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PGA Tour: Puerto Rico Open preview: Promising Sam Stevens an eye-catcher

The PGA Tour stars are in Florida this week for the Arnold Palmer Invitational, but the lesser-lights of the circuit have gathered for the Puerto Rico Open.

Nate Lashley has been handed the status of favourite for the Puerto Rico Open, which just goes to show how weak the line-up is for the Rio Grande gathering.

WhatPuerto Rico Open
Where   Grand Reserve Golf Club, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
When 11:00, Thursday, March 2nd, 2023
OddsNate Lashley 18/1, Andrew Novak 22/1, Scott Piercy 22/1, Akshay Bhatia 22/1, Sam Stevens 22/1,

Lashley is a 40-year-old journeyman who has won only once on the PGA Tour, despite turning professional in 2005. The Nebraskan, who has had to overcome personal tragedies to make it on to the PGA Tour, won the Rocket Mortgage Classic in 2019.

There are two main reasons why Lashley is being shown such market respect. Firstly, he has proved himself at Grand Reserve in the past, finishing eighth in 2019 and seventh last year. Secondly, he found some good form in his last event, sharing 20th place in a high-class Genesis Invitational.

The 18/1 Lashley may tempt plenty of punters, while the 28/1 about Erik van Rooyen might interest those who follow the world rankings. Van Rooyen is the highest-ranked player in the tournament - supposedly the best player - but the South African has a few names ahead of him in the betting.

The reason Van Rooyen is on offer at such juicy odds is because he is terribly out of form. He has missed 11 of his last 15 cuts. Aside from sixth place in The American Express at the end of January, Van Rooyen has been badly struggling.

Form is temporary, though, and class is permanent, so Van Rooyen fans will point to the fact he has won on three different tours – the Sunshine Tour, the DP World Tour and the PGA Tour.

Scott Piercy has won four times on the PGA Tour, so the 22/1 about the Las Vegas man may also catch the eye of punters.

Standard each-way terms of a quarter the odds, the first five places are available for the Puerto Rico Open, while there are also alternative options, including a fifth the odds the first eight places, in the Each Way Extra section.

Puerto Rico Open course details

Grand Reserve Golf Club, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, is a 7,506-yard, par-72, with four par-fives, ten par-fours and four par-threes. 

The Tom Kite-designed layout has hosted the Puerto Rico Open since 2008, with various name changes through the years (Trump International, Coco Beach GC). 

It is a flat layout, with paspalum grass, and birdies are freely available unless the wind blows. Given the weather forecast this week - sunny and warm with gentle breezes for the most part – there is every reason to believe the players will be feasting on birdies. 

Long drivers have been regularly appearing on the Puerto Rico Open honours board recently and attacking powerhouses could be set to make merry over the next four days. 

Seven of the last nine editions of the Puerto Rico Open have been won by a PGA Tour maiden. 

Jhonattan Vegas, who carded a 62 in 2020, is the course-record holder. There are five course winners in this week's field - Derek Lamely, George McNeill, Scott Brown, DA Points and Martin Trainer.

Three to follow

Sam Stevens

Promising youngsters have a serious chance of a PGA Tour breakthrough in this low-grade gathering and Sam Stevens looks like a player going places fast.

Stevens, who is available at 22/1, won on the Latinoamerica Tour in 2021, claiming the silverware in the Colombia Classic, then he proved he was good enough for the Korn Ferry Tour last year. 

This year, with 13th spot in the Farmers Insurance Open, the Wichita lad showed he can mix it on the PGA Tour as well.

Ryan Gerard

The Monday qualifiers on the PGA Tour provide an opportunity to get into events – and Ryan Gerard took full advantage in the Honda Classic last week. After qualifying, he went on to finish fourth in the actual tournament, banking a cheque for more than $400,000.

The 28/1 about Gerard winning the Puerto Rico Open may tempt plenty of punters after his Honda heroics. He was third in a Korn Ferry Tour event prior to the Honda, so has struck a rich vein of form.

Akshay Bhatia

The 22/1 about Akshay Bhatia could also prove popular. The Californian was a star at college, then won on the Korn Ferry Tour last year in The Bahamas. More island joy could be coming.

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