We thought about eschewing a preview of one of golf’s “Big Nine” events in favor of focusing solely on an opposite field sideshow, but decided to do both (See our preview of the WGC-Cadillac Championship here). The golf establishment media are all already hunkered down in South Florida, prepping countless pieces full of obfuscation, the sum of which will no doubt have you ready for a spin around the rejuvenated Doral. But while it’s a BSD field, we at NLU strain to get excited about the stroke play WGC events: limited field, no cut, guaranteed paycheck, pretty boring track (excited about the redesign for sure, though), guys deep in the “process” prepping for Augusta, etc.
There’s a paltry amount of coverage devoted to these opposite field events, which is a shame. What gets our juices flowing is seeing an as-yet-unheralded Jordan Spieth almost snatch this title last year and using it as the springboard for the rest of his virtuoso season. It’s looking at the top-20 finishers in this event last year (which we’ll feature a bit further down the page) and seeing a host of NLU favorites planting the seeds of their emergence. It’s these tournaments that create the confidence (and fattened wallet) that manifests itself later in the year when it matters. A veteran grinder keeps his card off of a strong showing here or a young guy absent exemptions/pecking order squeaks into next week, with the promise of opportunity alive. The Puerto Rico Open, (and it’s Reno-Tahoe/John Deere/Sanderson Farms/Frys.com/Mayakoba brethren) is where YOTTO campaigns are conceived, only to be born later, under the lights of the big stages.
‘The Donald’ is emerging as a heavyweight in the upscale Golf Club game. In a market rife with disposable income, he’s the perfect guy to come into a historic track (or locale) that’s lost a bit of luster and gold-plate the hell out of clubhouses, courses and grounds in that nouveau riche style that’s aggressively ostentatious and the equivalent of crack cocaine to a certain nouveau riche affluent consumer.
Anyway, this week is a Trump YOTTO on Tour with the WGC event at Trump National Doral and the PR Open being played at the Trump International Golf Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. The ‘TIGC’ is a par-72, 7,526 yard track that features the tasty triumvirate of palm trees, agua, and birds (not the native variety). The official PR Open website has a nice hole-by-hole layout of the track here, if you’re so inclined. Basically it’s generous landing areas off the tee all day, relatively large green complexes, and lots of inviting pin locations throughout. A true bomb-and-gouge haven. Like most tropical tracks, it’s all about the wind blowing – and if that happens it seems like 3/4 par-5’s are dead into the wind and there are no reachable par-4’s to speak of (except for MAYBE #3, which plays 386 downwind…but Quiros, Koepka, and Colsaerts are in the field this week!). Other than that, strap on for some long par-4’s, and according to the hole-by-hole, the entire damn course plays into the wind (which apparently doesn’t mean all that much given the ease with which these guys pile birdies every year).
So here’s the deal: we’re getting you amped for that awkwardly canned Golf Channel 6:30p-9:00p coverage each night (which is dumb especially considering Puerto Rico is an hour ahead), featuring depressingly sparse crowds and dudes stalking paychecks. Honestly, though, it’s better in practice than in theory!
Vibe? There really is no vibe. Puerto Ricans could care less about golf. And nobody who does is making the trip. So it’s just these guys against the course. No bullshit.
Scott Brown (not to be confused with the former Massachusetts Senator – I make that mistake ALL THE TIME) won his first career PGA Tour title with a 20-under, 72-hole record score of 268. Shooting a final round 70, he held off charges from everywhere to win by a stroke over Fabian Gomez and Jordan Spieth. According to the ‘Shot Link Update’ portion of PGATour.com’s one-page (don’t strain yourselves, fellas) ‘Essential Guide’, Brown’s driver was a big key to his win–he placed 7th in driving distance (300.6 yards) and 14th in driving accuracy (71.4%) among the field.
Brown’s win was great and all, but we really want to highlight the rest of the top-20 from last year. Check out the final leaderboard:
It was the NLU maternity ward down in PR last year! The aforementioned Spieth was runner-up, Andres Romero (aka The Latin Mamba) inexplicably didn’t win this thing despite three rounds of 66 or better, Uihlein was way up in the cut pre-Euro power play, Morgan Hoffman banked a tasty T14, and the group at T18 was STRONG AS HELL (Harman, Stroud, Guthrie, and Delaet of note).
This year, Spieth, Uihlein, and DeLaet are up in Miami for the varsity event, reaffirming the somewhat awkward nature of the PR Open–strong finishes are fantastic, but you leave hoping you NEVER HAVE TO COME BACK. In this way, the tournament is kind of like pledging a fraternity–it can be the best experience in someone’s life that they never want to do again. A rite of passage, if you will. Ladies and gentlemen, the 2014 Puerto Rico Open!!!!
(all lines courtesy Ladbrokes.com, the Official Bookmaker of NoLayingUp.com)
Horses for Courses
A note before diving into this section – definitely encourage you all to head to Ladbrokes for all your betting needs. And encourage your bookie to honor those lines, too. They offer the best lines out there, and they go DEEP into the fields. We’ll put it this way – they offer online greyhound betting. That’s as degenerate as it gets. Seriously, if you’re betting on greyhounds, give us a call, you’re next level. #respect
Chris Stroud (20/1) – Somehow this seems like value. Granted we’re high on Stroud (the first Tour pro who followed us on Twitter), he’s been knocking on the door of big Tour success for awhile, drives the ball well, and showed form here last year. He’s a prime candidate to never make this trip again. Over the last five years, his FedEx Cup standing has done nothing but improve–127th in 2010, 106th in 2011, 99th in 2012, 47th in 2013, and currently 25th in 2014–mirroring the rest of his game. Feel like he should be 14/1-ish.
Brooks Koepka (25/1) – The odds seemed a bit optimistic at first glance, but Koepka is forming (71-68-68-71 at Honda? We’ll take it), trending (up to #70 in the OWGR, he’s literally knocking on the door), and flossing (his style/verve are impeccable – it’s no wonder he got his start at Free Shoes University).
Dirt McGirt (40/1) – There’s gotta be a reason he’s not taking the week off to rest up. T14 here in his last appearance in 2012. Made 6/7 cuts (with the lone MC coming at AT&T when he had to play Pebble during the teeth of the storm) so far in ’14 and has to be itching to get back out there after fading on Saturday last week. Easy guy to root for.
Chesson Hadley (40/1) – Georgia Tech rookie was a first round 73 away from making SERIOUS noise at Honda (finished 66-69-69), and finished top-ten at Pebble a few weeks prior. Absolutely menaced the Web.com LY, with four showings of -16 or deeper (and two wins – one of which came at the Web.Com Tour Championship, one runner-up, two thirds, and a T-4 at the Nationwide event up in Columbus, a solid tourney). After ten events on the big tour this year, one has to think Mr. Hadley’s got the lay of the land.
James Driscoll (50/1) – It needs to be said that Driscoll is carving out a nice niche for himself on Tour – this is the fourth year in a row he’s had his card. He’s been solid this year – 67th in FedEx Cup standings, without really making any noise. His driving accuracy is pretty abysmal, but he makes up for it with a tidy greenside manner. Lot of experience at this event, seems like he’s come in 40th every year. Worth a small flier, especially considering what would happen if he got the big dog dialed in.
Hudson Swafford (66/1) – Odds are purely talent-based rather than form-based. This guy is essentially a Harris English clone who’s probably gonna be a well-known name sooner than later. Prime candidate for the PR Open incubator!
Jamie Lovemark (80/1) – Finished top-25 here in ’11 and ’12 before heading back yonder to Web.com in ’13. By all accounts his game has matured over the last two years, as evidenced by his audubon certification on the web.com LY (4 top-ten’s and a victory in KC, proved he can go low) and 5/7 made cuts on the big circuit so far this year including a super solid 69-68 start at Honda LW (though without much to show for it). He’s ready to pop.
Brice Garnett (80/1) – Has made eight of nine cuts on Tour this year, though just one top-25 to show for it. Perhaps this is the week he makes a strong weekend push.
Max Homa (125/1) – People can’t stop raving about his talent. He’s another prime choice for the PR incubator. Has played five PGA events this year, missing his last three cuts at the Farmers, Pebble, and Northern Trust, but did have a T9 earlier at the Frys.com and a T30 at the Shriners. Hopefully he can channel that silly season mojo and make a run this week.
Tommy Gainey (150/1) – Finished T21 here in ’09 and T39 here in ’08. Hasn’t played since. Shot a first-round 66 last week at the Honda before flaming out with a Friday 76. Isn’t having a good year this year, but can make birdies in boatloads, which is useful at an event like this.
(Note: Alex Cejka would’ve garnered mention here, but alas he’s 40/1. Love his form right now, but really? 40/1!?!? Seems a bit excessive).
Trigo Reserva Añeja, tasty PR rum!
It ain’t a game: just buy some good Puerto Rican rum, pour a stiff one and just chill out. It’s time for winter to be over.
Fresh out of the oven: #HotGolfTakes
- Michael Bradley will be making his first PGA Tour start of 2014 in PR. Why is this interesting? The 47 year-old is the Godfather of the PR Open, having won this thing twice (2009 & 2011) so far in its six-year history. As we said above, though, the goal is to never have to come back to Puerto Rico after winning, so being a two-time champ is a double-edged sword in that winning twice is amazing, but it didn’t prove enough to escape JV events. In fact, Mike Bradley is a pretty fascinating guy. Get this–spanning 169 PGA starts over 13 seasons from 2001 through 2013, Bradley has a grand total of 2 top-10 finishes, both being the aforementioned wins at the Puerto Rico Open! Freaking incredible!!!!
Here’s two reasons why Mike Bradley keeps banking PR Opens…
- By the way, Bradley is 100/1 to win this week. For reference, the chance of lighting striking the same spot three times is roughly 1 trillion-to-one. In other words, not the best value.
- The Puerto Rico Open would seem the perfect jumping-off point for Finchy to move some of those kilos from the NEC LatinoAmerica Series into the lower 48, or at least launder some of that dirty money. But seriously, wouldn’t it make sense to tie this into the whole Web.Com Latin American swing somehow? Maybe scoot this back a few weeks and do it as a half PGA event and then let the top twenty or so from the NEC L.A. Series into the fold?
- When I think of Puerto Rico I think of three things: baseball, fiery women, (seriously, can’t think of one Puerto Rican chick I’ve ever met who wasn’t craycray), and rum.
- I’m doubting this’ll get mentioned on the telecast, but Puerto Rico is on the verge of a major bond issuance (reportedly in the neighborhood of $3.5 billion). Unfortunately, due to the weak economy hinted at above, as well as a persistent knack of not being completely transparent about its weak financial situation and health, PR’s credit rating currently sits at junk status and yields on existing 10-year bonds are soaring. FUN!
- According to the Puerto Rican Tourism Company in a 2012 article in Caribbean Business, this tournament contributes about $5 million in direct economic impact to the island, with another $22 million in indirect economic activity (trickle-down, y’all). That’s if, of course, you actually suspend reality and allow yourself to believe these usually hilariously unscientific economic impact studies. Regardless, it’s something I guess. If only there was a way to play about a thousand events down here every year…
- Apropos of nothing really, but I’m extremely pumped up for the Valspar Championship up in Tampa next week. The Copperhead Course at Innisbrook is a pure ballstriking litmus test. One of the best second third tier events of the year, no doubt.