Driving key in PGA Tour event

Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffle earned a straight win to win the Zurich Classic and now the Tour heads to a brand new event.

This week’s stop in Vidanta Vallarta for the 2022 Mexico Open offers golf bettors a first-look course that stretches 7,400 yards and plays as a par-71.

Jon Rahm (+450) comes in as a pre-tournament favorite while Mexico’s Abraham Ancer is next at +1600 on the odds board. Tony Finau (+2000) is the only other top 25 player to serve in Mexico.

Before we dive into the pieces for the week, I’ll start by breaking down my modeling strategy for the event. While there’s a lot of guesswork to be had without reference to price history, here are the factors I believe will lead to success this week.

Modeling Statistic #1 – Driving Distance (Focus 22 percent)

Although Vidanta Vallarta reports that bad rides are not penalized as severely, the course length makes riding quite important this week.

For that reason, I’m willing to make driving on a course that (could) have at least two par 5s longer than 600 yards and a few par 4s between 475 and 500 yards (could) the most important category. While players don’t need to be very accurate, the ability to throw balls far will likely come in handy.

There are also some shorter par 4s where the distance from the tee could leave players with short approaches behind. While I’m not sure if this week will be a birdie fest, that could prove crucial to the win.

Here are the 36-lap driving distance leaders and their betting odds for the week:

  1. Cameron Champ (+5000)
  2. Joseph Bramlett (+12500)
  3. Trey Mullinax (+25000)
  4. Wyndham Clark (+8000)
  5. Peter Uihlein (+15000)

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Modeling Stat #2 – Shots Won: Approach (21 Percent Emphasis)

Vidanta Vallarta qualifies itself as a coastal setup while also being bunker-strewn – a staple of course designer Greg Norman – so accurate approaches will also be key.

Check out other coastal courses on the PGA Tour – places like Harbor Town Golf Links, Sea Island Golf Club and Pebble Beach – and it’s safe to assume accurate approaches are needed here too. For reference, the winners of these courses above all ranked in the top 10 in SG: Approach for the week.

Add the extra element of sand traps (Vidanta Vallarta has north of 100 bunkers on the course) and I rate that as as important as the driving distance.

Here are the 36-round leaders for SG: Approach and their betting odds for the week:

  1. Russel Knox (+5000)
  2. Luke Donald (+20000)
  3. Tony Finau (+2000)
  4. Jon Rahm (+450)
  5. Gary Woodland (+2200)
Jon Rahm
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Modeling Statistic #3 – Opportunities Won (20 Percent Emphasis)

As I mentioned before, I’m not sure if this course will show its teeth or succumb to a high score winner.

In any case, players who have previously demonstrated their ability to create chances should find themselves in contention on Sunday. It’s also worth noting that at Mexico’s other PGA Tour event – the World Wide Technology Championship in Mayakoba – four consecutive winners have reached 20 under par.

Although this course is 400 yards shorter than Vidanta Vallarta, it could be a good indicator of how the course will be set up this week. Players who create scoring opportunities naturally have an advantage over the field, hence the heavy emphasis here.

The following players lead the field in odds won in the last 36 rounds (betting odds in parentheses):

  1. Jon Rahm (+450)
  2. Aaron Rai (+5000)
  3. Jason Dufner (+25000)
  4. Chris Kirk (+3300)
  5. Nate Lashley (+10000)

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Modeling Statistic #4 – Bogey Avoidance (19% Emphasis)

According to the course description, the putting areas are referred to as “large undulating greens”.

We know that players will (probably) see a lot of chances when birdie, but this description leads me to seek out players who can avoid mistakes in a potential high score event. Add that these green sizes are (at least) Tour average and I expect we won’t see a large number of bogeys from players competing.

For reference, the last three winners at Mayakoba saw a bogey or worse on less than 10 percent of all 72 holes. Here are the 36-round bogey avoidance leaders and their betting odds this week:

  1. Ryan Armor (+12500)
  2. Jon Rahm (+450)
  3. Mark Hubbard (+6600)
  4. Jonathan Byrd (+30000)
  5. Gary Woodland (+2200)
Gary Woodland
Gary Woodland
PGA TOUR via Getty Images

Modeling Stat #5 – Proximity: 175 to 200 yards (18 percent emphasis)

Given the length of this week’s course, mid to long iron players will need to be accurate to create birdie opportunities.

And while we don’t have data on the percentage of approach distance for this particular event, other similar distance courses see a variety of approach shots from that distance. Because of this, I want my model to include players who are strong from a distance.

That being said, I don’t think this is the most important category for the week – think of it more as a specific add-on to the SG: approach – so it won’t place much emphasis on it. That said, here are the top performers in that category over the last 36 rounds with betting odds for the week:

  1. Jason Dufner (+25000)
  2. Robert Garrigus (+35000)
  3. Kiradech Aphibarn Council (+20000)
  4. Sebastian Munoz (+3300)
  5. Austin Smotherman (+12500) Driving key in PGA Tour event


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