Updated throughout each tournament week, 'The Starter' will provide key news, notes, and other nuggets prior to the first tee time on Thursday morning. Think of it as an all-in-one resource to help guide you in the days leading up to the start of the tournament, as you prepare your fantasy golf lineups and entries. As soon as we receive valuable news updates on things such as tee times, featured groups, withdrawals and other course reports we’ll be sure to post them all here.
Vidanta Vallarta - Puerto Vallarta, Mexico
Event #28 of the 2022-23 FedExCup Regular Season
Full-field cut event
For just the second year, The Mexico Open at Vidanta makes an appearance on the PGA Tour schedule. Previously it was part of PGA Tour Latinoamerica (2013-2021), though played at different venues.
Jon Rahm returns to defend his title against a potentially even weaker field than we saw in 2022. Tony Finau (16th) and Alex Noren (50th) are the only other top-50 ranked players in the world competing this week, and there's only seven total players currently in the OWGR top 100 teeing it up at this year's Mexico Open.
Rahm did speak highly of this event after winning last year:
"It was a wonderful week. It's a wonderful resort. For anybody watching here that is doubting about playing, I say come. Just coming to the resort, it's just worth it. The golf course, it's a lengthy golf course and it's in pristine shape. It's a highly recommended week in my book."
Rahm's ringing endorsement did not help to draw other big names to play this year's Mexico Open, but perhaps in the new PGA landscape of designated vs. non-designated events, Vidanta Vallarta will be given designated status at some point in the future.
The Mexico Open unfortunately just falls in an awkward part of the schedule–a natural rest spot for the top players before another busy stretch of events. The upcoming PGA Tour schedule includes an elevated Wells Fargo Championship, the PGA Championship, a popular non-major/non-designated stop in the Charles Schwab Challenge, followed by an elevated Memorial Tournament.
The good news for those who aren't huge fans of last week's Zurich Classic team event is that the Mexico Open at least returns to the normal full-field stroke play format with a 36-hole cut. Additionally, unlike some resort course setups that can turn into birdie fests, Vidanta Vallarta actually has some bite to it and presents some challenges for TOUR players.
Vidanta Vallarta is a resort course designed by Greg Norman in 2015. It runs along the Ameca River with views of the Sierra Madres. There are some elevation changes but overall it's a pretty flat venue with water that comes into play on 12 of the holes.
Measuring 7,456 yards as a par-71, Vidanta Vallarta expected to play long in its first appearance last year and that appears to have been the case looking at the stats. 8 of the top 10 players on last year's leaderboard ranked 17th or better in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee. 9 of those same 10 players ranked in the top 25 in driving distance.
The fairways at Vidanta Vallarta measured as the 34th widest (out of 38) on the PGA Tour last season, and the rough was not super penal, giving some creedance to distance over accuracy off-the-tee this week.
The distance of the course is very noticeable from just looking at the scorecard. A few of the par-4's measure at or above 500 yards. Two of the par-5's measure above 600 yards. In fact, the combination of par-4's and par-5's at Vidanta Villarta was the longest on the PGA Tour in 2022.
According to Ron Klos (@PGASplits101 on Twitter), 44% of approach shots came from 200+ yards at last year's Mexico Open–the highest rate of any event on TOUR.
One last broad detail to point out is that as a coastal resort course, coastal winds are generally going to be a challenge for players at various parts of the week. Additionally, Vidanta Vallarta features Paspallum fairways and greens, as are often seen at these types of coastal resort venues.
Course Scoring Stats:
In 2022, Vidanta Vallarta ranked as the 24th most difficult course on the PGA Tour (out of 38) in terms of scoring average.
2022 Scoring Average: 70.32 (-0.68)
Easiest holes in 2022:
Par-4 7th: 3.34 (-0.66) scoring average
The 14th easiest hole on the PGA Tour last season.
Par-5 18th: 4.53 (-0.47) scoring average
Par-5 6th: 4.60 (-0.40) scoring average
Par-5 14th: 4.63 (-0.37) scoring average
Toughest holes in 2022:
Par-4 10th: 4.41 (+0.41) scoring average
The eighth toughest hole on the PGA Tour last season.
Par-4 16th: 4.34 (+0.34) scoring average
Par-4 8th: 4.33 (+0.33) scoring average
Par-3 17th: 3.28 (+0.28) scoring average
How Jon Rahm gained strokes on the field in 2022:
SG Total: +13.76
SG T2G: +10.24 (3rd)
SG OTT: +5.56 (2nd)
SG APP: +2.64 (29th)
SG ARG: +2.04 (22nd)
SG PUTT: +3.56 (18th)
Field Changes (-): Nick Hardy, Davis Riley, and Ryan Brehm are out.
Field Changes (+): Ted Potter Jr., Richard S. Johnson, and Tommy Gainey are in.
Open Qualifiers: Zach Bauchou, Brian Davis, Kyle Reifers, Jose Toledo.
Sponsor Exemptions: Cristobal Del Solar, Mateo Fernandez de Oliveira, Jose Cristobal Islas, Richard Johnson, Roberto Lebrija, Omar Mrales, Alvaro Ortiz, Raul Pereda, Jose de Jesus Rodriguez, Alejandro Tosti, Sebastian Vazquez, Boo Weekley
3 of the OWGR Top-50 are in the field.
7 of the OWGR Top-100 are in the field.
After missing the cut at The Masters, Noren decided not to play RBC Heritage for an unspecified reason. He returns this week for the Mexico Open.
NOT OF FIELD
Ryan Brehm (undisclosed)
Brehm withdrew from the Mexico Open on Monday. This is the second week in a row that Brehm has withdrawn from an event for an unspecified reason.
Hardy withdrew from the Mexico Open on Monday. He has decided to take a week off following his first career PGA Tour victory at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. With that win, Hardy earned a spot in the PGA Championship and the upcoming elevated events in the Charles Schwab Challenge and the Memorial Tournament.
Riley withdrew from the Mexico Open on Monday. He has decided to take a week off following his first career PGA Tour victory at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
Tiger Woods (ankle, foot)
Woods announced on April 19th that he underwent a subtalar fusion procedure to address his post-traumatic arthritis from a previous talus fracture. He is currently recovering and looks forward to beginning his rehabilitation.
The 15-time major champion withdrew in his most recent start at The Masters, citing a reaggravation of his plantar fasciitis after being seen walking with a noticeably worse limp during the third round. In February, Woods expressed his goal to play in all of the major championships this year. However, given this news of another ankle surgery and upcoming rehab, expectations should be tempered for Woods' chances at playing in the next three majors. There's currently no official timetable for Woods' return.
Aaron Wise (personal)
Wise announced in an Instagram story on March 31st that he would not be playing in The Masters. He is stepping away from golf to focus on his mental health.
“Golf is just as much a mental game as it is one of physical skill, and the mental piece of it has been a struggle for me recently. I don’t take the significance of playing at Augusta lightly, but know that I need to take some time away to focus on my mental health so I can get back to compete at a level I am proud of.”
Daniel Berger (back)
Berger is hopeful to make his return to the PGA Tour sometime in May, per Daniel Rapaport of Barstool Sports. The four-time winner has been sidelined since the 2022 U.S. Open.
Berger tried to play through this injury last season but said “that was definitely not the answer.” Instead, Berger has opted to take a more patient approach in his recovery. According to Rapaport, Berger has begun ramping up practice, and though he’s set no official timeline for a return it appears Berger could come back to the TOUR in May.
Will Zalatoris (back)
Zalatoris announced on his Instagram account on April 10th that he underwent successful surgery on his back and will now miss the rest of the season.
Zalatoris withdrew just prior to his first-round tee time at The Masters. As it turns out, Zalatoris was dealing with the same back issues (herniated discs) that caused him to be out for the last four months of 2022. Zalatoris has had a very promising start to his career, winning his first PGA Tour event last summer at the FedEx St. Jude Championship, but will now miss at least another five months following a microdiscectomy.
I've seen some confusion out there–this is the first time Zalatoris is having back surgery. He did NOT have surgery in 2022.
C.T. Pan (wrist)
Pan missed about five months due to a wrist injury. He returned to the PGA Tour two weeks ago at the RBC Heritage where Pan missed the cut. Pan also made a rehab start on the Korn Ferry Tour at the Club Car Championship at the end of March (missed the cut).
Will be posted here Tuesday afternoon.
Most Total "True Strokes Gained" over the last 30 days (per Data Golf):
Jon Rahm +2.45 (11 measured rounds)
Chez Reavie +2.45 (8)
Tony Finau +1.89 (11)
Gary Woodland +1.88 (8)
Nicolai Hojgaard +1.84 (8)
Byeong Hun An +1.79 (8)
Lee Hodges +1.72 (10)
Jimmy Walker +1.65 (10)
Wyndham Clark +1.52 (8)
Ben Martin +1.45 (10)
Patrick Rodgers +1.45 (8)
Most Total "True Strokes Gained" over the last 3 months (per Data Golf):
Jon Rahm +2.79
Tony Finau +2.01
Wyndham Clark +1.60
Ben Martin +1.15
Nicolai Hojgaard +1.06 (includes 3 PGA events and 4 European events)
Gary Woodland +0.94
Aaron Rai +0.92
Eric Cole +0.81
Byeong Hun An +0.81
Patrick Rodgers +0.80
Most Strokes Gained Ball Striking (SG: Off-the-Tee + SG: Approach) over the last 3 months (per Data Golf):
Jon Rahm +1.86
Gary Woodland +1.70
Tony Finau +1.62
Luke List +1.38
Wyndham Clark +1.20
Kevin Roy +0.96
Aaron Rai +0.94
Chez Reavie +0.87
Ben Martin +0.82
Brandon Wu +0.74
Stephan Jaeger +0.72
Most Total "True Strokes Gained" over the last 6 months (per Data Golf):
Jon Rahm +3.05
Tony Finau +2.18
Wyndham Clark +1.53
Alex Noren +0.94
Patrick Rodgers +0.93
Eric Cole +0.72
Gary Woodland +0.68
Maverick McNealy +0.68
Most Strokes Gained Ball Striking (SG: Off-the-Tee + SG: Approach) over the last 6 months (per Data Golf):
Jon Rahm +1.85
Tony Finau +1.68
Gary Woodland +1.52
Luke List +1.18
Wyndham Clark +1.17
Ben Martin +0.76
Aaron Rai +0.75
Will Gordon +0.66
Alex Smalley +0.65