Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Puerto Rico Open Tips 2024

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It’s easy to overlook these ‘second division’ opposite PGA Tour tournaments and focus on the main event, which this week is the Arnold Palmer Invitational. However these alternate events are a massive opportunity for both players and punters alike and we’ve enjoyed success in the past.

This week’s Puerto Rico Open is where the less fortunate have a huge opportunity to grab a PGA Tour victory and, more importantly, full playing privileges until the close of 2026. Don’t underestimate the importance of that prize!

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Before we go into the detail surrounding the Puerto Rico 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, +6,300 strong, private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

Course Guide: The tournament is hosted at the Grand Reserve Country Club in Rio Grande. It’s a booming Tom Kite-designed Par 72 located on an exposed stretch of the island’s northern coastline. Wind plays a serious factor in the outcome of the tournament and the winning score is pretty much defined by the severity of the breeze from the Mid-Atlantic and whether tournament organisers decide to move forward tees on a number of the par-5s.

We scored here with Chesson Hadley in 2014 when he won at -21/269 and the last renewal held here 12 months ago saw Nico Echavarria win with a -21/271 total. However as we see on coastal courses, when the wind blows so scores increase, with 2015 seeing Cejka triumph at -7/281 and 2016 seeing Finau capturing the title at -12/276.

Grand Reserve Country Club, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico: Designer: Tom Kite 2004 with Kite re-design 2008; Course Type: Coastal, Resort, Long; Par: 72; Length: 7,506 yards; Fairways: Salam Paspalum; Rough: Salam Paspalum 2.5″; Greens: 6,500 sq.ft average Sea Dwarf Paspalum; Tournament Stimp: 11ft.

Course Scoring Average: 2012: 72.03 (+0.03), Difficulty Rank 22 of 49 courses. 2013: 70.23 (-1.77), Difficulty Rank 38 of 43 courses. 2014: 70.79 (-1.21), Difficulty Rank 41 of 48 courses. 2015: 72.57 (+0.57), Difficulty Rank 13 of 52 courses. 2016: 71.76 (-0.24), Difficulty Rank 24 of 50 courses. 2017: 70.23 (-1.77), Difficulty Rank 46 of 50 courses. 2019: 71.97 (-0.03), Difficulty Rank 15 of 49 courses. 2020: 70.64 (-1.36), Difficulty Rank 31 of 41 courses. 2021: 71.23 (-0.77), Difficulty Rank 28 of 51 courses. 2022: 71.34 (-0.66), Difficulty Rank 23 of 50 courses. 2023: 71.25 (-0.75), Difficulty Rank 27 of 49 courses.

Course Overview: At 7,500 yards, Grand Reserve CC is a stretching Par 72 at sea level. As with all Par 72s, scoring well on the 4 looks at par-5s is important, especially on the back 9 here where, if played to their full length, the 15th and 18th play at 600 yards and 630 yards respectively. The key (as always) will be maximising par-5 opportunities and scoring heavily on a number of short par-4s where the players get wedge in their hands. Wind as ever here is the key to scoring, and with lighter wind in play this year, I can see -20/268 to -22/266 being the target a player needs to look at shooting to be in the mix for victory.

puerto rico open tips

Puerto Rico Open Winners: 2023: Nico Echavarria (-21); 2022: Ryan Brehm (-20); 2021: Branden Grace (-19); 2020: Viktor Hovland (-20); 2019: Martin Trainer (-15); 2017: D.A. Points (-20); 2016: Tony Finau (-12); 2015: Alex Cejka (-7); 2014: Chesson Hadley (-21); 2013: Scott Brown (-20); 2012: George McNeill (-16); 2011: Michael Bradley (-16); 2010: Derek Lamely (-19).

  • 2023: Nico Echavarria 67-67-65-68 -21/267
  • 2022: Ryan Brehm 66-67-68-67 -20/268
  • 2021: Branden Grace 67-68-68-66 -19/269
  • 2020: Viktor Hovland 68-66-64-70 -20/268
  • 2019: Martin Trainer 70-67-69-67 -15/273
  • 2017: D.A. Points 64-69-69-66 -20/268

Path to Victory: Below are end of round positions for the Puerto Rico Classic winners since 2010:

  • 2023 – Nico Echavarria: Round 1: 4th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2022 – Ryan Brehm: Round 1: 3rd, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2021 – Branden Grace: Round 1: 9th, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 3rd.
  • 2020 – Viktor Hovland: Round 1: 14th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2019 – Martin Trainer: Round 1: 20th, Round 2: 4th, Round 3: 3rd.
  • 2017 – D.A. Points: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2016 – Tony Finau: Round 1: 16th, Round 2: 15th, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2015 – Alex Cejka: Round 1: 5th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 5th.
  • 2014 – Chesson Hadley: Round 1: 4th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2013 – Scott Brown: Round 1: 14th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2012 – George McNeill: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2011 – Michael Bradley: Round 1: 11th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 3rd.
  • 2010 – Derek Lamely: Round 1: 23rd, Round 2 35th, Round 3: 5th.

Shots From the Lead: Below are the Puerto Rico Open winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament since 2010:

  • 2023 – Nico Echavarria: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 2 ahead.
  • 2022 – Ryan Brehm: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 1 ahead, Round 3: 3 ahead.
  • 2021 – Branden Grace: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 1 back.
  • 2020 – Viktor Hovland: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: level, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2019 – Martin Trainer: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2017 – D.A. Points: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: Level, Round 3: 1 back.
  • 2016 – Tony Finau: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 1 back.
  • 2015 – Alex Cejka: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 1 ahead, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2014 – Chesson Hadley: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2013 – Scott Brown: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2012 – George McNeill: Round 1: Level, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2011 – Michael Bradley: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 4 back.
  • 2010 – Derek Lamely: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 6 back, Round 3: 4 back.

OWGR of Puerto Rico Open Winners: 2023: Echavarria 406; 2022: Brehm 773; 2021: Grace 147; 2020: Hovland 102; 2019: Trainer 205; 2017: Points 634.

Cut Line: 2023: -1; 2022: -1; 2021: +2; 2020: +3; 2019: +1; 2018: +1; 2017: +2.

Lead Score Progression:

  • 2023: Round 1 -9; Round 2 -14; Round 3 -17; Round 4 -21.
  • 2022: Round 1 -7; Round 2 -11; Round 3 -15; Round 4 -20.
  • 2022: Round 1 -7; Round 2 -11; Round 3 -15; Round 4 -20.
  • 2021: Round 1 -7; Round 2 -11; Round 3 -14; Round 4 -19.
  • 2020: Round 1 -8; Round 2 -10; Round 3 -18; Round 4 -20.
  • 2019: Round 1 -6; Round 2 -8; Round 3 -12; Round 4 -15.

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 | First Round Leader | Combined Stats.

My published predictor is available here. Top 10 of my published predictor are: Rasmus Hojgaard, Cameron Champ, Martin Trainer, Jimmy Stanger, Patrick Fishburn, Rafael Campos, Rico Hoey, Ben Silverman, Henrik Norlander and Jorge Campillo.

Puerto Rico Classic Winners & Prices: 2023: Echavarria 125/1; 2022: Brehm 70/1; 2021: Grace 20/1; 2020: Hovland 12/1F; 2019: Trainer 125/1; 2017: Points 175/1; 2016: Finau 50/1; 2015: Cejka 125/1; 2014: Hadley 50/1; 2013: Brown 50/1; 2012: McNeill 55/1; 2011: Bradley 135/1; 2010: Lamely 110/1. Past 5 Renewals Average: 70/1; Overall Average: 85/1.

Historical Weather:

  • 2023: Thursday: Partly cloudy. High of 84. Wind ENE 8-14 mph Friday: Partly cloudy. High of 85. Wind E 12-16 mph, gusting to 24 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy. High of 84. Wind E 12-18 mph, gusting to 28 mph. Sunday: Mostly cloudy. High of 84. Wind E 10-16 mph, gusting to 24 mph.
  • 2022: Thursday: Partly cloudy. High of 84. Wind ENE 8-14 mph, gusting to 20 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy. High of 83. Wind ENE 10-15 mph, gusting to 22 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy, with afternoon showers. High of 84. Wind ENE 12-16 mph, gusting to 22 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy, with afternoon showers. High of 83. Wind ENE 15-20 mph, gusting to 28 mph.
  • 2021: Thursday: Partly cloudy with a high of 83. Wind ENE 17-23 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy with a high of 82. Wind ENE 17-23 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy with passing showers. High of 84. Wind ENE 18-24 mph, gusting to 30 mph. Due to a series of short, but heavy downpours, there were three suspensions, totalling 56 minutes: 3:35-3:47 p.m., 4:02-4:20 p.m. and 4:45-5:11 p.m. Players remained in place for the first two delays, but had the option to move to an indoor location for the final delay. Sunday: Partly cloudy with a high of 82. Wind ENE 20-25 mph, gusting to 30 mph.
  • 2020: Thursday: Partly cloudy. High of 82. E wind 15-25 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy. High of 77. Wind E 6-12 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy. High of 84. Wind ESE 8-12 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy. High of 84. Wind ENE 5-10 mph.
  • 2019: Thursday: Partly cloudy, with isolated showers. High of 84. Wind E 15-25, with gusts to 30 mph. Friday: Mostly cloudy, with isolated showers. High of 84. Wind E 10-20 mph, with gusts to 25 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy. High of 83. Wind ENE 15-20 mph, with gusts to 25 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy. High of 83. Wind ENE 10-20 mph, with gusts to 25 mph.
  • 2017: Thursday: Scattered showers throughout the day, with a high of 82. Wind E 7-12 mph. Due to heavy rain, round one was suspended for the day at 5:06 p.m. and resumed Friday at 7 a.m. Friday: Scattered showers throughout the day, with a high of 84. Wind E 10-15 mph. Due to heavy rain, play was suspended from 11:35 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. Due to rain and impending darkness, round two was suspended for the day at 6:21 p.m. Saturday: Due to heavy rain, play was suspended for 12 minutes, from 11:51 a.m. until 12:03 p.m. Scattered showers throughout the day, with a high of 81. Wind ESE 8-12 mph. Sunday: Partly sunny in the morning, giving way to clouds and scattered showers in the afternoon. Due to expected inclement weather, round four tee times were between 7:30 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. in threesomes off split tees. High of 85. Wind ESE 7-12 mph.
  • 2016: Thursday: Mostly sunny with highs in the mid-80s. Wind ENE at 15-25 mph. Friday: Mostly sunny with temperatures in the mid-80s. ENE wind at 15-25 mph. Saturday: Mostly sunny with the high reaching the mid-80s. Wind ENE at 10-20 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy with temperatures in the mid-80s. ENE wind at 10-20 mph, gusting to 25 mph.
  • 2015: Thursday: Mostly sunny with highs in the mid-80s. Wind ENE at 15-25 mph. Friday: Mostly sunny with temperatures in the mid-80s. ENE wind at 15-25 mph. Saturday: Mostly sunny with the high reaching the mid-80s. Wind ENE at 10-20 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy with temperatures in the mid-80s. ENE wind at 10-20 mph, gusting to 25 mph.

Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Rico Grande, Puerto Rico is here.

We should be greeted by softer conditions at Grand Reserve CC this year and as ever expect soft, watered, receptive greens. Naturally in Puerto Rico more rain cannot be ruled out across the week. Scoring by the coast is always dictated by wind levels, and for 2024 it looks lighter than last year – 10-15 mph easterly winds are on the light side for this tournament. Temperatures as ever here will be around 27 degrees Celsius – 81 Fahrenheit.

Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 20 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Sony Open in Hawaii/Dubai Invitational which includes both PGA Tour and DP World Tour events, where recorded. Player rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Kevin Dougherty; 2) Rafael Campos; 3) Cameron Champ; 4) Rico Hoey; 5) Kevin Tway; 6) Rasmus Hojgaard; 7) Alejandro Tosti; 8) M.J. Daffue; 9) Patrick Fishburn; 10) Taiga Semikawa; 11) Daniel Berger; 12) Robert MacIntyre  / Aaron Rai; 14) Victor Perez; 15) Paul Barjon / Hayden Springer; 17) Ryan McCormick; 18) Norman Xiong; 19) James Hahn / Martin Trainer; 21) Nicholas Lindheim / Roger Sloan / Jimmy Stanger; 24) Kevin Streelman; 25) Parker Coody.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Roger Sloan; 2) Victor Perez; 3) Parker Coody / Henrik Norlander; 5) Rafael Campos; 6) Max Greyserman; 7) Rico Hoey; 8) Rasmus Hojgaard; 9) Blaine Hale Jnr; 10) Hayden Springer; 11) Chandler Phillips; 12) Daniel Berger / David Skinns; 14) Chris Gotterup / Sung Kang / Robert MacIntyre / Brandon Wu; 18) Patton Kizzire / Aaron Rai / Austin Smotherman; 21) Ben Silverman; 22) Mac Meissner; 23) Michael Kim; 24) Chan Kim; 25) Ryo Hisatsune.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Bill Haas; 2) Marty Dou; 3) Adam Long; 4) Martin Trainer; 5) Aaron Baddeley; 6) Scott Piercy; 7) Andrew Landry / Austin Smotherman; 9) Ryo Hisatsune / Robert Streb; 11) Kevin Tway; 12) S.H. Kim / Wilson Furr; 14) Ben Griffin; 15) Troy Merritt; 16) Jorge Campillo / Joe Highsmith; 18) Jeff Overton; 19) Harry Hall; 20) May Greyserman / Kevin Streelman; 22) Mac Meissner; 23) Martin Laird; 24) Josh Teater / Nick Watney.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Rafael Campos; 2) Victor Perez; 3) Parker Coody; 4) Rasmus Hojgaard;5) Hayden Springer; 6) Aaron Rai; 7) Roger Sloan; 8) Robert MacIntyre; 9) Kevin Tway; 10) Ryo Hisatsune / Rico Hoey; 12) Ben Silverman; 13) Max Greyserman; 14) Daniel Berger; 15) Blaine Hale Jnr; 16) Kevin Dougherty; 17) Chris Gotterup / David Skinns; 19) Chan Kim / Josh Teater; 21) Troy Merritt; 22) Jorge Campillo / Chandler Phillips / Sam Stevens / Martin Trainer / Brandon Wu.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Henrik Norlander; 2) Nick Watney; 3) Rasmus Hojgaard; 4) Trace Crowe; 5) Sung Kang; 6) James Hahn; 7) Aaron Baddeley; 8) Jorge Campillo / Pierceson Coody; 10) Ben Griffin; 11) Kevin Chappell; 12) S.H. Kim; 13) Hayden Springer; 14) Jacob Bridgeman; 15) Chan Kim; 16) Tom Whitney; 17) Justin Suh; 18) Ryan Brehm / Chris Gotterup / Ryan McCormick; 21) Austin Smotherman; 22) Brandon Wu; 23) Garrick Higgo; 24) Wilson Furr; 25) Jimmy Stanger.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Henrik Norlander; 2) Rasmus Hojgaard; 3) Rafael Campos; 4) Hayden Springer; 5) Ben Silverman; 6) Aaron Baddeley; 7) Ryo Hisatsune; 8) Ben Griffin; 9) Jorge Campillo; 10) Blain Hale Jnr; 11) Chan Kim; 12) James Hahn; 13) Chandler Phillips; 14) Parker Coody / Harrison Endycott; 16) Aaron Rai / David Skinns / Jimmy Stanger; 19) Jacob Bridgeman; 20) Sam Stevens; 21) Ben Martin / Victor Perez; 23) S.H. Kim / Austin Smotherman / Brandon Wu.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of Puerto Rico Open winners since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this coastal test:

  • 2023, Nico Echavarria (-21). 316 yards (7th), 42.9% fairways (56th), 77.8% greens in regulation (2nd), 68.8 % scrambling (27th), 1.64 putts per GIR (5th).
  • 2022, Ryan Brehm (-20). 308 yards (2nd), 53.6% fairways (41st), 73.6% greens in regulation (11th), 94.7 % scrambling (1st), 1.68 putts per GIR (7th).
  • 2021, Branden Grace (-19). 289 yards (27th), 57.1% fairways (39th), 79.2% greens in regulation (3rd), 73.3 % scrambling (22nd), 1.70 putts per GIR (18th).
  • 2020, Viktor Hovland (-20). 291 yards (14th), 71.4% fairways (23rd), 77.8% greens in regulation (8th), 81.3 % scrambling (6th), 1.63 putts per GIR (2nd).
  • 2019, Martin Trainer (-14). 307 yards (7th), 51.8% fairways (62nd), 75.0% greens in regulation (4th), 66.7 % scrambling (32nd), 1.63 putts per GIR (2nd).
  • 2017, D.A. Points (-20). 288 yards (52nd), 83.9% fairways (1st), 88.9% greens in regulation (1st), 62.5 % scrambling (52nd), 1.67 putts per GIR (9th).
  • 2016, Tony Finau (-12). 291 yards (23rd), 60.7% fairways (40th), 70.8% greens in regulation (19th), 85.0 % scrambling (1st), 1.79 putts per GIR (37th).
  • 2015, Alex Cejka (-7). 280 yards (26th), 73.2% fairways (8th), 77.8% greens in regulation (3rd), 68.8 % scrambling (16th), 1.77 putts per GIR (28th).
  • 2014, Chesson Hadley (-21). 290 yards (26th), 67.9% fairways (29th), 80.6% greens in regulation (6th), 64.3 % scrambling (45th), 1.64 putts per GIR (3rd).
  • 2013, Scott Brown (-20). 301 yards (7th), 71.4% fairways (15th), 68.1% greens in regulation (62nd), 65.2% scrambling (47th), 1.55 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2012, George McNeill (-16). 279 yards (31st), 64.3% fairways (49th), 77.8% greens in regulation (5th), 50.0% scrambling (42nd), 1.70 putts per GIR (4th).
  • 2011, Michael Bradley (-16). 293 yards (43rd), 64.3% fairways (24th), 81.9% greens in regulation (2nd), 61.5% scrambling (22nd), 1.75 putts per GIR (20th).
  • 2010, Derek Lamely (-19). 283 yards (11th), 50.0% fairways (66th), 72.2% greens in regulation (32nd), 80.0% scrambling (6th), 1.62 putts per GIR (3rd).

Tournament Skill Averages:

  • Driving Distance: 21st, Driving Accuracy: 35th, Greens in Regulation: 12th, Scrambling: 25th, Putting Average 11th.

Let’s take a view from players as to how Grand Reserve Country Club sets up and what skill sets the course favours:

Nico Echavarria (2023): ” You never think you’re going to shoot 6 under on the front nine the third round, so I knew it had to be a low one because he had a big lead. I gave myself some really good chances on the front nine, putter was hot. The back nine, how I said, it plays a little harder, some shots into the wind that are uncomfortable, some tee shots. But I’m happy with the back nine finishing strong. Obviously not birdieing 18 feels like you lost a shot, but overall it’s not a comfortable tee shot left to right with hazard on the left, so I’m happy with how I finished.

With the way I was playing the last couple weeks, at Honda, that course is really hard but I missed the cut by 8 or 9. At Pebble I missed it by a lot. You just, you just don’t think it’s going to get better until things like this week clicks and finding something on the range on Friday just changes your week.  I think like if I wouldn’t have had that practice session on Friday afternoon very late and found what I found, I don’t think I would be here because it cleared my mind up. I was thinking too many things, I was on a bad spot mentally before coming to this week.”

Ryan Brehm (2022): “Yeah on 18, the wind was helping. It was down off the left and I just kind of aim a little bit right on that hole and try to rip it really and I got it working with the wind and I got it down there I think good 235 front. It’s kind of a guessing game out of these fairways to get the right numbers downwind, but we got a pretty good guess, I suppose. We hit a 5-iron to, I don’t know, 30 feet left and made the putt.

“Yeah, you know, I have to really thank, this victory wouldn’t have happened without the first four events on the Korn Ferry Tour for me this year. And it’s so difficult out there. It doesn’t get the notoriety quite like the PGA Tour, but my goodness, there’s some great players and difficult conditions, difficult golf courses and it really prepares you to come out here and have some success. So this victory wouldn’t have happened without those first four starts.”

Branden Grace (2021): “Coming here, I didn’t really know what to expect, but the golf course is great. I think they’ve really played it safe so far. And the wind has been consistent. But I feel, Anirban and I actually spoke on the golf course, even with this 15-20-mile-an-hour wind, it still feels like it’s gettable out there. You can make some birdies and give yourself some chances.”

And knowing what the golf course is going to offer. When I got here, it was firm, it was breezy. And that’s what the locals said it’s going to be like this the whole week. So I love playing in the windy conditions. I see the shots. I love feeding the shots, and things like that, and really moving the ball out there And I just played some flawless golf this week.

Viktor Hovland (2020): Weather’s been nice. It’s been pretty windy, which I’m kind of used to in Oklahoma. I feel like the wind is blowing out of the same direction here every day, so I think we’ll see the course playing very similar to the first couple days. I’m sure the pins are going to be a little more tucked in the corners the next two days, so it will be interesting to see how it plays.

I played really well today, kind of the same round as the last two, just been playing really solid off the tee and been hitting a lot of really good iron shots into the greens. Early on in the round I didn’t really make that many putts, but I did a really good job of just staying calm. Thankfully on the back nine I started making a couple putts and got me going.

Sunday: “Yeah, it was very up and down, like the first five, six holes we played, you know, almost like yesterday, a little less wind, it was pretty ripe for scoring. Then the wind started swirling coming out of the other direction where it was suddenly into the wind on No. 8, which makes that hole a lot harder. And then obviously from there on in you had a lot of rain, wind and it was switching back and forth. So it really, it played a lot harder than it did the other three days.”

Martin Trainer (2019): “Yeah. I mean, to a certain extent, I think you have to be able to play in the wind to make it here. But  I think this course suits me more because it’s just a long bomber’s course, so I can hit a lot of drivers and try to get as far down there as I can and not worry about hitting one too far offline. So I think that’s been a big benefit

This golf course, actually I was talking about it with Ryan, my caddie, it reminds make a lot of this golf course I played at in Mexico on the Latinoamerica Tour in Mazatlan. It looks just like it. It’s wide open, windy. It really is like a replica of this golf course. So I thought about that I won at that golf course and we were talking about it all week how this is just, you know, a carbon copy of that course and how we have good vibes going into this week. I’m just happy it worked out.”

D.A. Points (2017): “You know, that was always a strong suit of my game and then when I went to try to make some changes in 2014, it went to the worst part of my game. That just goes to show how silly I felt for trying to change things, but I wanted to get better. To come back and to be so calm and comfortable, and this golf course, you have to drive it straight. It can be kind of demanding on some tee shots and to be able to hit some really quality tee shots today under the gun gives me a lot of confidence.

Ian Poulter: “I like the windy conditions. It kind of takes me back to hitting some old-school shots and I feel comfortable on the course. The ball was kind of boring through that strong wind, so you’re still able to get good distance out there. But I’m happy.

Alex Cejka: “You know, I loved it here. I’ve been coming here for many years, and I even played well here, but I kind of never, you know, played good enough, because in the past the scores were like 20 under, you know. So it’s a challenging course with the wind. So I always was playing well, but the scores were always so low, and you know, this year it was the same wind, same course, but somehow the scores are not 20 under, but 7 under. So it was a little bit tougher. Maybe the wind was maybe a little bit stronger. They didn’t move the tees up like what they normally do like on the weekends. Maybe today a couple holes. But you know, it’s just we all were playing just good golf, and you know, somebody has to win, and finally it’s me.

Chesson Hadley: “I think just the way the holes set up. It fits how far I hit the ball. Like the fairway bunkers are positioned in places where I can hit driver, hit 3 wood or hybrid or whatever and I’m not really stressing about what club to hit. Like I mean I know exactly what club I’m pulling, you know, walking to the tee. That’s what I like so much about it is just the easy decisions I feel like this course provides, me at least.

Scott Brown: “Yeah, the toughest thing about this course is it’s all cross winds, so you very rarely get any downwind or into the wind shots. It’s all quarter in or across. That’s what makes it so tough. But it’s really just guesswork. It’s guessing on how much you think it’s going to move it. The wind has been so strong that you can’t really play shots that hold up against it. You’ve just kind of got to let the wind do what it does. It suits my eye pretty well, and I think it’s a great golf course. It’s got a great mix of holes. It’s not our typical Tour course now where it’s so long. It keeps a lot of us in the game a little bit here, and I think that’s why you see that.

George McNeill: “The course and conditions reminds me of home (Florida). I play on a lot of this same grass at home. Plus I like a little bit of heat and humidity and stuff. Doesn’t bother me. So that’s really about it, and I guess for whatever reason, the golf course suits my eye.

Incoming Form of Puerto Rico Classic winners since 2010:

  • Nico Echavarria: MC PGA National/MC Pebble/MC Torrey/MC PGA West.
  • Ryan Brehm: 38th Suncoast/9th Astara/32nd Panama/18th Abaco.
  • Branden Grace: 20th Riviera/34th Pebble/MC Waialae/8th DPWTC.
  • Viktor Hovland: 38th Pebble/MC TPC Scottsale/23rd Dubai/MC Abu Dhabi.
  • Martin Trainer: 28th Pebble/MC PGA West/MDF Waialae/MC RSM Classic.
  • D.A. Points: 39th Pebble/MC Torrey/66th PGA West/45th RSM Classic.
  • Tony Finau: 43rd Bay Hill/MC Copperhead/MC PGA National/MC Riviera/MC TPC Scottsdale.
  • Alex Cejka: MC PGA National/67th Riviera/34th Pebble/MC Torrey Pines/15th PGA West.
  • Chesson Hadley: 24th PGA National/MC Riviera/10th Pebble/MC Torrey/MC PGA West.
  • Scott Brown: 7th Colombia/3rd Panama/30th Pebble/MC Disney/20th Sea Island.
  • George McNeill: MC Honda/49th Riviera/MC Pebble/33rd TPC Scottsdale/49th PGA West.
  • Michael Bradley: MC PGA National/MC Rivera/MC Pebble/MC Torrey/15th PGA West.
  • Derek Lamely: 73rd PGA National/MC El Camaleon/MC Pebble/42nd Torrey/18th PGA West.

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

  • 1 – Ryan Brehm, Scott Brown, Joel Dahmen, Nico Echavarria, Brice Garnett, Patton Kizzire, George McNeill, D.A. Points, Martin Trainer.

As we can see, winners here can come from different ends of the betting market. Branden Grace in 2021 was a 20/1 chance, as he delivered an eagle/birdie finish to edge out Jhonattan Vegas (40/1) by a single shot. Viktor Hovland won this in 2020 as the 12/1 favourite, beating 150/1 Josh Teater with a spectacular birdie from distance to again win by a single shot.

Prior to Branden, who captured his 14th global title here, and the prodigious young talent of Viktor, winners of the Puerto Rico Open tended to be from the juicy mid-price or even bigger. I suppose that is logical when you remember how hard it is to triumph on the PGA Tour, it’s hardly surprising that the market leaders, who know they are in half-decent nick form-wise, when thrust into the uncomfortable position of favouritism inevitably crack. Others though see these second-tier PGA Tour events as a real opportunity – after all, a full 2-year exemption on the Tour, a trip to The Sentry, and a decent haul of OWGR points is not to be sniffed at.

Winners here have either been younger players who’ve had a solid grounding in the Korn Ferry Tour or, in the case of Ryan Brehm, D.A. Points, Alex Cejka and George McNeill, experienced players who knew how to shoot low scores in warmer climes. Brehm wasn’t even a PGA Tour player in 2022, having played 4 early season Korn Ferry events prior to his 70/1 win here. He had made 4 cuts including 18th at the Abaco (Bahamas) and 9th at the Astara (Colombia) highlighting a player who had played well recently in similar geographical climes at a slightly lower level – remember this is an alternate event.

Points won here coming off a 39th at Pebble Beach based limited status PGA Tour outings. He hadn’t finished in the top 10 of a PGA Tour event for 3 and a half years. Veteran Alex Cejka in 2015 had never won on the PGA Tour and his immediate form read MC-67-34-MC. George McNeill won in 2012 and his form read MC-49-MC-33-49-19. I never told you this was going to be easy!

On the younger side, Nico Echavarria, our defending champion, had only played in 10 PGA Tour events within his rookie season before he won this. His best finish from his 2 made cuts was 12th at the Sony Open – and his inbound form post Waialae Country Club was MC-MC-MC-MC. 125/1 in this strength of field highlights where Echavarria ranked in the thinking pre-event.

Martin Trainer in 2019 arrived off a 28th place finish at Pebble Beach. Prior to that he had finished MC-MDF in his limited 2019 outings. Tony Finau in 2016 had finished 43rd at Bay Hill the week before arriving here, which had been preceded by 4 straight Missed Cuts. But Finau in 2015 had defined himself with 4 top-10 finishes in his rookie season including 10th at the PGA Championship. With Hovland, Finau and arguably Grace, you could argue they were the best player in the field, who actually went on to win.

Chesson Hadley in 2014 was similar to Finau having shown a level of pedigree: in his rookie season he’d already finished 5th at the Shriners Open in only his 4th PGA Tour start and was 10th at Pebble and 24th at PGA National in the immediate build-up to his 50/1 triumph here in Puerto Rico. 2013 saw web.com player Scott Brown coming off some great early season form in Central America to take the title here on a course where he’d finished 5th 12 months earlier.

Game-wise, I’m looking for a player who gets the ball out there 295 yards and who can take advantage of the birdie opportunities that are available on the short par-4s and the par-5s. A player who converts when aggressively Going for the Green has always been an important part of the winners here in recent times.

My final Puerto Rico Open tips are as follows:

Brandon Wu 1.5pts EW 30/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

First-up I’ll side with the “Prince of Paspalum” Brandon Wu on a tropical assignment he just loves.

7th (2021) and 3rd (2022) here in Puerto Rico, plus 2nd (2022), 3rd (2023) and 15th a fortnight ago at the Mexico Open played at Vidanta, highlight a player who simply thrives on Paspalum grassed golf courses and on courses in warm, humid conditions close to the coast.

The sort who doesn’t carry form well, Wu has already finished 18th and 13th so far in 2024 by the coast and he tends to go better on scoreable assignments – so the lack of wind this week should work-out to his benefit. RESULT: T42

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Robert MacIntyre 1.5pts EW 40/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Coral

Finding a 2023 Ryder Cup member who scored 2.5 points from 3 matches last October in the 2024 Puerto Rico Open rather than the Arnold Palmer Invitational is surprising, but that’s where Robert MacIntyre is at the moment. If there was ever a case of “play better” this is one of the most obvious currently.

Moving from Oban in Scotland to the United States to take up PGA Tour membership was always going to be tough for Robert, who clearly loves his Scottish lifestyle, but there are signs that he’s coming to terms with his new Florida-base which includes a practice base at luxurious Isleworth.

4th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green on the Paspalum-grassed Norman Signature Course at Vidanta helped MacIntyre to finish 6th a fortnight ago, and the Tee to Green game remained stronger at PGA National last week where a recalcitrant putter held the 2-time DP World Tour winner back to a 60th place finish.

6th (2019 – Portrush) and 8th (2021 Sandwich) at the Open Championship though highlights a player who is at his very best by the coast, and let’s remember that MacIntyre finished 2nd at the Scottish Open last July, beaten only by the miraculous finish of one Rory McIlroy.

Slower Paspalum greens should aid the 27 year-old Scot this week – a surface where he has finished 6th (Qatar Masters) and 6th (Mexico Open) on the last 2 occasions he has competed on them. RESULT: T32

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Cameron Champ 1.5pts EW 40/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Coral

Cameron Champ like Brandon Wu loves Paspalum golf courses, plus in this field he’s a known winner.

Into his sixth season on the PGA Tour he has 3 wins behind him already across the 2018 Sanderson Farms Championship, 2019 Safeway Open and the 2021 3M Open. That’s wins across the Country Club of Jackson, Silverado and TPC Twin Cities. To summarise, agronomy-wise we are 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 +7,500 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 on his course debut.

Then we get to the Paspalum part – 6th (2022), 8th (2023) and 24th a couple of weeks ago at Norman’s Signature Course at Vidanta – he literally sprung from 5 straight missed cuts in Mexico, a course which is very, very similar to this. Well worth keeping on side this week. RESULT: MC

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Martin Trainer 1pt EW 60/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfred

Grabbing a previous winner here who’s in hot form at a decent price makes plenty of sense.

Martin Trainer won this in 2019 and has been playing some very nice golf in early 2024. He made the cut at the Sony Open, which was the pre-cursor to a decent stretch of golf spanning both the PGA Tour and the Korn Ferry Tour. 8th at the Astara Golf Championship (Colombia), 15th at the Mexico Open (Vidanta), and 5th at the Argentina Open is the kind of form which reminds me of Scott Brown going back to 2013. He arrived off a top 30 at Pebble Beach and a couple of top-7 finishes in Colombia and Panama before winning this at 50/1.

11th (2021) and 19th (2023) on the Paspalum-grassed Norman Signature Course at Vidanta, plus 7th (2022) and 22nd (2023) again on the Paspalum grassed Corales Golf Club, highlight that the San Francisco-based Frenchman is happy in these tropical climes and agronomy. RESULT: MC

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Hayden Springer 1pt EW 80/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfred

Many of you will remember Hayden Springer as a PGA Tour Q-School qualifier from just before Christmas. Hayden was the last player to earn status for the 2024 Tour so outings have been extremely limited, but I’ve been quietly impressed.  An opening round 64 at The American Express was impressive for a Tour rookie, and despite going on to miss the cut, the 27 year-old who lives in Texas has finished 33rd at the Farmers Insurance Open and 38th in the Mexico Open across his other 2 starts.

He can also win golf tournaments, claiming two victories en route to securing the Number 1 spot on the PGA Tour Canada last summer. 2022 also saw a PGA Tour Americas campaign which saw him top 7 in Brazil, Colombia and Peru.

Long and straight enough off the tee, Springer ranked in the top 25 for Strokes Gained Tee to Green at the Mexico Open, and I can see him making the most of this opposite event opportunity on a course that should suit. RESULT: T3

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 13:30GMT 5.3.24 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.