Damien Kayat previews the Puerto Rico Open taking place at Coco Beach and Country Club, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.
Image Copyright – Steve Haag Sports
2021 US PGA Tour | Puerto Rico Open (Alternate Event)
Coco Beach and Country Club, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
With the world’s golfing elite descending on Florida this week, many other players will be vying for precious FedEx Cup points at this important Alternate Event. Not only that, many European players have come in search of form ahead of a Ryder Cup year: no fluke that Ryder Cup captain Padraig Harrington is playing this week. This event will fixture an intriguing blend of past PGA Tour winners, Korn Ferry Tour stars and the aforementioned European Tour heavyweights. First staged in 2008, all twelve previous editions of this event have been staged at Coco Beach. Located in the magnificent Rio Grande, this should provide a fittingly picturesque alternative to the events at Concession.
Coco Beach is a low-lying coastal course situated in the north-east of the island. Designed by Tom Kite, this is a flat, wind-exposed track with water in play on 13 holes. Paspalum fairways pave the way to average sized greens. Solid approach play will be required this week. There are actually two holes that measure over 600 yards, which will clearly benefit the bigger hitters out there: no surprise that Tony Finau won here in 2017. The fact that it is wind-exposed means that it all hinges on the wind conditions. Corollary courses include the likes of Waialae and Harbour Town.
Thomas Pieters is the obvious favourite. The four-time European Tour hero and Ryder Cup folk hero has made some steady progress in recent times: he has seven top 25 finishes in his last thirteen starts. Matt Wallace and Ryder Cup demigod Ian Poulter will also be in contention. Young Tom Lewis will also be looking to make an impression on captain Padraig Harrington. Players such as Emiliano Grillo and Scott Brown leap off the page due to their excellent course history. I was also fairly surprised to see that Byeong-Hun An hadn’t qualified for the event in Florida. These events can always provide excellent value for the punter, with heavy favourites seldom seen at a DJ 13/2 margin.
2020: Viktor Hovland (-20)
2019: Martin Trainer (-15)
2018: D.A Points (-20)
2017: Tony Finau (-12) *playoff
2016: Alex Cejka (-7) *playoff
Outright Betting (To Win)
Thomas Pieter (14/1)
Matt Wallace (14/1)
Ian Poulter (16/1)
Emiliano Grillo (16/1)
Branden Grace (18/1)
Tom Lewis- To Win (25/1), To Place (11/2)
Tom Lewis is a man who needs this. In August, the Englishman was one of four men who finished a shot behind Justin Thomas at the WGC St Jude Invitational. Since then, the 2019 Korn Ferry Champion has looked a shadow of his former self. There were signs of life at his last event. At Pebble he opened with a 66 only for a Saturday 74 to put him out of contention. I fancy the two-time Portugal Masters Champion to build on that performance and have a strong showing here.
Scott Brown- To Win (75/1), To Place (16/1)
Form is all relative when you come into these alternate events. Even saying that, Scott Brown did pick up a decent top 30 at Pebble Beach recently. That is no surprise as he simply loves coastal courses. He won this event in 2013 and has four other top 10 finishes. Furthermore, his statistically best performance came at the RBC Heritage in 2013. He has also performed well at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, showcasing his affinity for Paspalum. Coastal tracks and Paspalum are just another universe for Brown. He is begging to be backed at this price.
The Man to Beat
The Man to Beat- Emiliano Grillo- To Win (16/1), To Place (7/2)
These alternate events are perfect for ‘horses for courses’ picks. Players that otherwise couldn’t rightfully dominate events have the chance to carve out niches for themselves. Grillo has 2nd and 3rd place finishes in his last two appearances here. He recent form isn’t too bad, with a creditable 22nd place at the far superior Waste Management Phoenix Open. He also finished 8th at the Mayakoba Classic, which also features Paspalum. His decent performances at the Corales Punte Cana also highlight his suitability to these events. He ranks 5th in GIR over the past three months, which indicates that his game should be in perfect form for another title push.