Puerto Rico Open Preview

03-22-17

Newbies have dominated the winner’s circle the last four years at Coco Beach.

I’ve brought out my metal detector and have gone in search of buried treasure on the beaches of Puerto Rico.

 

Puerto Rico Open

 

Coco Beach Golf & Country Club

Rio Grande, Puerto Rico

 

Yards: 7,506 per the official scorecard

Par: 72 (36-36)

Greens: Sea Dwarf Paspalum; 10,000 square feet on average (massive).

Rough: Paspalum at 1″

Bunkers: 65

Course Architect(s): Tom Kite and Bruce Besse (2004)

Purse: $3 million; $540k (winner); 300 FedExCup Points.

Defending Champion:  Tony Finau became the fourth consecutive first-time Tour winner as he defeated Steve Marino in a playoff.

 

Notes:

  • 132 players; stroke play
  • Top 70 and ties make the cut
  • This course has hosted every event regardless of name

 

 

2016-17 Winners

 

Frys.com: Brendan Steele

CIMB: Justin Thomas

WGC-HSBC: Hideki Matsuyama

Sanderson Farms: Cody Gribble**

Shriners: Rod Pampling

OHL Mayakoba: Pat Perez

RSM Classic: Mackenzie Hughes**

SBS TOC: Justin Thomas

Sony Open: Justin Thomas

CB Challenge: Hudson Swafford*

Farmers: Jon Rahm*

WMPO: Hideki Matsuyama

AT&T Pebble Beach: Jordan Spieth

Genesis Open: Dustin Johnson

Honda: Rickie Fowler

WGC-MC: Dustin Johnson

Valspar: Adam Hadwin*

 

*First-time winner

**First-time winner AND rookie winner

 

The Particulars:

 

For the 10th year in a row, the Tour returns to the island of Puerto Rico and Coco Beach Golf and Country Club. Playing over 7,500 yards, Coco Beach will give up a few birdies and eagles but the key to the week is avoiding bogeys. Last year there were only TWO rounds above par from the players in the top 20.

The interesting angle this week will be the weather and which way the wind is blowing. When the wind is prevailing the course has given up winners of 20 and 21-under-par. When the wind didn’t cooperate in 2015, Alex Cejka won a six-man playoff with seven-under-par being the lowest total on the week.

The resort course greens won’t get too hot, especially if windy, and those who hit the most of them will have the best chance at keeping bogeys off the card. The Paspalum putting surface is the same one used at Mayakoba and TPC Kuala Lumpur (CIMB) so some trends can be found there.

 

 

Course Ratings

 

2016: 24th-most difficult of 50 played; -0.236

2015: 13th-most difficult; +0.570

2014: 7th easiest of 48 used; -1.212

2013: 5th-easiest of 43 used; -1.771

2012: 22nd-hardest of 49; +0.227

2011: 19th easiest of 51; -0.466

 

Previous Champions

 

2016: Tony Finau, 276*

2015: Alex Cejka, 281*

2014: Chesson Hadley, 267

2013: Scott Brown, 268

2012: George McNeill, 272

2011: Michael Bradley, 267*

2010: Derek Lamely, 269

2009: Michael Bradley, 274

2008: Greg Kraft, 274

 

*playoff

# not playing this week

 

Persons of Interest

Before they were household names in the gaming business

 

2009: Jason Day, T-2

2010: Graham DeLaet, T-24

2011: Keegan Bradley, T-18

2012: Ryo Ishikawa, T-2

2013: Jordan Spieth, T-2; Peter Uihlein, T-6

2014: Danny Lee, 2nd, Brooks Koepka T-19

2015: Emiliano Grillo, P-2

2016: Patrick Rodgers, T-21

 

 

Facts and Figures:

  • Tournament record: 267; Hadley (2014).
  • Course Record: 63; Brown (2013).
  • Multiple Winners: Bradley (2009, 2011).
  • No player has successfully defended.
  • Maiden PGA Tour Win: Everyone on the list above minus Bradley and McNeill.
  • First Time at Event: Bradley and McNeill.
  • Hadley, 26, and Cejka, 44, are youngest and oldest.
  • Largest margin of victory: two shots. #Tight
  • Bogey-free rounds: 2014 (too many to count), 2015 (9) and 2016 (10).
  • Low round of 2016: 64; Rafael Campos, Rd. 1.
  • Americans Winners: 9 tournaments, 8 winners.
  • International Winners: Alex Cejka.

 

 

The Field

 

Favorites

in order of preference for this week and this tournament

 

Graeme McDowell: He’s won at Mayakoba on Paspalum and has been very solid since the end of the Tour season last fall. He’s played 10 events, made nine cuts and eight have gone for T-28 or better worldwide.

 

Scott Brown: He’s given gamers nothing since his T-2 at Riviera but this is the softest landing spot I can find you. The 2013 champ has a pair of top fives including last year plus at T-10 in 2014. He’s 50-under in five events and has never MC.

Chris Kirk: It’s probably not a coincidence that his best finishes of this season have come in weaker fields or on resort courses. He played Mayakoba for the first time this season and finished T-7. His last win of four was on a breezy St. Simons Island in 2015.

Graham DeLaet: He should be the perfect fit this week as first-timers have won the last four at Coco Beach. The Canadian had been fire before MC at Bay Hill last week but his ball-striking will shoot him up the leaderboard in this field.  Oh, and he’s played 16 rounds here and 15 are under par.

Danny Lee: The signs of life he showed at Valspar were even better with his low round of the day on Sunday (67) at API. I’m gladly jumping on as he returns for the first time since 2014 when he finished second on 19-under-par.

Wesley Bryan: Similarly to DeLaet, Bryan was on fire before Bay Hill. His streak of four consecutive top 10’s came to a crashing halt with an opening and closing 77 but he did break par both middle rounds. His short game and putting acumen will be in full form this week on these massive greens.

Peter Uihlein: He hasn’t MC worldwide in 2017 in seven events. His form includes three top 10’s plus a T-17 as it looks like his recovery from injury is complete. The former Oklahoma State Cowboy went the Euro route likes Brooks Koepka but the injury bug keeps biting him. Last time he was here and healthy in 2013 he finished T-6.

Luke List: Like Finau last year, List will have no problem chewing up the yardage. List also devours par fives and has turned it around on the Florida swing. He’s trending T52, T-27 and T-17 in his last three with only two rounds above par. He was T-15 last year here.

Alex Cejka: The 2015 champ followed it up with T-11 last year so he obviously doesn’t mind a bit of wind. He’s found some form as well as he was T-14 at Valspar his last time out.

 

Next Tier

no particular order

J.J. Spaun: He had no problem at a big boy Torrey Pines (T-4) and a very respectable T-21 in the wind at Honda. I see you.

Nick Taylor: He’s making cuts and finished T-10 here last year. Steady.

Harold Varner, III: Plenty of wind when he won last winter in Australia as he can power his ball through the wind. He won’t mind having four, par five holes either.

Ian Poulter: The 54-hole leader last year couldn’t close the deal but he popped with another solid finish on Paspalum with T-17 at CIMB. He’s made four cuts in a row and should make it five this week.

Ryan Blaum: His last two top 25’s have come at resort courses in Palm Springs and Mayakoba. He shot 65 at Honda and a pair of 68’s at Valspar in his last two events so there’s something brewing.

John Peterson: With limited status, I’d expect a charge. He finished T-12 at WMPO with a 63 on the card yet 68-74 MC at Honda his last time out. He’ll find every green every day.

Boo Weekley: His T-35 last year ended a run of three consecutive top 10’s here. His recent results don’t inspire but his course form is something.

Seamus Power: He can smoke it off the tee and will hole some putts. He’ll prefer it windy as well.

 

Off the Beaten Path

Course horses, long shots, cheeky picks, DFS last call, red herrings

Michael Bradley: He’s won here twice and added three more T-27 or better including the last two years. #CourseHorse.

Chris Stroud: T-18, T-9, T-27 and T-26 in the last four seasons. He must think this is TPC River Highlands.

Tim Wilkinson: He holds T-6 and T-21 plus three MC’s from five starts.

Brandon Hagy: T-21 and T-28 in the last two events of the Florida swing suggests he’s finding form even if he has no clue where it’s going off the tee (201 in fairways but 4th in driving distance).

Jon Byrd: Snuck in a top five on the Web.com in Panama earlier this year and was only one back last season after 54 holes. #RankOutsider.

 

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out through Twitter or email me mikeglasscott@gmail.com.

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