Long and Wide - The PGA Tour Mexico Open at Vidanta Vallarta
The award winning Greg Norman designed Vidanta Vallarta Course is forgiving but demands distance.
By Liam Driscoll. Follow Liam on Twitter.
The PGA Tour is in Mexico this week at the Mexico Open, where defending champion Jon Rahm is teeing it up amongst a weak field in pursuit of back to back titles. One of the few international destinations throughout the course of the season, Rahm’s odds going into the week were favorable, to put it lightly - +275 on most sportsbooks. The world number one was among three top 50 OWGR players (Tony Finau and Alex Noren being the others) that headed to Puerto Vallarta to compete in an otherwise uneventful event. You could argue Wyndham Clark is also in that same categorization, as he sits in the top 25 in FedEx Points for the season. Evidently, “growing the game” didn’t make the trip.
The storylines aren’t so strong for the ever-evolving PGA season narrative, and Rahm’s squared in spotlight number one for the week. After day 1, a few others have emerged, though, as Mexico-native Raul Pereda sits T2 at -6. While that’s enough to root for in and of itself, it’s a whole different thing when you consider he’s making his PGA Tour debut. We’re rooting for you, Raul!
The off week event for the rest of the Tour seems like a good opportunity to highlight something else though - the course itself.
Vidanta is a big resort, with more than a hundred holes spread across a few 18 hole courses and some 9 hole courses, including the Championship course the Tour is playing on now, Vidanta Nuevo Vallarta. Through an extensive redesign, the course won Golf Inc.’s Renovation of the Year award in 2022. A Greg Norman design, the Championship course is a blend of strategy and brute force. A representation of Norman? No comment.
No more than a stone’s throw or well struck iron from the ocean, the Vallarta course type can be considered a championship course by definition. However, it’s still a resort. Wide fairways, forgiving rough, and consistent grass types lend to few surprises. But there is a bit of bite, and it can be found where all resort courses turned championship courses can be found - Vidanta Vallarta is long, and plays even longer.
No more than a stone’s throw or well struck iron from the ocean, the Vallarta course type can be considered a championship course by definition.
To win at Vallarta players need a few things, but mainly, they need some length off the tee. Take a look at the scorecard itself. Anything jump out? 5 par 4s longer than 480, a pair of par 3s longer than 200, and an overall length of 7456, maybe? Vallarata sits just outside the top-10 in terms of PGA Tour course length for this season. Couple that with where it's situated along the Pacific coast and the accompanying breeze, and you're in for a long walk.
A callback to our odds leaders, Rahm +275 and Finau +500. They both rank top 25 in total driving, with a bevy of other supporting stats off the tee. So the long course works to their favor. As it does a few other big hitters whose names have been mentioned this week, like Gary Woodland.
But a champion won’t be crowned solely off of performance off the tee, as they rarely ever are.
The course maintains a small arsenal to strike back with, like bunkers on every fairway and 6 different bodies of water that come into play on 2/3s of holes on the course. The 10th hole at Vallarta was the 5th hardest non-major hole on tour last year, a 500 yard par-4 with water in play that held a scoring average of +.41 over par.
For all the rage that distance has played in improving scores of Tour pros and weekend warriors, Vallarta calls the bluff, and tells players to beat the course in a straightforward fashion. Hit it far off the tee and cover some ground. It’s fun, and players launching drives will no doubt be a wonderful reminder for those watching that their ball speed has a long way to go.
The Mexico Open presents a great opportunity for some longer, and otherwise unknown, hitters to grab a win, provided they’re up for the task of taking down the world number 1 looking to put up a defense.