2023 Mexico Open Odds, Expert Picks: Bet Nicolai Hojgaard, Brandon Wu, Akshay Bhatia & More
Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images. Pictured: Nicolai Hojgaard
For the second consecutive year, the PGA TOUR heads to beautiful Puerto Vallarta to play the Mexico Open.
The Greg Norman-designed Vidanta Vallarta is a par-71 measuring 7,456 yards. Prior to last year’s inaugural event, the course was extended by over 250 yards to make it PGA TOUR ready, and there were nine new tee boxes and 106 new bunkers added to stiffen the test for the best players in the world.
The course features three par 5s. Also, the par-4 seventh will be drivable for the longer hitters, but the golfers will have to risk taking on some water if they want to go for it.
The field this week will consist of 153 players. The only players in the field who are currently ranked in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Rankings are Jon Rahm, Tony Finau and Alex Noren.
Past Winners at Vidanta Villarta
- 2022: Jon Rahm (-17)
5 Key Stats For Vidanta Villarta
Let’s take a look at five key metrics for Vidanta Vallarta to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their past 24 rounds.
1. Driving Distance
At almost 7,500 yards, Vidanta Villarta is a long par 71. The rough shouldn’t be much of a factor this week, which gives the advantage to the long hitters in the field.
Total Driving Distance Over Past 24 Rounds
- Nicolai Hojgaard (+22.3)
- Brandon Matthews (+21.7)
- Matthias Schmid (+19.2)
- Cameron Champ (+18.3)
- Derek Ernst (+15.2)
2. Strokes Gained: Ball Striking
With the course playing long and greens likely being receptive, elite ball strikers should have an advantage more so than a good short game and strong putting.
Strokes Gained: Ball Striking Over Past 24 Rounds
- Jon Rahm (+37.5)
- Tony Finau (+35.6
- Gary Woodland (+34.0)
- Luke List (+27.4)
- Wyndham Clark (+25.8)
3. Strokes Gained: Total Paspalum
We’ve seen similar players pop up time and time again on courses that feature paspalum. It’s a surface that players don’t see very often on TOUR, and positive experience on the grass type should provide a major advantage in Mexico this week.
SG: TOT Paspalum over past 24 rounds:
- Nate Lashley (+48.7)
- Brandon Wu (+36.6)
- Adam Long (+34.1)
- Alex Smalley (+29.2)
- Brice Garnett (+29.2)
4. Strokes Gained: Total in Windy Conditions
I spoke with Tournament Executive Director Rodrigo Suarez Gilly last year, who said the afternoons typically get extremely windy. This will provide golfers who excel in the wind a major advantage.
SG: TOT in Windy Conditions Over Past 24 Rounds
- Tony Finau (+69.0)
- Jon Rahm (+38.9)
- Ryan Moore (+30.0)
- Gary Woodland (+28.1)
- Scott Piercy (+27.2)
5. Opportunities Gained
Last year, Suarez Gilly predicted the winning score to be in the range of 18-under, and the winner was -17. Golfers will have to make plenty of birdies to keep up, and paspalum greens typically help out golfers who aren’t the best putters.
Therefore, it makes sense to target the players who give themselves the most opportunities from 15 feet and in.
Opportunities Gained over past 24 rounds
- Jon Rahm (+29.9)
- Davis Riley (+23.0)
- Luke List (+20.9)
- Wyndham Clark (+20.5)
- Ben Martin (+20.3)
The Mexico Open at Vidanta Model Rankings
Below, I’ve compiled overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed — Driving Distance (22%), SG: Ball Striking (22%), SG: Paspalum (18.7%), SG: Windy Conditions (18.7%) and Opportunities Gained (18.7%)
- Jon Rahm
- Gary Woodland
- Tony Finau
- Wyndham Clark
- Brandon Wu
- Byeong Hun An
- Davis Riley
- Alex Smalley
- Luke List
- Ben Martin
Mexico Open Picks
Nicolai Hojgaard (+3500, DraftKings)
Last week Nicolai Hojgaard accepted a Special Temporary Membership for the remainder of the season.
It’s no surprise that the promising young talent was offered the exemption, and he’s been excellent of late. He finished second at the Corales Puntacana Championship and followed it up with a 28th-place finish at the Valero Texas Open, an event in which he gained 5.2 strokes on approach.
The second place at the Corales Puntacana Championship is notable, considering the paspalum grass he played on that week will be similar to what we’ll see in Mexico.
Last year, I picked Brandon Wu to play well in the event based off of his track record in Puntacana, and he didn’t disappoint, finishing second.
Nicolai looks to build off of his strong play in last week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Hojgaard and his compatriot Thorbjorn Olesen finished 32nd, which doesn’t appear to be a great finish. However, context is important.
According to Data Golf, Hojgaard gained 7.6 strokes on the field during the tournament, while Olesen lost 10.5 strokes.
Distance should be a major asset this week, and over his past 24 rounds, Hojgaard ranks first in the field in Driving Distance.
With a win this week, the 22-year-old rising star would put himself in a good position to make the 2023 Ryder Cup team in Italy, and I believe the course sets up perfectly for him to contend.
Emiliano Grillo (+5500, DraftKings)
Another player who plays his best golf on Paspalum is Emiliano Grillo. The Argentine is a positive putter on Paspalum greens, which is quite remarkable considering how poorly he’s putt overall throughout his career. Eight of Grillo’s best 24 (33%) Strokes Gained performances have come on the surface and considering how few events the Tour plays on Paspalum, that is certainly a notable statistic.
Grillo hasn’t been great so far in 2023, but he showed some serious signs of life at the RBC Heritage. The event was “designated” with most of the best players in the world in attendance, and Grillo managed to finish 7th. He gained 6.9 strokes from tee to green and even gained 2.8 putting.
Last year, Emiliano finished 33rd at this event, but he was in very poor form at the time. This year he comes into an event where he should be very comfortable coming off of his best performance of the year. He’s a top ten talent in the field and is way down the oddsboard so I feel that there’s value on taking a shot on Grillo at this price.
Brandon Wu (+6500, FanDuel)
Last year, I included Wu in this section at 150-1 and also tipped the top-five finish. He finished in second place.
The event became a bit of a coming out party for the Stanford product, and he’s played some good golf in the year since the 2022 Mexico Open, which has impacted his odds this week.
For all of the reasons I loved Wu as a course fit for Vidanta Villarta last year, I love him here just as much in 2023. He ranks third in the field in Strokes Gained: Paspalum and 10th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking.
He has three top-20 finishes this season in much stronger fields than we are seeing this week, and now that he’s more of an established PGA TOUR player, he should have a better chance to play well under weekend pressure.
I believe in the long-term ceiling for Wu, and I think the Mexico Open is the most realistic spot for the 25-year-old to get his first PGA TOUR victory.
Pick: Brandon Wu Outright
Akshay Bhatia (+11000, FanDuel)
Akshay Bhatia has been up and down over the past few years as a professional. He had some injury concerns last year but was able to land a Korn Ferry Tour win in his first start in the Bahamas.
Sandals Emerald Bay, where he won, is a coastal paspalum track that has some similarities to what we’ll see this week in Mexico.
This season on the PGA TOUR, the theme of Bhatia playing well on coastal Paspalum continued. The 21-year-old had a runner-up finish at the Puerto Rico Open and placed 26th at the Corales Puntacana Championsip.
Bhatia is still raw and needs to develop his game, but at this point, it seems wise to bet him in weaker fields at a setup similar to the ones he’s succeeded at early in his career.
Pick: Akshay Bhatia Outright
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