This week the PGA Tour heads to Puerto Rico for the unsponsored Puerto Rico Open. While the world’s best golfers are home with the family or competing at the WGC event in Mexico this week, those PGA Tour cardholders not in the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings will be at Coco Beach and Golf Resort in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.
It is easy to overlook these alternate PGA Tour events and turn focus to the larger WGC. However, there can be massive values in these events, particularly for die-hard PGA Tour followers such as myself, who are familiar with the random names that can pop up and compete in secondary events.
These players are still fighting for valuable FedEx Cup points, playing privileges for the next two years, and, more importantly, a nice purse.
This year’s event in Puerto Rico is a rather strong field considering the timing with Kiradech Aphibarnrat, Lucas Bjerregaard, Emiliano Grillo, Viktor Hovland, Tom Lewis, and Alex Noren all missing out on the WGC event and choosing to give it a go at Coco Beach.
Let’s break down the course!
Puerto Rico Open Course Preview
It is impossible to talk about Coco Beach Golf and Resort without talking about the wind. The course is located on the northern coastline of Puerto Rico and is entirely defenseless to the constant ocean breezes coming off the Atlantic. This means that winning scores will be defined by how much it blows.
In calm conditions in 2014, Chesson Hadley notched his first win at 21 under. Last year we saw Martin Trainer somehow win (he hasn’t done a thing since) at 15 under. Then you have the 2015 and 2016 editions where Alex Cejka won at seven-under, and Tony Finau claimed his only victory at 12 under.
The forecast is currently calling for moderate winds, with the worst being Thursday topping out at 20 PMH gusts. Anything 15 or below leaves an otherwise easy course pretty exposed, so expect to see high teen to low twenty under as a winning score this week.
Tee to green players won’t see many challenges outside of the wind. Keep in mind, Coco Beach is a resort, and resort courses tend to be forgiving given the high handicappers it is forced to accommodate.
The Par 72 course does play long at 7,500 yards with most of the excess yardage found on the Par 5s. The back 9 has two particularly long tests with the 15h measuring 600 yards and closing 18th at 630. This makes Par 5 scoring an essential stat for the week.
Players will see opportunities for wedges into short Par 4s, and the Par 3s are relatively simple in nature. This will be the first time since Hawaii that we see Bermuda greens. While they aren’t as difficult to figure out as the Poa we have seen on the West Coast, the grain to the grass is an added element players are forced to read.
Ball striking will be critical, although it will be difficult to zero in on particular players. The issue is that many players here lack adequate playing time on Tour this early in the season and don’t have the historical stats given this is their first go at the big boy level.
With that said, I will be looking for bombers, as reaching the four par 5s in two will be essential to any victory. Form isn’t always the best indicator here, but it is never a bad idea to back someone who has been hitting it well recently. Finally, winners here have come 50-1 or higher, so there is no issue taking a chance on a long shot this week.
Chase Seiffert +9000 (MyBookie.ag)
If you clicked this link expected to recognize the names of my plays this week, you have another thing coming. Three weeks ago, I had no clue who Seiffert was either.
Here is the thing, when you are grinding daily fantasy for value picks and have a soft spot for ball-strikers, you end up down some absolute wormholes. I was alerted to Seiffert at the recent Torrey event as he had managed to gain strokes ball striking in three straight events on Tour.
A teammate of Brooks Koepka at Florida State, Seiffert finished 15th on the Korny Money List last year to earn full status on the PGA Tour this season. His swing season didn’t amount to much, but he seemed to find something at the RSM where he finished 23rd while gaining 5.7 strokes ball striking.
That form continued as Seiffert has made seven straight cuts while gaining strokes on approach in all 7. The stats suggest that Chase is a horrible chipper as he has lost strokes around the greens in every tournament he has played but one in the 2019/20 season.
The best part about him this week? If he has to chip, he isn’t going to win as greens, and birdie opportunities are what he needs to compete. So his inability to perform there is mitigated by the birdie fest he will be playing in. The fact that long shots thrive here makes me like this play even more, and given his form, this looks like a perfect spot for the 28-year-old to grab his first Tour win.
Xinjun Zhang +7000 (MyBookie.ag)
The two-time Korny Tour winner last year, Zhang, showed he has the firepower to go low, winning those tournaments with scores of 25 and 26 under. Those wins and 11 top 10 finishes helped propel him to over $600,000 in earnings last year.
He will see many familiar faces this week, and if his swing season form is any indication of his game, he will be well within the mix. Zhang came out blazing early in the 2019/20 season, making 6 of 8 cuts at the end of 2019, including:
- 7th at Safeway
- 16th at Shriners
- 4th at the Houston Open
Averaging almost five strokes gained throughout those three tournaments.
Early 2020 wasn’t as kind, but he has bounced back, making three straight cuts coming into Puerto Rico. Zhang had full Tour exemption in 2018, doing absolutely nothing with it, but I like the fact he has experience competing at this level. Since we are looking for winners 50/1 or better, taking a guy who dominated many of these players on the Korny Tour in 2019 is a perfect place to start the card.
Tyler McCumbeber +8000 (Bovada.lv)
If we are looking for bombers, let’s look no further than the 28-year-old son of former Tour Pro Mark McCumber. The PGA Tour rookie has had an outstanding start to his maiden year on tour, making 8 of 10 cuts this season, including a 21st finish in the star-studded tournament at Torrey Pines.
The Par 5s will be no problem for the long-hitting McCumber as he is 4th in driving distance and 2nd in Strokes Gained Off the Tee in this field during the 2019/2020 season. Not just a bomber, McCumber has gained strokes on approach in four straight events and has shown he can get hot with the putter, gaining 4.3 strokes on the greens at the Farmers.
Further, the Florida based McCumber should have no issue getting acclimated to the Bermuda greens, which will see dominate the Florida Swing starting next week. All in all, an 80/1 price on a guy with McCumber’s overall game is too good to pass up.
2u Maverick McNealy -102 (BetOnline.ag) o Jonathan Vegas
McNealy, the former Stanford standout and #1 Ranked Amateur in the World looks to finally be breaking out on the PGA Tour. After gaining full exempt status due to his stellar play on the Korny Tour last year, McNealy heads into Puerto Rico in excellent form. He coming off a 5th at the ATT Pro-Am and a 15th at the Famers in back to back weeks which is good enough to rank him #1 in form over the fields last 8 and 24 rounds. McNealy is an excellent ball striker, gaining strokes in the category in 5 straight events.
Vegas is priced as a favorite here by name only. While he is an excellent driver of the golf ball due to his distance off the tee, his iron game has struggled recently, losing strokes on approach in 6 straight appearances. On a course where you will have to make birdies to be successful, failing to hit it close with the irons will leave you in a bad position.
Vegas is also a terrible putter, losing strokes in the category in 8 of his last ten showings. Bad iron play combined with bad putting is exactly the type of player I want to go against a guy in the kind of form McNealy is showing. The wrong guy favored here.
As always, thank you for reading and make sure you follow my Twitter @jmazzjd. I’ll be releasing my full card there on Wednesday morning as well as any Outright adds tournament progresses.
Puerto Rico Open Outright Plays
Puerto Rican Open Plays
|Outrights||Odds||Stake (Unit)||To Win|
|Mark Anderson (Bovada)||10000||0.08||8|
|Total Units Invested:||1.13|
Puerto Rico Open Tournament Head To Head Plays
|FULL TOURNAMENT HEAD TO HEAD |
Puerto Rican Open Plays
|McNeally o Vegas||100||2||2|
|Bramlett o Murray||-110||1.1||1|
|Hadley o Lewis||100||1||1|
|Seiffert o Ryder||100||1||1|
|Hadley o Rodgers||100||1||1|