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Fantasy Advice

Mexico Open at Vidanta DFS picks 2023: Tony Finau's red flags

April 25, 2023
AUGUSTA, GEORGIA - APRIL 09: Tony Finau of The United States plays his second shot on the 17th hole during the final round of the 2023 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 09, 2023 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)

The PGA Tour returns to a regular stroke-play event this week at the Mexico Open, which has been an event played since 1944 but didn’t become an official PGA Tour event until last year.

Vidanta Vallarta is one of the longest courses on the PGA Tour schedule, playing to 7,468 yards as a par 71 with most of the yardage coming into play as long par 4s. Distance isn’t going to be required but certainly a benefit this week. I will be putting a premium on players with strong middle- to long-iron play, as we will see more approaches from the 175-200-plus-yard range than most other weeks, per my RickRunGood.com course regression model.

Here are the players who have my interest—and those who certainly don’t—this week at the 2023 Mexico Open.

Golfers I'm Definitely Playing

Jon Rahm ($12,000 DraftKings | $12,600 FanDuel)

Relative to Rahm’s number in the betting market, his salary is actually not that unappealing. There’s an argument to be made that he should be more expensive. He’s the best player in the field, and it’s not remotely close. Over his past 36 rounds, he’s gaining 2.45 strokes per round, per the RickRunGood.com golf database. There are only four other golfers in this field gaining more than one stroke per round. The 16th-best player in this field, Stephan Jaeger, is gaining 0.50 strokes per round—and Rahm is 5x better than that.

Ben Martin ($8,600 DraftKings | $9,900 FanDuel)

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Andrew Redington

Martin is one of those five golfers gaining 1.0+ strokes per round over the past 36 rounds. He missed the cut last week in New Orleans with Chesson Hadley, but he’s made seven straight cuts as an individual. During that run, he’s earned four top-15 finishes and is currently playing the best golf of his career.

Stephan Jaeger ($8,200 DraftKings | $10,100 FanDuel)

His missed cut at the RBC Heritage snapped a streak of four straight weekends that included a T-14 at the Honda Classic and a T-27 at the Valspar Championship. During that four-event stretch, he gained over 15 strokes ball-striking, per the RickRunGood.com golf database. We’ll give him the benefit of the doubt to rebound quickly and get back to his positive trends.

Vincent Norrman ($7,200 DraftKings | $8,800 FanDuel)

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Chris Graythen

This kid can mash the ball, and he’s starting to find his stride on tour. He has three top-25 finishes in his past five starts and ranks inside the top 20 in driving distance this season. The Swede is seemingly improving each week and has flashed greatness in 18-hole spurts. If he can keep the wheels on for four days, he could be a valuable option.

Alejandro Tosti ($6,500 DraftKings | $7,600 FanDuel)

Tosti’s last seven events have come on the Korn Ferry Tour, and he’s starting to find his stride. He has four top-25 finishes during that stretch, including each of his past three. He ranks fourth in driving distance on the Korn Ferry Tour and seventh in birdie or better rate. That’s a dangerous combination this week.

Golfers I Might Play

Wyndham Clark ($9,700 DraftKings | $11,600 FanDuel)

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Jonathan Bachman

Clark nearly broke through and earned his first PGA Tour victory last week in New Orleans with Beau Hossler but fell short and finished third. That’s the third top-six finish for Clark in his past four starts, and he hasn’t missed a cut since Las Vegas, which is 14 events ago. He’s the fourth-best ball-striker in the field over the past 36 rounds while also playing positive golf both around and on the putting surfaces.

Patrick Rodgers ($9,300 DraftKings | $11,200 FanDuel)

Rodgers may have busted out of a slump with a fifth-place finish at the Valero Texas Open, followed by a T-19 at the RBC Heritage. He gained a total of 14.06 strokes ball-striking over those eight rounds, but the really exciting opportunity is Rodgers on paspalum greens. The data is wonky, but there’s evidence that Rodgers is one of the best players in the world on paspalum. His strokes-gained baseline moves from +0.343 to +0.813 on the surface—one of the biggest differentials on tou.

Emiliano Grillo ($8,500 DraftKings | $10,200 FanDuel)

Speaking of paspalum specialists, Grillo is even better than Rodgers in that category. Since the start of 2019, Grillo has played 10 events on paspalum greens and has gained 1.51 strokes per round—by far the most of anyone with that large of a sample size. He’s made eight cuts and has earned six top-25 finishes during that run.

Luke List ($7,800 DraftKings | $9,500 FanDuel)

If I could whisper this blurb, I would. It’s been bad, really bad, for List since his win at the 2022 Farmers Insurance Open. However, if there was a place to try to catch lightning in a bottle, it would be here. Vidanta Vallarta will reward distance and long-irons, something that List is proficient with. Paspalum greens generally helps bad putters, which is more good news for List. Finally, this is about the weakest field that we could ask for, and List has legitimate winning upside. I’m terrified, but I can’t deny it’s there.

Augusto Nunez ($7,000 DraftKings | $8,300 FanDuel)

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Icon Sportswire

Nunez has made three straight cuts and seven of his past eight. He can move it off the tee, ranking 27th in clubhead speed this season. He’s also elite on approaches from over 175 yards, which will be critical this week. He’ll need to find a way to avoid losing a ton of strokes with the flatstick, but if he can, he’ll be an excellent value.

Golfers I'm Fading

Tony Finau ($10,700 DraftKings | $12,300 FanDuel)

Finau’s raw talent is better than many golfers in this field, but it’s worth noting that he hasn’t been as sharp lately. He’s lost strokes off the tee in four straight starts, something he’s never done before in his career. After seeing some gains with his flatstick, he’s been on the wrong side of things—losing 5.32 strokes putting in his past four starts. It’s true that Finau’s C+ game might be good enough to finish top 10 here, but there are some red flags in his stat profile that we should consider.

Maverick McNealy ($9,400 DraftKings | $10,900 FanDuel)

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Sam Greenwood

McNealy has been battling injury for the majority of 2023, and he still doesn’t seem right. He’s lost multiple strokes off the tee in four of his past five, and he’s lost multiple strokes on approach in three of his past four. I’ll need to see some positive signs before making an investment.

Alex Smalley ($8,400 DraftKings | $10,400 FanDuel)

Smalley finished T-6 here last year, but not much can be said for his form in 2023. Since the calendar turned, he’s missed as many cuts as he’s made (five), and his best finish was a T-22 at The American Express. His entire game had trended downward, but he’s really losing it on and around the greens. He’s lost strokes in the short-game categories in nine of his past 11.

Joseph Bramlett ($7,800 DraftKings | $9,300 FanDuel)

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Michael Reaves

Bramlett’s distance off-the-tee is appealing here, but it might not even matter. Despite being one of the longest hitters on tour, he’s barely above average in SG/off the tee because he is so inaccurate. After that, he’s a below-average player who has missed three of his past five cuts.

Austin Smotherman ($6,900 DraftKings | $8,200 FanDuel)

Smotherman won this event in 2018, but it was a PGA Tour Latinoamerica event and held at a different course. Usually a solid approach player, Smotherman has lost strokes there in eight of his past 11. He hasn’t gotten much help from the rest of his game, and it has led to dismal results. His last top 20 was in July of last year at the Barracuda Championship.

Rick Gehman, founder of RickRunGood.com and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel, is one of the industry’s leading experts on golf DFS and gambling. Gehman is co-host of the First Cut Podcast and appears regularly on the Pat Mayo Experience golf podcasts. Follow him on Twitter: @RickRunGood.