Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Mexico Open Tips 2022

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Congratulations if you were on-board the team of Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele at 8/1 last week at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

We have a brand new tournament on the PGA Tour this week – the Mexico Open at Vidanta. Featuring a $7,300,000 prize fund and 500 FedEx Cup points, this is a full PGA Tour status event with the winner getting an entry into the 2023 Masters plus of course a 2-year exemption. We also visit a new golf course in the form of the Norman Course at Vidanta Vallarta.

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Before we go into the detail surrounding the Mexico Open, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System. Welcome and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), the Steve Bamford Golf Channel on YouTube and our hugely popular, 6,100+ strong, private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

Course Guide: Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta is a golf destination in the town of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Set on the Pacific Coast, Grupo Salinas within their Vallarta resort complex have a number of golf courses, the newest of which is the Norman Signature Course.

Designed by Greg Norman and opened in 2015, it is only accessible via the world’s longest golf cart suspension bridge. Set within a kilometre of the Pacific shoreline, the course itself is set on the Ameca River, with a few holes running alongside, reminding me of Austin Country Club in that aspect. It’s not a coastal links by any means and is definitely resort in its nature, with the course seemingly flat with plenty of lakes and ponds forming hazards around the set-up.

Norman Signature Course, Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico: Designer: Greg Norman, 2015; Course Type: Coastal, Resort; Par: 71; Length: 7,456 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 13; Fairways: Paspalum; Rough: Paspalum 2″; Greens: Paspalum; Tournament Stimp: 11-11.5 ft

Course Designer Links: For research purposes other Greg Norman designs include:

  • Earth Course – DP World Tour Championship (DP World Tour)
  • El Camaleon GC – Mayakoba Classic
  • TPC at Sugarloaf – 1997 – 2008  Classic
  • Oaks Course, TPC San Antonio – Valero Texas Open

Course Overview: It’s a step into the unknown this week with the Mexico Open graduating for the very first time to the PGA Tour. The Mexico Open, which dates back to 1944 and is considered Mexico’s national championship, has received the status and financial boost which was needed for it, via Grupo Salinas, who brought the WGC Mexico Championship to Chapultepec across 2017-2020. Grupo Salinas will host the tournament at their Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta golf complex.

Set within a kilometre of the Pacific coastline, I was expecting a course with coastal vistas and holes that fronted up to the sea, but that isn’t the case. Built on flat land adjacent to the Ameca River to the north and an International airport to the south, the course is pretty unique in that no buildings or housing surround the property. Indeed access to the course is via a unique suspension bridge over the river.

The par-4 2nd and par-4 16th run alongside the Ameca, with the 6th green and 7th tee also in close proximity. Apart from that, the course is inland and features plenty of lakes meaning water is very much in play across the vast majority of holes. The volume of water actually reminds a little of a Florida-type golf course, although there are far more trees on the property than you would find at say PGA National. The topography, volume of water, Paspalum agronomy and length of the course also remind me of Grand Reserve Country Club where they play the Puerto Rico Open. Naturally with their shared designer and geographical location within Mexico, you can also see elements of El Camaleon where they play the Mayakoba Classic – that course though is over 400 yards shorter.

The Signature Course features very wide fairways, small bunkers, long waste areas and Paspalum greens with plenty of subtle breaks and surrounded by tricky collection areas. I doubt it will put up to stern a test, unless it’s coastal positioning sees strong wind in play. However the most fascinating aspect of the course as I alluded to above is its length. At 7,456 yards and a Par 71, it’s fairly long, especially at sea level. Temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius will negate that to a fair degree, but it’s worth noting that 2 of the par-5s are 603 (6th Hole) and 637 (12th Hole) yards, plus there are 4 par-4s around or slightly above 500 yards in length.

mexico open tips

Mexico Open Winners (None Played at Vidanta Vallarta): 2021: Alvaro Ortiz (-23); 2019: Drew Nesbitt (-18); 2018: Austin Smotherman (-18); 2016: Sebastian Vasquez (-16); 2015: Justin Hueber (-23); 2014: Oscar David Alvarez (-17); 2013: Ted Purdy (-7); 2012: Lee Williams (-14); 2011: Erik Compton (-17); 2010: Jamie Lovemark (-12).

Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | FRL Stats | Combined Stats.

Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Jon Rahm, Cameron Champ, Gary Woodland, Wyndham Clark, Chris Kirk, Tony Finau, Callum Tarren, Davis Riley, Brendon Todd and Joseph Bramlett.

Weather Forecast: Latest weather forecast for Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, is here.

Hot and humid is the best way to describe the conditions this week in Mexico. With temperatures at 34-36 degrees Celsius throughout, expect watered and receptive greens. With little wind in the forecast and the ball travelling a mile though the air, I’d expect a resort-level winning score.

Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Arnold Palmer Invitational which includes both PGA Tour and DP World Tour events. Players’ rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Jon Rahm; 2) Aaron Wise; 3) Brandon Wu; 4) Anirban Lahiri; 5) Callum Tarren / Adam Long; 7) Cameron Champ; 8) Austin Smotherman; 9) Dawie van der Walt; 10) Chris Kirk / Kevin Streelman; 12) Joseph Bramlett; 13) Tony Finau; 14) Doug Ghim / Trey Mullinax / Sebastian Munoz; 17) Satoshi Kodaira; 18) Matt Jones / Scott Piercy; 20) Abraham Ancer; 21) Alex Smalley; 22) Hayden Buckley; 23) James Hahn; 24) Davis Riley; 25) Lee Hodges / Charles Howell III.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Scott Gutschewski; 2) Gary Woodland; 3) Chris Kirk; 4) Austin Smotherman / Jared Wolfe; 6) C.T .Pan; 7) Brandon Wu; 8) Aaron Wise; 9) Mark Hensby / Kevin Na; 11) Danny Lee; 12) Doug Ghim / Charles Howell III; 14) Cameron Tringale; 15) Brian Stuard; 16) Luke Donald / David Lipsky / Aaron Rai; 19) Robert Streb; 20) Roger Sloan; 21) Nate Lashley / Nick Taylor; 23) Patrick Reed; 24) Tony Finau / Adam Svensson.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Aaron Baddeley; 2) Seung-yul Noh / David Skinns; 4) Kiradech Aphibarnrat; 5) Wesley Bryan / Matt Jones; 7) Russell Knox; 8) Jonathan Byrd; 9) Dawie van der Walt; 10) Scott Stallings; 11) Ben Kohles; 12) Charles Howell III; 13) Sebastian Munoz / Pat Perez / Dylan Wu; 16) James Hahn / Andrew Novak / C.T. Pan / Patrick Reed; 20) Brice Garnett / J.T. Poston; 22) Doug Ghim; 23) Davis Riley; 24) Peter Malnati / Max McGreevy.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Chris Kirk; 2) Aaron Wise; 3) Jon Rahm; 4) Gary Woodland; 5) Doug Ghim / Sebastian Munoz; 7) Dawie van der Walt; 8) Matt Jones; 9) C.T. Pan; 10) Russell Knox / Kevin Streelman; 12) Scott Gutschewski / Charles Howell III; 14) Adam Long / Jared Wolfe; 16) Anirban Lahiri / Austin Smotherman; 18) Tyler Duncan; 19) Adam Svensson; 20) Kevin Na; 21) Nate Lashley; 22) Roger Sloan; 23) Joseph Bramlett; 24) Robert Streb; 25) Brice Garnett / Aaron Rai.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Aaron Baddeley; 2) Brandon Wu; 3) Scott Gutschewski; 4) Scott Brown; 5) Jared Wolfe; 6) Callum Tarren; 7) Kiradech Aphibarnrat; 8) Vincent Whaley; 9) Patrick Reed; 10) Abraham Ancer; 11) Adam Long; 12) John Huh / Satoshi Kodaira; 14) Sebastian Munoz; 15) Brendon Todd; 16) Ben Martin / Kevin Na; 18) Jonathan Byrd; 19) Patrick Rodgers; 20) Bill Haas / Graeme McDowell; 22) Luke Donald / Scott Piercy / Michael Thompson; 25) J.T. Poston / Martin Trainer.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Scott Gutschewski; 2) Sebastian Munoz / Jon Rahm; 4) Brandon Wu; 5) Aaron Baddeley; 6) Jared Wolfe; 7) Patrick Reed; 8) Adam Long; 9) Kiradech Aphibarnrat / Chris Kirk; 11) Kevin Streelman / Aaron Wise / Gary Woodland; 14) Tony Finau / David Skinns; 16) Kevin Na; 17) Abraham Ancer / Doug Ghim / Charles Howell III / Scott Piercy; 21) Matt Jones / Richy Werenski; 23) Adam Svensson; 24) Nate Lashley / C.T. Pan.

For the record, here’s the breakdown of Paspalum PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

  • 2 – Graeme McDowell, Pat Perez.
  • 1 – Scott Brown, Tony Finau, Brice Garnett, Charley Hoffman, John Huh, D.A. Points, Chad Ramey, Brendon Todd, Martin Trainer, Johnson Wagner.

With so many unknowns this week it will be a limited line-up for me this week. There is plenty of guess work around this Mexico Open so I will have a bigger priced selection of players who I like on this first view of the Norman Signature Course.

Gary Woodland 2pts EW 25/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Gary Woodland tops my Mexico squad. The World Number 96 has been playing some great stuff of late and now pain free, the fit and firing Woodland is progressing nicely on the PGA Tour. 5th at the Honda, 5th at the Arnold Palmer (he should have won), 17th at the Valspar and 8th at the Valero Texas Open, Gary has jumped over 40 spots on the OWGR since the start of February. Yes he missed the cut at Augusta National (an assignment he’s never got his head around) where he was completely bamboozled by the greens, but that leaves us with a backable price on a course I think he will like.

Gary’s seaside CV highlights a player who can mix it on the United States coast. 2nd plus 7th at Kapalua (2019, 2020), 3rd, 6th and 7th at Waialae (2015, 2017, 2018), 5th plus 1st (2017 & 2019) at Pebble Beach, with 2nd at Liberty National (2013); Gary has often been in contention on coastal assignments and naturally won his first Major on the South California coast. Plus he’s more than comfortable on Paspalum golf courses as 2nd (2013) and 2nd (2014) at TPC Kuala Lumpur plus 2nd (2016) at Greg Norman’s El Camaleon highlight.

Across my 8-week Strokes Gained Tracker, in this field he ranks 2nd for Approach, 4th for Tee to Green and 12th for Current Form, so he’s undoubtedly in good nick. He was also 2nd for Strokes Gained Off the Tee at Augusta National last time out. With a decent Greg Norman design record – 2nd (2016) at El Camaleon; 6th (2021), 8th (2022) at TPC San Antonio – I really like the Kansas player’s chances this week. RESULT: T24

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Cameron Champ 1pt EW 50/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Cameron Champ is one that I am drawn to in this field on the basis that he’s both streaky and knows how to win. Into his fourth season on the PGA Tour, he has 3 wins behind him already at the 2018 Sanderson Farms Championship, 2019 Safeway Open and the 2021 3M Open at the Country Club of Jackson, Silverado and TPC Twin Cities respectively. To summarise, agronomy-wise we’re looking at Bermudagrass, Bentgrass and Bent Poa Annua mix greens. TPC Twin Cities, despite being in Minnesota, has a slight Florida course type feel to it with water hazards on 15 of 18 holes. 2 wins have come on long formats. So on a 7,450 yard course this week with wide fairways and a fair number of long par-4s and par-5s, I think Champ will be right at home.

His streakiness is also interesting. 4 career wins in 111 events have come off previous finishes of 8th, 25th, 28th and 11th. And when you are dealing with the longest driver currently on the PGA Tour, you won’t be surprised to here that his wins also came when he is most confident with his driver, with victories coming off of Total Driving ranks in his previous outing of 1st, 18th, 4th and 6th. Across his 3 PGA Tour victories that equates to Strokes Gained Off the Tee performances prior to victory of 1st, 1st and 1st. More tellingly in my opinion for a player who can play awfully for prolonged periods of time, Champ is also one to back when his Tee to Green game peaks – again his wins came off Strokes Gained Tee to Green performances of 15th, 12th and 19th in the outing previous.

Prior to The Masters, 2022 had seen Cameron only manage finishes of 46th, 61st and 67th mixed in with 4 missed cuts, but his performance at Augusta National last time out was excellent. 14th after 54 holes became 10th on Sunday, which was Champ’s 2nd Major top-10 finish. He should be very confident.

He also ranked 3rd for Total Driving, 5th for Total Accuracy, 3rd for Greens in Regulation and 1st for Ball Striking at Augusta National. Strokes Gained-wise that equated to 11th for Off the Tee, 12th for Approach and 14th for Tee to Green. 10th at the Mayakoba Golf Classic at Norman designed El Camaleon in 2018 where he was 2nd after 36 holes, I think the Champions Course at Vidanta with 400 yards more length to it, when compared to El Camaleon, will suit his buccaneering driving game far more. RESULT: T6

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Davis Riley 1pt EW 60/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Davis Riley has impressed in his maiden PGA Tour season. Very well thought of on the Korn Ferry Tour, the University of Alabama product ranks at 41st in the FedEx Cup standings, behind only Cameron Young in terms of rookies this season. As far as young, first-time maiden winners go, he ticks a lot of boxes for me.

At an event where I think scoring will be more than possible, he sits at 23rd in the Birdie Average category this season, behind only Corales Championship winner Chad Ramey in this field. Long – 48th for Driving Distance – and straight – 61st for Driving Accuracy – it won’t surprise you to read that he ranks 8th on Tour for Total Driving. High level driving this week should unlock opportunities on this Norman Signature Course.

And I also like Riley’s geography when it comes to results. 8th in the Bahamas on a Paspalum golf course, 1st in Panama and 12th & 18th in Columbia on the Korn Ferry Tour, Riley also earned his maiden PGA Tour top-10 finish in Bermuda. He’s happy in these warm geographical climes outside of the United States.

2nd at the Valspar Championship was ever so impressive as he fought to the very death with eventual winner Sam Burns and Justin Thomas on the back nine on Sunday. And last week he played very nicely with former house mate Will Zalatoris claiming 4th spot at TPC Louisiana. A Greg Norman design victor on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2020 on the Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio, I think Davis will arrive in Mexico in good spirits and ready to contend. RESULT: 5th

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J.T. Poston 1pt EW 80/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

J.T. Poston like many never really pushed on from his first and to this point only PGA Tour victory – the 2019 Wyndham Championship.

Playing with Tiger Woods the following week at Liberty National across the opening 36 holes of the Northern Trust was his reward and a 16th place finish at the BMW Championship almost saw J.T. reach the Tour Championship. Since those heady days rewards have been infrequent, sporadic, sometimes non-existent. 8th and 10th at the RBC Heritage and Charles Schwab Challenge the season after were his best finishes. Last season saw him finish 3rd at the Sanderson Farms Championship and just miss out on his 2nd PGA Tour win at the Barbasol Championship, the week of the Open at Sandwich: in control of the tournament, a double bogey/bogey splurge within the last 4 holes on Sunday put him into a play off with Seamus Power – and the rest is history.

Since then we have seen very little of the 28 year-old who lives on St Simon’s Island, Georgia – that was until he fired in a weekend -10/132 to back door a top-3 finish at Harbour Town. Exempt on the Tour only until August due to his Wyndham win, at 124th in the FedEx Cup Standings he needs results to avoid the Korn Ferry Playoffs and I think the Norman Signature Course should suit.

For me he’s always live on resort courses where scoring is relatively easy and he thrives in hot, humid conditions. 10th on his only visit to the Puerto Rico Open in 2017, he’s also been in semi contention at the Mayakoba Classic where in 5 appearances he’s made 4 cuts including 35th (24th after 54 holes) in 2016, 14th in 2017 (7th after 54 holes) and 21st (17th after 54 holes) in 2018. A Bermudagrass specialist, he’s more than adequate on Paspalum. Drove the ball beautifully at both Harbour Town and TPC Louisiana last week. RESULT: MC

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Nate Lashley 1pt EW 100/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Nate Lashley is another I always look to at this kind of assignment. 39 year-old Lashley who grew up in Nebraska and went to the University of Arizona, earned his professional spurs on the Latinoamerica Tour. He won the 2016 Order of Merit landing titles in Ecuador, Mexico and Florida, but has other top-5 finishes across Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Panama and Peru. All in all, Nate has finished 1st, 3rd, 4th and 8th at Latinoamerica and Korn Ferry levels in Mexico.

2017 saw him promoted to the Korn Ferry Tour and he made use of his Central and South American experience, finishing 5th at the Great Exuma Classic (coastal, Paspalum greens) in the Bahamas, 8th at the El Bosque Mexico Championship and winning the Corales Puntacana Championship – which is now a fully fledged PGA Tour event. Played on a long coastal Par 72, Corales GC is a fully Paspalum grassed golf course.

Since promotion to the PGA Tour, Lashley has backed up that Korn Ferry win at Corales with 4th (2020) and 15th (2022) there, plus 8th (2019) and 7th (2022) at the Puerto Rico Open played at Grand Reserve Country Club. To say he’s a specialist is a slight understatement, and he’s also a PGA Tour winner, having won the 2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic at an eye-opening -25/263 total, winning by 6 shots.

4th for Strokes Gained Approach and 6th for Tee to Green at the Valero Texas Open 2 starts ago, I think Nate will respond well to both to this lower level of field and the Norman Signature Course very positively this week. RESULT: T11

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 15:45BST 25.4.22 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.