Taking place in the middle of March Madness, the Puerto Rico Open is the NIT of the golf world this week. With the top professionals playing at the Match Play event in Austin, Texas, the Puerto Rico Open has some recognizable names, but none of the world’s top players.
Regardless, professional golf is professional golf and we’ll be excited to tune in!
Last Year’s Puerto Rico Open Top-10
A very surprising top of the leaderboard was followed by a rare John Daly sighting within the top-10. Daly. That’s right. This John Daly:
— John Daly (@PGA_JohnDaly) March 22, 2016
The Puerto Rico Open, offering 300 FedExCup Points, is being played on Coco Beach, a course which has length (7500 yards), beckoning water hazards throughout the course, and significant challenges with its SeaShore Paaspahum grass and white silica sand in its bunkers.
Ranked 13th most-difficult on the PGA Tour, you might think that the course favors big hitters, but previous winners, such as last year’s champ, Alex Cejka, are clearly not super bombers.
Reason: If the island winds are kicking up here, as they often are, length should not be an issue. It’s also not an imperative to take chances at this course, with bogey avoidance traditionally being a significant factor at this Tom Kite-designed course. (Note: It’s a big week for Tom Kite, as he has ties to this week’s host of the Dell Match Play, Austin Country Club).
The 36-hole course is comprised of four distinct and occasionally awe-inspiring nines, appropriately called Mountain, Ocean, Lakes, and Palms, to provide the 132 professionals and the public with four completely different experiences at this resort location.
— Jerry Coldiron (@CaribeTurfman) March 22, 2016
Last Week’s Picks at API
Adam Scott (Contender) 12th
Billy Horschel (Contender) 20th
Charles Howell III (Contender) 46th
Zac Blair (Sleeper) T55
Keegan Bradley (Sleeper) T36
Scott Brown (Winner) 27th
[Note from the Editor: I had six players who made the cut and had cuts made by all of the 8 players on my weekly fantasy team. only two players in the top-20 and none in the top-10 was disappointing though.]
Two From the Fairway (Contenders)
So, who are the best bets to win in PR this week?
Kelly is the sixth most accurate driver this year, hitting more than 70 percent of fairways. Kelly also has a Top-10 finish at another island course (Hawaii) this season, in which he played bogey-free golf for his first 21 holes, carding seven birdies and an eagle to stay in contention most of the tournament.
He’s a player to be in contention this week in Puerto Rico.
At one time Luke Donald was a golden boy of golf, reaching #1 status and earning more than $30 million on tour. But Donald hit a skid last year and was ditched by his long-time caddie, John McLaren. But his style of play and glimmers of hope thus far in 2016 translate well to his play this week in Puerto Rico.
Look for Donald to make a statement in this event that he’s ready, willing, and able to start to reclaim his place in the sun.
One from the Rough (Sleeper)
He was in contention a few months ago at Pebble and almost captured his first PGA Tour win. After his big performance, Iwata registered back-to-back missed cuts, but his play is one that could be a great fit this week in Puerto Rico. 16th in strokes gained putting and
Remember him last year at the PGA?
— Sean Martin (@PGATOURSMartin) September 11, 2015
The Man With the Trophy
But my prediction to take it all is Boo Weekley. The Florida native didn’t make the cut at the Arnold Palmer last week, but his +4 showing was riddled with near misses for pars and birdies. Weekley already has two top-10 finishes in tournaments this year, so look for him to break through and take the winning purse in the $3 million tournament.
Boo’s signature “right favor” grip (a la Freddie Couples) enables him to maintain control and not open up wildly, translating into steady play on the fairway. This course, favoring consistent players, is the week that Boo manages his sometimes erratic putter and gets the job done.
He’s also got an awesome course record here in the past, littered with top-10s.
So long for fan favorite Boo Weekly to take the top prize at a course originally named for the current top Twitter trender in the world, that’s right, Donald Trump.