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Golf: Mayakoba may be pointer in Mexico

April 26, 2022 09:03 PM
USATSI_17818461

After the team event in New Orleans last week, the PGA Tour returns to a traditional stroke-play format this week but on a golf course most players — and bettors — haven’t seen. 

The Vidanta Resort in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico, hosts this week’s Mexico Open. I noted last week that I was cutting my amount risked in half due to the difficulty of handicapping team golf, and I am going to dumb down the risk again this week at a new venue with no course history to reference.

Vidanta Vallarta, a 7,400-yard, Greg Norman design, has wide fairways and large, Paspalum greens. While we don't have any course history at Vidanta, we do have a similar coastal setting (and Norman design) that features Paspalum greens in El Camaleon, host of the Mayakoba tournament outside of Cancun.

The course attributes (long, generous fairways, big greens) pointed me toward Driving Distance and Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee this week. I also looked at Strokes Gained: Approach, Proximity to the Hole and Birdie or Better%. Hit it long, stick it in close, make birdies. That ought to be a good formula for what should be a birdie fest at a relatively easy resort course. The defense this week would be the wind, but the forecast is showing pretty calm conditions.

The field is the craziest I’ve seen in a long time. World No. 2 Jon Rahm is here along with Gary Woodland, Patrick Reed and Tony Finau. On the other end of the spectrum, we have Mark Hensby, Derek Ernst, Matt Every, Richard S. Johnson, Ben Crane, Ricky Barnes and Tommy Gainey. I mean, some of these guys I haven't seen on tour in what seems like forever — and they were journeymen back then, too. Funny stuff, but that doesn’t mean we can't bet on it.

Here are the full tournament head-to-head matchups I considered and the one I played:

Considered (14-17 YTD)

— Michael Thompson (+ 100) over Kramer Hickok

— Austin Smotherman (+ 100) over Nick Taylor

— Tyler Duncan (-130) over Adam Schenk

Played (13-14 YTD)

— Aaron Wise (-110) over Sebastian Munoz

These two players have a lot of similarities. Obviously, the price of the matchup is a pick’em at -110 either way. They are also both 30-1 to win the tournament outright. Wise is longer and better in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. He is also better on approach. He is not as accurate off of the tee as Munoz, but with the wide fairways this week, I don't see that being a big deal. Finally, if you look at how these two compare at El Camaleon, Munoz has two missed cuts and a 64th-place finish in three appearances, while Wise finished 15th in November plus has a runner-up (2020) and 10th-place finish (2018). I believe Wise should be a slight favorite, so I’ll take him in a pick’em matchup.

For all of the plays from myself, Wes Reynolds, Matt Youmans and our special guest, Rick Gehman of CBS Sports, go to VSiN.com/podcasts.

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