehm at a significantly shorter price than this when he recorded that hugely impressive victory here in 2022. He did so with only a handful of solid efforts on the Korn Ferry Tour to his name and now returning at over double the price of that win - and with encouraging signs to be found over recent weeks - he is well worth a shot to win the event for a second time.

Brehm has only made one cut in six starts this year but it did result in a 20th-place finish at Torrey Pines; another driver-heavy course. Although he has missed the three cuts following that, his last start at PGA National caught the eye.

He may not have seen the weekend there but he wasn’t far off and opened with a 2-under par 69. The driver looked in as good shape as it has all year, where he was finally able to find some accuracy to match his power; if he’d have made the weekend and maintained a similar level with the club, he’d have ranked around the top 25 OTT.

The driver was a major factor in Brehm’s incredible six-stroke win here two years ago; a result that followed an 11th-place finish at Grand Reserve the previous year. Indeed, most of his best results have come on coastal courses in recent years -  possessing top 20s in the Honda Classic and Bermuda in 2023 -  and he looks good value to replicate that in Puerto Rico.

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

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