Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Puerto Rico Open Tips

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Congratulations to those of you on Max Homa last week at the Genesis Invitational at anything up to 60/1. It was a remarkable performance from the 30 year-old Californian, who landed his 2nd PGA Tour title and earned places in both the Official World Golf World Ranking top 50 and in this week’s WGC Workday Championship at The Concession into the bargain. In Quail Hollow and now Riviera Country Club, it’s clear that Max can win on some of the United States’ best golf courses. Plus I was impressed with the way he handled playing with World Number 1 Dustin Johnson in Round 3, plus of course a bogey-free Sunday.

I had the World Number 1 in the final Sunday group, with Patrick Cantlay in the 3rd last group with Finau and Cameron Smith – I ended up with zilch. Another disappointing (I’ll keep it clean!) Sunday.

With the Genesis Invitational in the rear-view mirror, it’s well worth checking out our latest best golf additional each-way places analysis – to make sure you have all the golf additional each-way angles covered. 888Sport, bet365, Betfred, Coral and Ladbrokes have, in recent weeks, all started giving more additional each-way places, so make sure you are up to speed with the 2021 golf betting market.

It’s easy to overlook these ‘second division’ alternate PGA Tour tournaments and focus on the main event which this week is the WGC Workday Championship at The Concession, previewed here by Paul Williams. 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 2022/23. Don’t underestimate the importance of that prize!

Before we go into the detail surrounding my Puerto Rico Open tips, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System as we work our way towards April and The Masters.  Welcome to you all 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, 5,800+ strong, private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

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Course Guide: The tournament is hosted at the freshly titled 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 saw Viktor Hovland win with a -20/270 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 – can play more Technical in windy conditions; 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.

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 stronger winds than we saw for the 2020 renewal, I’m expecting a winning score of around -15/273 being the target a player needs to look at shooting to be in the mix for victory.

puerto rico open tips

Winners: 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).

Lead Score Progression:

  • 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.

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 Emiliano Grillo, Patrick Rodgers, Cameron Percy, Ian Poulter, Jhonattan Vegas, J.J. Spaun, Andrew Putnam, Scott Brown, Will Gordon and Aaron Baddeley.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the DP World Tour Championship (European Tour), which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Joohyung Kim; 2) Ryan Blaum; 3) Cameron Percy / Vaughn Taylor; 5) Lucas Glover; 6) Satoshi Kodaira; 7) Brice Garnett; 8) Chris Baker; 9) Roberto Castro / Tim Wilkinson; 11) Kramer Hickok; 12) Emiliano Grillo; 13) Josh Teater; 14) Thomas Pieters / Ian Poulter; 16) Andrew Putnam; 17) Fabian Gomez / Rob Oppenheim; 19) J.J. Spaun; 20) David Hearn; 21) Jonathan Byrd; 22) Justin Suh; 23) Michael Gellerman; 24) Matt Every. 25) Roger Sloan / Matt Wallace.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Ricky Barnes; 2) Cameron Percy; 3) Ryan Blaum; 4) Sam Ryder; 5) Emiliano Grillo / Zack Sucher / Johnson Wagner; 8) Roger Sloan; 9) Thomas Pieters; 10) Tom Lewis / Matt Wallace; 12) Lucas Glover; 13) Branden Grace; 14) Andrew Putnam; 15) Will Gordon; 16) Ben Taylor; 17) Bronson Burgoon; 18) Joseph Bramlett / Jhonattan Vegas; 20) Chris Baker; 21) D.J. Trahan; 22) Byeong Hun An; 23) Ian Poulter; 24) Michael Gellerman / John Senden.
  • Scrambling: 1) Dominic Bozzelli; 2) Thomas Pieters; 3) Matt Wallace; 4) Vaughn Taylor; 5) Cameron Percy; 6) Seamus Power; 7) Adam Schenk; 8) Branden Grace; 9) Andrew Putnam; 10) Tom Lewis; 11) Satoshi Kodaira; 11) Joohyung Kim; 12) Byeong Hun An / Sangmoon Bae / Greg Chalmers; 15) Chris Baker / Ian Poulter / Xinjun Zhang; 18) Kramer Hickok; 19) Robert Castro; 20) Padraig Harrington / Lucas Glover; 22) Shawn Stefani / Tim Wilkinson; 24) Scott Brown; 25) Sebastian Cappelen / Chase Seiffert.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) D.A. Points; 2) Anirban Lahiri; 3) Peter Uihlein; 4) Ted Potter Jnr; 5) Justin Suh; 6) Kiradech Aphibarnrat; 7) Ian Poulter; 8) Patrick Rodgers; 9) Beau Hossler / Thomas Pieters; 11) Chase Seiffert; 12) Scott Brown / Hunter Mahan; 14) Vaughn Taylor; 15) Byeong Hun An; 16) Aaron Baddeley / Branden Grace / Josh Teater; 19) Joohyung Kim / Kristoffer Ventura; 21) Rhein Gibson / Shawn Stefani; 23) Matt Wallace; 24) Sam Ryder; 25) Will Gordon.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the DP World Tour Championship (European Tour), which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Emiliano Grillo; 2) Thomas Pieters; 3) Roger Sloan; 4) Ryan Blaum / Jhonattan Vegas; 6) Robert Castro; 7) Lucas Glover / Kramer Hickok; 9) Rafael Campos; 10) Tom Lewis; 11) Chris Baker / Grayson Murray / Cameron Percy; 14) Matt Wallace; 15) Josh Teater; 16) Jonathan Byrd; 17) Patrick Rodgers; 18) Adam Schenk; 19) Brandon Hagy / Joohyung Kim; 21) Bronson Burgoon / Seamus Power; 23) Brice Garnett / Hunter Mahan; 25) Sam Ryder.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Justin Suh; 2) Rob Oppenheim / Sam Ryder; 4) Branden Grace; 5) Matt Wallace; 6) Satoshi Kodaira; 7) Ian Poulter; 8) Byeong Hun An; 9) Tom Lewis / Shawn Stefani; 11) Cameron Percy; 12) Josh Teater; 13) Ted Potter Jnr; 14) Padraig Harrington; 15) Chris Baker; 16) Michael Kim / Roger Sloan; 18) Thomas Pieters; 19) Lucas Glover / Ben Taylor; 21) Greg Chalmers; 22) Kristoffer Ventura;  23) Tim Wilkinson; 24) Scott Brown; 25) D.J. Trahan.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Johnson Wagner; 2) Vaughn Taylor; 3) Zack Sucher; 4) Ben Martin; 5) Davis Riley; 6) Sangmoon Bae; 7) Andrew Putnam; 8) Kiradech Aphibarnrat; 9) Byeong Hun An; 10) Ted Potter Jnr; 11) Fabian Gomez / Bill Haas; 13) Peter Uihlein; 14) Ian Poulter; 15) Xinjun Zhang; 16) Mark Anderson / Thomas Pieters / Matt Wallace; 19) Kramer Hickok / Tim Wilkinson; 21) Ryan Blaum; 22) Justin Suh; 23) Nick Watney; 24) Cameron Percy; 25) Branden Grace.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Thomas Pieters; 2) Matt Wallace; 3) Johnson Wagner; 4) Chris Baker; 5) Byeong Hun An; 6) Roger Sloan / Josh Teater; 8) Kramer Hickok; 9) Cameron Percy; 10) Justin Suh; 11) Tom Lewis; 12) Rob Oppenheim; 13) Lucas Glover / Ian Poulter; 15) Branden Grace; 16) Jhonattan Vegas; 17) Satoshi Kodaira; 18) Bronson Burgoon; 19) Ryan Blaum / Emiliano Grillo / Sam Ryder; 22) Grayson Murray; 23) Fabian Gomez; 24) Ted Potter Jnr; 25) Andrew Putnam / Patrick Rodgers.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Justin Suh; 2) Davis Riley; 3) Peter Uihlein; 4) Shawn Stefani; 5) Ben Martin; 6) Sebastian Cappelen; 7) Thomas Pieters; 8) Andrew Putnam; 9) Rafael Campos; 10) Patrick Rodgers; 11) Ryan Blaum; 12) Will Gordon / D.A. Points; 14) Matt Wallace; 15) Matt Every / Bill Haas; 17) Kiradech Aphibarnrat /  Johnson Wagner; 19) Ian Poulter; 20) Branden Grace; 21) Anirban Lahiri; 22) Brice Garnett / Beau Hossler / Chase Seiffert; 25) Joohyung Kim.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Justin Suh; 2) Thomas Pieters; 3) Johnson Wagner; 4) Matt Wallace; 5) Branden Grace; 6) Ryan Blaum / Shawn Stefani; 8) Andrew Putnam; 9) Patrick Rodgers; 10) Josh Teater; 11) Tom Lewis / Ian Poulter; 13) Bronson Burgoon / Cameron Percy; 15) Kramer Hickok; 16) Emiliano Grillo / Roger Sloan; 18) Chris Baker / Ben Martin / Vaughn Taylor; 21) Rob Oppenheim / Davis Riley; 23) Bill Haas; 24) Scott Brown / Anirban Lahiri / Ted Potter Jnr.

Winners & Prices: 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 6 Renewals Average: 90/1. Overall Average: 89/1.

For a full summary of winner’s odds on the PGA Tour since 2010 click here.

Historical Weather:

  • 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 Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, is here. We should be greeted by a slightly firmer Grand Reserve CC this year, but as ever expect soft, watered, receptive greens and more rain cannot be ruled out across the weekend.

Scoring by the coast is always dictated by wind levels and for 2021 it looks like the levels will be significantly up. 15-20 mph easterly wind is kind of standard for Grand Reserve, and we will be getting it across all 4 days, as opposed to 12 months ago when the wind only blew on Thursday. So I think scoring will become a level or two harder, as per 2019.

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

  • 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: 24th, Driving Accuracy: 30th, Greens in Regulation: 14th, 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:

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.

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

  • 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.

From the Lead: Below are the shots from the lead during the tournament of the Puerto Rico Open winner since 2010:

  • 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.

Form of winners since 2010:

  • 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 – Scott Brown, Alex Cejka, Brice Garnett, Chesson Hadley, George McNeill, D.A. Points, Ian Poulter, Martin Trainer, Johnson Wagner.

As we can see, winners here can come from different ends of the betting market. Viktor Hovland won this 12 months ago as the 12/1 favourite, beating 150/1 Josh Teater with a spectacular birdie from distance to win by a single shot. Prior to Viktor, winners have been from the juicy mid-price or bigger. I suppose that’s 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 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, but now in 3 of the past 5 renewals, California-based Martin Trainer, Las Vegas-based Alex Cejka and Salt Lake City-based Tony Finau have won. Florida-based D.A. Points redressed the balance again in 2017.

Winners here have either been younger players who’ve had a solid grounding in the Korn Ferrry 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, 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. Hovland and Finau undoubtedly sit in the best-player-in-the-field-won category.

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 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.

My final Puerto Rico Open tips are as follows:

Tom Lewis 2pts EW 28/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Coral

You can look at the Puerto Rico Open as simply as you want to. One way that will have paid dividends in the past is to look at pure talent. Tony Finau won this in 2016 at 50/1. Bryson DeChambeau was runner-up in 2017 at 80/1 – yes I know!  I can’t place 2019 winner Martin Trainer in the same elite category, but Daniel Berger (16/1) was runner-up with 2011 Masters Champion Charl Schwartzel in the full each-way places at 30/1. And 2020 saw the 12/1 favourite win in the form of winless Viktor Hovland. For a poor opposite-WGC tournament, there are some big names there.

So Tom Lewis jumps off the page for me for the 2021 renewal. After all this is a player who was 2nd in a World Golf Championship as recently as August. He’s also finished 6th (2019) and 7th (2018) in the European Tour climax event, the  DP World Tour Championship and finished 11th in the 2019 Open Championship. 3rd at the Dubai Desert Classic last year, Lewis also finished 3rd in the 2019 Saudi International played by the coast on Paspalum greens at Royal Greens G&CC, behind Dustin Johnson. Big tournaments – big results.

But the Welwyn Garden City-based 30 year-old finds himself in a pickle in 2021. I’ll let Tom tell you in his own words in an interview which took place at Pebble Beach a fortnight ago, “It’s difficult, it’s difficult out here. I’m not at that stage yet in my career where I feel confident I can only play a few events in Europe. So I think it would be nice for me to be over here more, so I think I’m going to focus a lot more now here (PGA Tour) over the next few months and if I can tie down my playing rights for next season it frees me up to go back to Europe a little bit more.” At 156th in the current FedEx Cup standings, Lewis needs results to keep his PGA Tour card and I like the thought of him arriving here at Grand Reserve both motivated and with growing confidence.

14th last time out at Pebble Beach saw him shoot 66-69 across the opening 36 holes – with Tom playing Saturday in the second from last group with Paul Casey and Patrick Cantlay. Yes he shot +2/74 in that round, but came back with a -3/69 on Sunday to deliver a much needed boost to his confidence. 6th for Strokes Gained Off the Tee and 15th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green, Tom played very nicely and he won’t be coming across the likes of Berger, Cantlay, Casey and Spieth this week in Puerto Rico.

Ranked 10th in this field in my 8-week Greens in Regulation tracker and 11th in the corresponding Tee to Green category, Tom is playing some nice stuff right now and his CV contains some excellent results by the coast. We know about his 11th at Royal Portrush and his 3rd in Saudi, but his record at the Dunhill Links Championship is stellar as well with 3rd (2013), 10th (2018) and 5th (2019). With this week being a mid to low scoring event by the coast, with plenty of wind and width off the tee, I think it should suit Lewis perfectly. RESULT: MC

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Will Gordon 1pt EW 50/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

If we work off the simple narrative of the best young talent going well at the Puerto Rico Open, then Will Gordon is one to shine in this field – and yes we have been spoilt in recent times with the likes of Wolff and Morikawa who were ex-amateur World Number 1 players, with Viktor Hovland in tow. Of course all are established PGA Tour winners now.

I see a resemblance to Will Gordon who made it as high as Number 9 in the amateur golf rankings and who’s made some waves on the PGA Tour since his arrival. Last season (2019/20) and with no status on the PGA Tour so using sponsors exemptions, Gordon finished 10th at Sea Island, 21st at Torrey Pines, 20th here at Grand Reserve CC and 3rd at TPC River Highlands, powered by a 2nd round 62, and he led the field that week for birdies with 27. Those finishes were enough to earn enough non-member FedEx Cup points to qualify for Special Temporary Membership – a feat that few youngsters succeed in achieving. For this new 2020/21 season he has a full card, but sits outside the all important top 125 as we enter March.

That’s not to say though that Gordon hasn’t showed promise. 24th after 54 holes in Bermuda (finished 34th) and 18th after 54 holes at Memorial Park (finished 38th) in the autumn of 2020, 2021 has continued in a similar vein. 8th after 36 holes at the loaded Farmers Insurance Open ended up with Gordon in 42nd position, and on his last outing at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the North Carolinian again played well. An opening round -6/66 was the best score of anybody at Spyglass Hill and a -4/68 at Pebble Beach on Saturday placed him in 11th spot going into Sunday. He eventually finished 21st and that’s the point with Will – he just needs more faith in his own abilities on Sundays.

In his college days, Will was 5th at the 2018 Carmel Cup at Pebble Beach behind Matthew Wolff and, also in 2018, Will won the Tavistock Intercollegiate Invitational at Isleworth G&CC in Orlando, Florida ahead of Collin Morikawa. He’s a real talent, who undoubtedly plays well by the sea. Long off the tee – 9th on Tour – and 15th in my 8-week Greens in Regulation tracker, I’m prepared to give the 24 year-old a whirl. RESULT: T27

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Bronson Burgoon 1pt EW 60/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

Bronson Burgoon has been playing better of late. Never one to particularly catch my eye, 2020 was disastrous for the 33 year-old Texan, who missed 12 cuts and had a best finish of 38th (Colonial) prior to arriving at Sea Island for the RSM Classic. A Friday 61 came from seemingly nowhere and Burgoon went on to play nicely enough on Saturday to go out in the final group with Zach Johnson and eventual winner Robert Streb. A 15th place finish was his best on the PGA Tour since the 2019 Sanderson Farms Championship.

2020 has seen more green shoots with 37th at The American Express, 42nd at the Farmers Insurance Open and 47th at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Bronson has been solid enough and that comes through in his in-field rankings where he sits 17th for Greens in Regulation and from a Strokes Gained perspective, 21st for Off the Tee, 18th for Tee to Green and 13th for Strokes Gained Current Form. 13th and 22nd for Tee to Green across PGA West and Torrey Pines, it was the putter which fired at Pebble Beach where he ranked 6th for Strokes Gained Putting.

5th at the 2019 Barracuda Championship when in a similar vein of form tells you that Bronson takes these alternate events for what they are – a huge opportunity – and a look at his early professional years highlights 2 seasons on the PGA Tour Latinoamérica where he played very nicely across Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Peru. He has only played here at Grand Reserve once, back in 2016 in his rookie season, where he finished 47th. That though was noteworthy for opening rounds of 69 and 68 which placed him in 3rd spot going into the weekend. RESULT: T39

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Scott Brown 1pt EW 75/1 (7EW, 1/5) with bet365

We are used to seeing Scott Brown at 20/1 for the Puerto Rico Open, so to see him at 75/1 was a burst of value sunshine in a very grey sky.  8 visits to Grand Reserve see him with a scoring average of 69.72. For reference that is better than Emiliano Grillo who is 16/1. 5th-1st-64th-10th-5th-17th-10th-67th = 3 top 5s and 2 further top 10s in 8 appearances. Brown put simply is a true horse for the course. Sign me up!

He’s done very little of note recently. 2nd at the Genesis Invitational in 2020 was his only high-class finish and that again highlights the horse for the course pattern with Scott, who had previously finished runner-up at Riviera Country Club in 2017. 2nd behind Adam Scott also came off 4 straight missed cuts.

16th (2012), 5th (2015) and 6th (2017) on the coastal, Paspalum course at El Camaleon; Scott has also finished 9th at Torrey Pines (2019); 5th (2014) at Harbour Town and 4th (2014) at Sea Island – he likes the smell of sea salt. And last time out Brown landed a confidence-boosting 30th at Pebble Beach – which tied his previous best career finish there, back in 2013. 3 appearances later Scott was lifting the trophy here at 50/1. RESULT: T53

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 08:55GMT 23.2.21 but naturally subject to fluctuation.