Jon Rahm was determined to win again in Mexico. He shot 61 in the third round at the Mexico Open to get into the final group and take on Tony Finau for the title. Finau played steadily throughout and Rahm was going to have to shoot another 61 to take him down. Finau was not going to give Rahm any openings and Finau’s bogey free final round was too much for Rahm to overcome. Rahm simply didn’t make the birdie putts on Sunday that could have made the event a lot closer. Akshay Bhatia played his way into the final group with a 63 on Saturday. Bhatia doesn’t have his PGA Tour card but after finishing second at the Puerto Rico Open and this fourth place finish, he could potentially earn his card for the 2024 season. A win is necessary to secure the tour card. Bhatia displayed plenty of game on Sunday but couldn’t cash in with the putter to close the gap with Rahm and Finau. He undoubtedly absorbed quite a bit of experience watching Finau and Rahm duel, while maintaining focus on his own game to finish fourth.
Finau was completely in control of his game. It seemed he made a curious decision on the difficult 10th hole. The 10th is a 491 yard, par 4 and Finau selected his reliable 3 iron and knocked the ball right into the fairway some 50 yards behind his competitors. He proceeded to blast another 3 iron another 240 yards just off the green where he was able to get up and down for a par. You have to have supreme confidence in the accuracy of that type of play, and this decision demonstrates how good these professionals really are. Rahm played well–he voraciously attacked the course with drives off over 320 yards on most of the holes. HIs strategy is to press the issue with competition with his length and iron play and he can be as intimidating to competitors as Tiger Woods. In order to compete with Rahm, you have to play your game and assume Rahm is coming after you. Rahm was unhappy with his result as he played well enough to win but Finau wasn’t going to give him the opportunities to deprive him of the win.
The course at Vidanta Vallarta is a Greg Norman designed layout, which favors the long hitter. Norman designs are generally characterized by length and difficult tee shots. The tournament played at nearly 7,500 yards at par 71. There is water on most of the holes to navigate especially on par 3’s, most of which are over 200 yards. The big advantage goes to the bombers on the tour as there is little rough and the fairway bunkers do not present much of a challenge to the best players in the world. The interesting part of play was the number of 5 irons required to hit these greens from over 200 yards. It’s no wonder that two of the best drivers on tour–Rahm and Finau could go low and dominate the field. The course and the typical leading score of this event reminds me a bit of the Plantation Course in Hawaii for length and little rough. PGA Professionals are not going to be intimidated by the length of the golf course and the recent discussions regarding the ball are relevant for a tournament like this where the long hitters have a substantial advantage with little rough. The bunkers on this course yield a number of easy lies for players of this caliber so scoring is going low–tournaments such as this are won on the putting green and on Sunday, Finau holed a few more than Jon Rahm for a well deserved victory.