This event has been part of the Mexican golfing scene since making its debut back in 1944. It has however been far from a settled affair. Dotting around numerous venues, and tours, the tournament has featured as part of the Tour de las Americas, the European Challenge Tour, the Nationwide Tour, and the PGA Tour Latinoamérica over the course of its lifetime. US player Al Espinosa made the tournament his own in the early years, winning all four editions of the event between 1944 and 1947.
It wasn’t until relatively recently, in 2022, that the tournament appeared on the PGA main tour for the first time – Jon Rahm showing his class that year, but only just when coming home one shot clear of the field.
Now held at the Greg Norman-designed Vidanta Vallarta Course which runs alongside the America River, the tournament takes place in late April/early May, having formerly been a December event. The course’s Paspalum greens are significantly larger than at many other venues but feature tricky undulations and are extremely well protected. Players who are long off the tee and accurate with their approach play tend to fair well.
|2023||Vidanta Vallarta||Tony Finau|
|2022||Vidanta Vallarta||Jon Rahm|
2023: Tony Finau
The 2023 edition of this event at Vallarta was close to a rerun of the 2022 tournament - albeit with a slightly different result. Whereas Tony Finau was the man to finish as runner-up to Jon Rahm 12 months ago, this time it was the world number 1 who played second fiddle, as Finau marched to a sixth PGA Tour success and his fourth in the space of the past 18 months.
Finau started strongly with an opening 65, sitting two shots adrift of first-round leader Austin Smotherman. Bettering his first-round score with a 64 on Friday, the Salt Lake City native moved to the head of affairs moving into the weekend. Defending champion Rahm began with solid rounds of 67 and 68, before roaring into contention on Saturday with a spectacular 61 – setting a new course record at Vallarta.
However, a second 65 of the event was enough to keep Finau two shots clear of Rahm heading into Sunday. Brandon Wu – who finished in a tie for second here last year – was again having an excellent week, sitting just a shot further back in third.
Any hopes the pack had of reeling Finau in were dealt a swift blow, as the 33-year-old birdied three of the first seven holes in the final round. Wu was the biggest early threat - going five under through seven to briefly move into a tie for the lead, only to produce a bogey at eight and a double bogey at 10.
Rahm, meanwhile, was unable to find the fireworks of Saturday – birdieing 6 and 7, but finding himself with three shots to make up over the back nine. Finau then closed the door with birdies at 11 and 14, to ultimately coast home over the final few holes – finishing three clear of Rahm, with Wu two shots further back in a solo third.
An excellent result for Finau, who picked up the $1.36m winner's share of the prize money and moved up to 11th in the Official World Golf Rankings. With this win, Finau joined Scottie Scheffler, Max Homa, and Rahm as the only players to win more than one PGA event in the 2022/23 season up to this point, and posted back-to-back multi-win seasons for the first time in his career.
2022: Jon Rahm
Short odds favourites are not everybody’s cup of tea in any sport and that is probably even more the case in golf, with events typically having fields of around 150. Winning a professional event takes a relentless amount of world class golf and more than a little bit of luck along the way, so there wasn’t much to excite punters about Jon Rahm going off as a 5/1 favourite for the Mexico Open. Apart, of course, from the fact that he has been the best golfer in the world for the vast majority of the last 12 months and the field was, by the high standards of the PGA Tour, relatively weak.
Rahm has had the odd wobble in recent months with his game falling slightly below his extremely impressive levels. He must have, therefore, been concerned about the standard of his play – particularly his putting – when looking to close out the 54 hole lead. Rahm is a tremendous fighter as well as a generational talent though and he was up to the challenge, eventually winning the Mexico Open by one shot from Brandon Wu.
“Stressful” was the word Rahm used to describe his win during his post-round media obligations. Blissful was a more accurate description of the photos that accompanied his win though as he celebrated the win with his pregnant wife Kelly and his young son Kepa. This was Rahm’s first win of the 2021/22 season and his first victory where he led at the end of every round, which augurs well for the big tournaments to come. The PGA Championship starts on the 19th May, with the US Open following less than a month later, so now is a great time for the Spaniard to be rediscovering his best golf.