The PGA returns to Vidanta Vallarta for only its second year. With only 2022 strokes gained data available, it’s a bit of a risk assuming that last year’s outcomes will be similar this time around. Last year’s leaderboard included nine of the top 15 players who ranked top 10 off the tee. Rolling with the same data point, there is one full tournament head-to-head matchup to wager this week for the Mexico Open. Record: 7-2-1 after losing in back-to-back weeks.
Nicolai Højgaard (-130) vs. Alex Noren
I’ve been high on the Dane and this week is no different, as he made it as one of my top 20 options as well. I had the opportunity to watch him live at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio, and I liked what I saw. With mostly a Euro tour background, Højgaard is one of the more solid players off the tee. As mentioned, Vidanta Vallarta, at least last year, awarded such a play. Højgaard has such a smooth swing. While he lacks accuracy, Vidanta has huge landing areas, so distance matters more than accuracy. This will be only his sixth PGA event since last July. However, looking at his cumulative data, he’s made significant jumps in both his ball-striking and short game. Højgaard did finish solo second in Corales Puntacana, gaining 14 total strokes, and after watching him live, I know the ability is there.
Noren is considered more of a short-game specialist. The Swedish pro has lost strokes off the tee in eight straight tournaments, contributing to four missed cuts during that span. Neither player has been to Vidanta, making this head-to-head matchup fair game. It’s always a risk fading a player who can knock in birdies, but I’ll back the better ball striker in Højgaard. The course layout is better suited for his skill set.