A weak field will take on the Grand Reserve Country Club's Composite Course in the 2023 edition of the PGA Tour's Puerto Rico Open. Damien Kayat previews.
2022/2023 US PGA Tour
Puerto Rico Open
Grand Reserve Country Club (Composite Course), Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
The US PGA Tour must feel fairly pleased following LIV Golf’s disastrous TV debut last week. The new CW product absolutely bombed, beaten in the ratings by the likes of ‘World’s Funniest Animals’.
To be fair, I have yet to verify how funny these animals may be. But it looks as if Greg Norman and his bunch of rogues are facing an uphill battle to keep that tour relevant.
It would have been interesting to see how the LIV event fared against this ‘opposite field’ event, ratings-wise. The Puerto Rico Open has always been played as an opposite event.
But it generally coincided with a WGC event. This will be the second time it is played concurrently with the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Greg Kraft won the inaugural staging of this event back in 2008 and this will be the 15th edition of this event (the 2018 renewal was cancelled due to the havoc caused by Hurricane Maria).
Grand Reserve Country Club
Formally known as the Coco Beach Golf Club, Grand Reserve is a resort course that is actually a composite of two separate courses (which had previously been four nine-hole courses designed by Tom Kite in 2004).
The unique Paspalum grass will be familiar to anyone who has played the Mayakoba Classic at El Camaleon (the host of last week’s LIV disaster). This course is set to play at around 7,500 yards. That may sound long but many shorter hitters have triumphed here.
For every Tony Finau you have a Scott Brown on the winner’s rollcall. Much like Bay Hill, it’s all about finding greens in regulation. The real factor to deal with at this exposed layout is the wind. Branden Grace is a brilliant links exponent who hits the ball at a lower trajectory than most.
That was key to his victory in 2021. Also look for players familiar with El Camaleon and Corales Golf Club (both of which feature this idiosyncratic Paspalum grass).
Look, I’m not going to sugar-coat this: this is one of the worst fields you are going to see on the PGA Tour. But it does offer the astute punter the chance to extract some real value.
Up-and-coming Korn Ferry prospects and grizzled veterans suddenly come into play on weeks such as these. Moreover, this event has provided the springboard for both Viktor Hovland and Tony Finau to enter into the mainstream.
2019 Rocket Mortgage Classic champion Nate Lashley leads the markets ahead of Brandon Hawkins. Elsewhere, the likes of Scott Piercy and Jim Herman leap off the page. This could prove to be a fascinating alternative to the high-stakes drama at Bay Hill.
2022: Ryan Brehm (-20)
2021: Branden Grace (-19)
2020: Viktor Hovland (-20)
2019: Martin Trainer (-15)
2018: event cancelled
To Win Outright:
Nate Lashley 14/1 | Brandon Harkins 18/1 | Andrew Novak 18/1 | Cameron Percy 22/1 | Scott Piercy 22/1
Cameron Percy- To Win (22/1) | To Place 48/10
In the last 24 rounds on tour, nobody has gained more strokes tee-to-green than Cameron Percy of those competing. He is fresh off a highly creditable T12 at the far more esteemed Honda Classic. He obviously also has a penchant for Grand Reserve Country Club, finishing in a tie for seventh here in his last two appearances. I think that type of positive course experience means a lot in a field such as this.
Brice Garnett- To Win 50/1 | To Place 11/1
Brice Garnett has proven himself to be very adept at handling these unique Paspalum putting surfaces. He has finished first and ninth at Corales. He has also finished fifth and seventh at El Camaleon. He also finished fifth here in 2021 and seventh last season. He ranked second last year for GIR and he has been putting brilliantly of late. I think the confluence of a strong putter and good iron play could stand him in good stead this week. And you have to love the price at 50/1.
The Man to Beat- Andrew Novak 18/1 To Place 39/10
Andrew Novak is one of those guys who wouldn’t get anywhere near the top of the markets in your average week. But his consistent recent form makes him a promising bet this week. He picked up back-to-back top-30 finishes in his last two outings (at Pebble Beach and the Honda Classic). He also finished inside the top 15 at the Sony Open (an event which correlates quite nicely with this). He had a top-20 showing at the opposite field event in October. Ranked just outside the top 100 in the FedEx Cup rankings, Novak will see this as an opportunity to make some real gains.