Rory McIlroy and Adam Scott delivered a little profit via each-way returns in Los Angeles last week. Definitely a case of what might have been with both, especially Adam Scott who was very much in the mix. The final round collapses of both Scott and more surprisingly Justin Thomas again highlighted that winning at the very top level is no easy task. Winner J.B. Holmes was available at 150/1 on Monday and has showed very little in-bound form across 2019.
Before we talk through my Puerto Rico Open tips, the number of new visitors to Golf Betting System is increasing in the inevitable build-up to The Masters. Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published Tuesday) our Golf Betting Show on YouTube and our hugely popular private group on Facebook – you can Join Here. Masters lovers will also enjoy our Ante-post Masters Podcast.
It’s easy to overlook these ‘second division’ alternate PGA Tour tournaments and focus on the main event which this week is the WGC-Mexico Championship at Club de Golf Chapultepec. However these alternate events are a massive opportunity for both players and punters alike and we’ve enjoyed plenty of success in recent seasons. 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 2020/21. Don’t underestimate the importance of that prize!
In a largely disappointing 2019 field, the likes of Daniel Berger, Charl Schwartzel, Graeme McDowell, Ollie Schniederjans and Peter Uihlein headline with D.A. Points defending his title from 2017.
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Course Guide: The tournament is hosted at Coco Beach Golf and 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 in 2017 saw unfancied D.A. Points win with a -20/270 total. However as we see on coastal courses when the wind blows, scores increase, with 2015 seeing Cejka triumph at -7/281 and 2016 seeing Finau capturing the title at -12/276.
Coco Beach Golf and Country Club, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico: Designer: Tom Kite 2004 with Kite re-design 2008; Course Type: Coastal, Resort – can play more Technical in windy conditions; Par: 72; Length: 7,506 yards; Fairways: Salam Paspalum; Rough: Salam Paspalum 2.5″; Greens: 6,000 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), Rank 41 of 48 courses. 2015: 72.57 (+0.57), Rank 13 of 52 courses. 2016: 71.76 (-0.24), 24 of 50 courses. 2017: 70.23 (-1.77), Rank 46 of 50 courses.
Course Overview: At 7,500 yards, Coco Beach 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 typical 15-20mph winds forecast across the week, a winning score of -15/273 should be the target a player needs to look at shooting to be in the mix for victory.
Winners: 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).
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 Matt Every, Daniel Berger, Scott Brown, David Hearn, Dominic Bozzelli, Chris Kirk, Wyndham Clark, Graeme McDowell, Matt Jones and Stuart Appleby.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Hero World Challenge / Australian PGA Championship, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
- Driving Accuracy: 1) Ben Silverman; 2) Daniel Berger; 3) Fabian Gomez; 4) Tyler Duncan; 5) Hank Lebioda; 6) Andres Romero; 7) Roberto Diaz; 8) Kyoung-Hoon Lee; 9) Brady Schnell; 10) Jason Gore / Kramer Hickok / Kyle Jones; 13) Roger Sloan; 14) Corey Conners / Joey Garber; 16) Johnson Wagner; 17) David Hearn; 18) Ben Crane; 19) Jose de Jesus Rodriquez / Martin Piller.
- Greens in Regulation: 1) Daniel Berger; 2) Johnson Wagner; 3) D.J. Trahan; 4) Nate Lashley; 5) Julian Etulain; 6) Josh Teater; 7) Sepp Straka; 8) Corey Conners; 9) Roberto Castro; 10) Adam Svensson; 11) Dominic Bozzelli; 12) Jim Knous; 13) Andres Romero; 14) Charl Schwartzel; 15) Jonathan Byrd / Tyler Duncan / Freddie Jacobson; 18) Robert Garrigus; 19) John Senden; 20) Kyoung-Hoon Lee.
- Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Matt Every; 2) Wyndham Clark; 3) Freddie Jacobson; 4) Curtis Luck; 5) David Hearn; 6) Ryan Blaum; 7) Dominic Bozzelli; 8) Nate Lashley; 9) Wes Roach; 10) Hank Lebioda; 11) Sebastian Munoz / Andres Romero; 13) D.J. Trahan / Peter Uihlein; 15) Aaron Baddeley; 16) Jonathan Byrd / Matt Jones; 18) Ben Crane / Parker McLachlin; 20) Jose de Jesus Rodriquez.
Winners & Prices: 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. Overall Average: 81/1.
- 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 Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, is here. We should be greeted by a lush golf course this week in Rio Grande. This temperate area sees plenty of rainfall and high temperatures. We could see rain on Friday, but in general I expect the course to quicken throughout the tournament. That process will only be helped by 15-25 mph winds throughout. With temperatures between 25-27 degrees Celsius the ball will travel though, so the course will yield eagles and birdies for those who can navigate well in the relatively windy conditions.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 8 winners of the Puerto Rico Open since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this classical test:
- 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 Average:
- Driving Distance: 27th, Driving Accuracy: 29th, Greens in Regulation: 16th, Scrambling: 29th, Putting Average 13th.
Let’s take a view from players as to how Coco Beach Golf and Country Club sets up and what skill sets the course favours:
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.“
Path to Victory:
Below are the end of round positions for the last 8 Puerto Rico Open winners:
- 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 last 8 Puerto Rico Open winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:
- 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.
Incoming form of winners since 2010:
- 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:
- 2 – Michael Bradley.
- 1 – Cameron Beckman, Scott Brown, Graeme McDowell, George McNeill, D.A. Points, Johnson Wagner.
As we can see, winners here tend to be from the juicy mid-pack and below. 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 and finish top 20 or worse. 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 Tournament of Champions and a decent haul of OWGR points is not to be sniffed at.
Winner-wise, southern state based players had dominated this tournament from its introduction back in 2008 until recently when Las Vegas-based Alex Cejka and Salt Lake City-based Tony Finau threw a spanner in the works. Florida-based D.A. Points redressed the balance again in 2017.
Winners have either been younger players who’ve had a solid grounding in the web.com Tour or, in the case of D.A. Points, Alex Cejka and George McNeill, experienced players who knew how to shoot low scores in warmer climes. Points won here coming off a 39th at Pebble Beach based upon limited 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, 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. 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 290 yards minimum and who can take advantage of the birdie opportunities that are available on the short par-4s and the par-5s. A player therefore who converts when aggressively Going for the Green has always been an important part of the winners here in recent times.