The PGA TOUR added a second event in Mexico last season, and the event will once again go off on this late April date slot in 2023. The Mexico Open at Vidanta won’t be star-studded. Only two of the world’s top 50 players are in attendance, so there will be lots of opportunities to grab points for those lower down in the FedExCup standings. The field this week is a huge departure from what we saw at the RBC and Masters but will still include the defending champion, Masters champion, and OWGR #1 player, Jon Rahm.
Rahm will be joined by Tony Finau, who together represent the only top 20 golfers who made the trek to Mexico. This will create some extreme ownership dynamics for PGA DFS tournaments, as we can expect Rahm and Finau to be heavily rostered across the board in all forms of tournament play.
Despite the lack of star power, the Mexico Open is still a full 144-man field, and the cut will take place on its usual spot this Friday, with the top-65 players and ties making the weekend.
Vidanta Vallarta (designer: Greg Norman)
7,456 yards, par-71; Greens: Paspalum
The course this week is the same one the players tackled last year in the Greg Norman-designed Vidanta Vallarta. The expansive Par 71 has four par 5s and wider fairways but also features plenty of water and bunkering in play to test players.
Vidanta is a true resort course (and plays as a Par 73 with six par 5s for the amateurs) but does have a very tropical/wild setting to it. To get to the venue, players have to travel across a huge river on a suspension bridge, so logistics mean there is some travel involved just to make it to your tee time on time. The venue is situated around six man-made mini-lakes, and there are over 100 bunkers in play. From a design standpoint, Vidanta in many ways plays as a kind-of beefed-up version of Norman’s other Mexican course, El Camaleón, which hosts the Mayakoba Classic every season.
Last year that description was rather fitting. The venue yielded a winning score of 17-under par, but there was a clear advantage for longer hitters that shone through on the leaderboard where several big hitters— Rahm included — took center stage. Driving distance at this venue last season was well above the seasonal average, and the open layout proved a fruitful playground for those ball-strikers with power, who sometimes struggle around more technical venues and greens.
As a note, around the green play tended to be the least important factor of all the main skill categories, and good weather for 2023 means we’ll likely see higher GIR %’s once again. The Paspalum greens this week, a common grass in tropical climates, also tend to play slower and are more receptive to approaches.
Looking to big hitters this week and players trending well off the tee is a good way to start research. Last season, all but one of the top 10 finishers at this event gained 1.5 strokes or more off the tee for the week. While both of Norman’s PGA TOUR venues (El Camaleón and TPC San Antonio) could be used as corollaries for the week, I’d also look at past results from a venue like TPC Twin Cities, which hosts the 3M Open every year. It also has larger fairways and plenty of water/bunkers that the players must maneuver around.
2023 Weather outlook: The weather this week should be ideal. Highs are in the low 80 F range, but humidity and a lack of heavy winds should keep the greens receptive. There is no rain in the forecast, and while the open venue will certainly see a little wind, gusts aren’t expected to get over 12 mph for the afternoon on either of the first two days. This kind of weather should favor the big hitters who can bomb it without worry on this venue and likely won’t have to scramble much this week either with a calmer wind forecast.
Past Winners and Stats
2022 — Jon Rahm -17 (over Tony Finau and Brandon Wu -16)
SG: OTT — 5.6
SG: APP — 2.6
SG: TTG — 10.2
SG: ATG — 2.0
SG: PUTT — 3.6
- Rahm gained most of his strokes off the tee in 2022, which was a huge theme for the top finishers at this event last season
- All of the golfers in the top 10 at Vidanta last season gained strokes off the tee and nine of the 10 gained over 1.5 strokes OTT
- Rahm wasn’t great in any other area but his putter certainly showed up for him and given the setup, a solid putting week will be absolutely necessary for anyone thinking of hanging with the leaders on this easier course
- Outside of off-the-tee play, looking at players who have had success putting on Paspalum grass and who are good from >200 yards in proximity stats, is a good way to go about researching this event
Finding Values (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value compared to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
1. Wyndham Clark ($9,700; T29-T6): Clark and Beau Hossler led after three rounds last week in Lousianna but couldn’t close the deal. The American has made 14 cuts in a row on the PGA and has played great golf for most of 2023.
2. Jon Rahm ($12,000; T15-T6): Rahm is Rahm. He is now the number-one player in the world and just +280 in the outright market this week. The Masters champion has won four of the last nine events he’s entered.
3. Patrick Rodgers ($9,300; T19-T5): Rodgers has looked great in his last two starts. He led after three rounds at the Valero (T5) and gained 5.8 strokes on approach at the RBC (T19).
4. Nicolai Hojgaard ($9,500; T28-2nd): Hojgaard has plenty of talent and hits it a ton. He made the cut last week and carried his team for the most part.
5. MJ Daffue ($8,000; T15-T29-T19): Daffue has quietly put together a few solid starts in a row. The South African made the cut last week in the team event (T26) and finished top 20 at the Valspar and Valero.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Cash Games: Rahm a must. Wu a solid value.
Jon Rahm ($12,000) is 12K flat this week on DraftKings, and it still doesn’t feel like he’s priced high enough. There is a massive talent gap after the top two players, and Rahm is still easy enough to fit in as the mid-7K to mid-8K range has plenty of value targets in this weaker field that we can pair with him for cash games. Dylan Wu ($7,500) is one of the best cheaper values on the board at 7.5K as the 26-year-old has showcased a very impressive tee-to-green game and ranks 12th in birdies gained over the last 50 rounds. A little further up, both Lee Hodges ($7,900) and Patton Kizzire ($7,600) look like solid rosters this week at under $8,000. Both men have been making cuts of late, with Kizzire coming in at 14th in birdie or better % over the last 50 rounds.
Tournaments: Bhatia and Grillo can surprise
If we’re picking players from the pack to rise up this week and potentially knock off Finau and Rahm, then we want to focus on both talent and form. Emiliano Grillo ($8,500) is coming off a great outing at the elite field RBC Heritage where he grabbed a T7 and gained 6.4 strokes on approach + putting. When the Argentine gets comfortable on the greens, it is typically a great time to go after him in DFS, and the fact he has also posted some solid results on paspalum greens in the past (2nd CIMB Classic ‘18, three top 10s at Mayakoba) is a good sign we’ll see solid work from him again with the putter. Bhatia ($7,400) is another player who should like the location. His only pro win came in the Bahamas on another long, expansive golf course, and he posted great results in both Puerto Rico and Punta Cana this season. He also ranks fifth in birdie or better % over the last 50 rounds. Other potential GPP plays this week include Cameron Champ ($7,100), Matti Schmid ($7,000 - see below), and Martin Trainer ($6,800).
MY PICK: Gary Woodland ($9,600)
Woodland is still searching for the follow-up win to his 2019 US Open triumph but has showcased a locked-in long game thus far in 2023 — similar to the one that won him a major back in 2019. The American is coming off an impressive Masters, where he finished T14, and has now made seven of his last eight cuts on the PGA, including a T9 at Riviera where he went up against Jon Rahm on the weekend.
Woodland is also one of the few in this field who can match Rahm in the ball-striking department as he’s now gained over 1.0 stroke off the tee in each of his last 12 PGA TOUR starts — and ranks out fifth in strokes gained approach stats over the last 24-rounds. From a fit perspective, Vidanta was a good one for him last season as he gained 7.8 strokes off the tee and on approach combined. His putter caught a little heat at the RBC (gaining him 4.0 strokes for the week), and if that club continues to fire this week you should see him get in the mix on this easier resort course, which last year catered to bombers.
Regardless of whether or not you’re planning to play him alongside Rahm ($12,000) in your lineups this week, Woodland makes for a good upside target in DFS and looks like a decent outright target on DraftKings Sportsbook at +2800.
MY SLEEPER: Matti Schimd ($7,000)
Matti Schmid is an interesting talent who we have seen go close in a weaker field event before. The German-born player can absolutely smash it off the tee and currently sits fourth in driving distance on the PGA, making him a potentially great fit for this week’s expansive Par 71. Schmid has also shown real upside in these weaker field events as he was up near the lead at the Bermuda Open in 2022 prior to self-destructing on Sunday with a final round 77. He’s also posted top 10 finishes at both the Barbasol and American Express Championships, and it’s safe to say at this point that he doesn’t mind easier conditions and a softer golf course.
That’s exactly what he’ll get this week in Vidanta, a course where pros will be able to take driver on most holes and go at flags on these softer paspalum greens. Schmid’s form hasn’t looked great since the American Express in January but he gained 5.4 strokes tee to green at the Valero and also made the cut last week at the team event. With a fantastic setup on hand that should cater to his talents — and a great DFS price — Schmid makes for an excellent upside value in big-field GPPs and a solid top 10/20 target at +1100/+450.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is wavegoodbye) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and do not constitute a representation that any particular strategy will guarantee success. All customers should use their own skill and judgment in building lineups. I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.