About the only thing tougher than picking a golfer to win a PGA Tour tournament is picking a golfer to win a tournament in an off-field event.
That’s the task facing us this week as the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open takes place opposite the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
So while it’s a challenge for us, just imagine the challenge the Tour’s players have in front of them. A good number of players in this event will get just a handful of starts on the PGA Tour in these off-field events.
Most of them take place during the WGC tournaments where just the top 64 players are invited.
But this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational is a full-field event meaning more players will be teeing it up there giving the lower-ranking guys, as well as those on the Korn Ferry Tour, their shot at a big-time payday.
It’s a shot these guys never take lightly. And neither do we. Let’s hunt for a few hidden gems this week.
Odds To Win The Puerto Rico Open (BetMGM)
Matthias Schwab +1800
Mark Hubbard +2000
John Huh +2500
David Lipsky +2800
Joseph Bramlett +2800
Rafa Cabrella-Bello +2800
Kurt Kitayama +3000
Peter Uihlein +3000
As always, shop around the betting market for the best odds for your plays.
Longshots Aren’t Really Longshots Here
Confused? Let us help you out.
The favorites this week–Mattias Schwab at +1800 and Mark Hubbard at +2000–wouldn’t be favorites at a normal PGA Tour event with star-studded names on site. But, as we’ve said, this off-field event is anything but normal.
Just take a look at the last couple of champions: Branden Grace won last year’s event, his second PGA Tour title and first since the 2015-2016 season. And then there’s Viktor Hovland, the 2020 winner who claimed his first Tour title here. Martin Trainer won here in 2020 and, so far, it’s his only title.
This tournament has proven to be a great starting point for up-and-coming talent on the PGA Tour. The oddsmakers think this week’s event will be more of the same.
And, one final bonus: The winner will receive an invite to this year’s Masters. Not a bad incentive to play in an off-field event no matter if you’re an up-and-coming golfer or a veteran trying to get his card back.
Who’s the next winner? We’re about to find out.
Look At Veterans Trying For A Comeback
There are more than a few golfers this week who are looking to get back to greatness or at least relevance.
They are guys who have won in the past but who have slipped way, way down the list of those qualifying for the weekly events and have the odds this week to show just that point.
We’re talking about names you’ve heard of, perhaps just not recently. Guys like Aaron Baddeley at +10000, Luke Donald at +8000, Jason Dufner at +8000, or Camilo Villegas at +6500 are in the field and looking for lightning to strike again. All of them–along with a few others in the field–have won on the PGA Tour but it’s been a few years. An event like this gives them a chance to get back in the action and hopefully the winner’s circle.
Can any of them win? The short answer is that if you’re in the tournament, you’ve got a chance. The longer answer is it’s not likely because of all of the younger talent these days looking to jump into that winner’s circle.
Speaking Of Young Talent
We like former UNLV player Kurt Kitayama at +3000 this week. He’s brand new to the PGA Tour after earning his Tour card with a top-25 finish in the Korn Ferry Tour standings last year.
His start on the PGA Tour had been less than impressive. He opened with a missed cut before a T-45 and T-65 finishes got him somewhat on the right track. He then proceeded to miss five straight cuts before finally hitting his stride last week with a solo third at The Honda Classic.
Will that finish jump-start his year and career? We’re certainly hoping so as being in the hunt last week has to have enhanced his competitive edge.
One other relative unknown to keep an eye on is Schwab, this week’s favorite at a wallet-friendly +1800 at BetMGM and +2000 at DraftKings. Like Kitayama, he earned his PGA Tour card off his top-25 Korn Ferry finish last year. Another similarity is Schwab also had his career-best finish last week at The Honda Classic with a T-7.
Both are looking for their first PGA Tour wins. Eight of the 13 winners at the Puerto Rico Open have been first-time winners. Will this be No. 9?
Oh, and just so we’re all on the same page: Four of the last five PGA Tour event winners have been first-time winners.
One True Longshot Worth A Look
Remember that veteran trying to make a comeback angle? Well, with this week’s event lacking prop bets, we’re going to throw in one more name to keep an eye on.
Granted, Bill Haas at +6000 is definitely a longshot. And his recent performance has been less than impressive to earn him that pricing. He’s been mid-pack when he has made the cut, which is usually a 50-50 proposition.
But he’s coming off a T-25 at The Honda Classic and he’s made three of his last four cuts, so his game seems to be coming around slightly.
He’s ranked down the list at No. 605 in the world and he’s way down the FedEx Cup list at No. 165 for this wraparound season. But winning here against a field that’s not as talent-laden would get him back on track.