MEXICO OPEN: The PGA Tour’s West Coast Swing wrapped up in Southern California last week and now it’s time for a brief stop South of the Border before all the action moves to Florida for a month. Not all of the players made this trip, of course– as a matter of fact, most of the big names have decided to rest this week in preparation for a busy springtime stretch that culminates with the Masters. For those who signed up it’s a week in the Mexican sunshine at one of the country’s finest resorts, situated less than a mile from the Pacific Ocean. Not a bad deal, eh?

The Norman Signature course at Vidanta Vallarta was built in 2015 and has quickly earned a reputation as one of Mexico’s top golfing destinations. This will be its third year hosting this event and from all indications I expect it to be the permanent home of this tournament, which has had somewhat of a nomadic history since first being staged in 1944. A par-71 that tips out at a beefy 7,456 yards, the course will not present a tremendous challenge to the players due to minimal rough and a general lack of severity off the tee. However, indigenous trees and jungle foliage line several fairways and water comes into play on more than half the holes, so there are definitely places to stub your toe. Also, the paspalum greens can be a bit tricky to read for those who aren’t used to them, and the only time Tour players really see paspalum is on the so-called “island circuit”, the informal name given to the collection of tournaments in tropical locales that the top players tend to avoid. You know… tournaments like this one.

One player who isn’t afraid of a little tropical golf is Tony Finau, who won this event last year and finished second the year before. He’s back to defend, which, I mean… wouldn’t you return to a tropical resort paradise with a course where your scoring average hovers around 67? Of course you would, and so would Finau– he currently heads BETDAQ’s Win Market at 10.0, followed by uber-talented youngster Nicolai Hojgaard at 16.0. No one else is trading below 25.0, so it’s an interesting week with a wide-open feel. Here’s what I’m thinking:


Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)

Stephan Jaeger (28.0)- With a dozen years as a pro under his belt it appears as though Jaeger is figuring it out. Golf is funny that way, isn’t it? Here’s a guy who, like Eric Cole, came up the hard way through the minor leagues of professional golf and has now blossomed into one of the world’s best players. He only missed three cuts across 33 starts last season and has been playing some great golf to kick off 2024, finding the top-20 twice in four starts and finishing T3 at the Farmers a couple of weeks ago. He has a nice history at Vidanta Vallarta, too, finishing 15th here on debut in 2022 and T18 last year, when he opened with a 65 and closed with a Sunday 67. With a field mostly devoid of top-end talent, this is a tremendous opportunity for Jaeger to pick up his first career PGA Tour victory. He’s worth a bet at nearly 30/1.

Mark Hubbard (68.0)- After a couple of nice results in the Fall Series Hubbard has started strong in 2024, making the cut in all five of his starts and finishing T4 in a really strong field at Pebble Beach earlier this month. A veteran of the Tour’s “Island Circuit”, Hubbard has posted some good results on paspalum greens and has enjoyed success in this tournament specifically, making the cut in both years since the move to Vidanta Vallarta and finishing T18 last year. He’s definitely one to watch this week– as we saw a few weeks back at Pebble, he can get hot and beat just about anybody. Last year, for instance, he missed 16 cuts but also had five top-6 finishes. He likes this course and is comfortable at this tournament… at a price like 68.0, Hubbard may be the best value on the board this week.

Carson Young (108.0)- Young only has 40 career starts under his belt but is really beginning to find his footing on Tour, making 5 of his last 6 cuts and finishing T17 at The American Express a few weeks back. He also found the top-10 in November’s World Wide Technology Championship, which happens to be the last Tour event played in Mexico. Combine that result with a T15 in his debut appearance here last year and it appears as though Young is quite comfortable South of the Border. He’s a tremendous iron player, ranking 8th on Tour in strokes gained on approach, and on a course like Vidanta Vallarta where there is minimal trouble off the tee, iron play and putting are what it’s all about. If you’re looking for a live one at a triple digit price, you could do a lot worse than Young.

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