The PGA TOUR headed south this week for the 2023 Mexico Open which dates back to 1944 when it was called ‘Abierto Mexicano de Golf‘ and is considered Mexico’s national championship. The Vidanta Vallarta Course is home to the PGA TOUR Mexico Open and was designed by golf legend Greg Norman. The layout winds along the Ameca River, providing views of the Sierra Madre mountains from every hole. Large landing areas off the tee give way to large undulating greens protected by cavernous bunkers, in typical Norman fashion.
The 2023 Mexico Open appears on the PGA TOUR schedule for only the second time as an official FedExCup event, offering 500 FedExCup points to the winner and a $7,700.000 purse. This was a $400,000 increase over last year’s prize money. The winner’s share this year was $1,386.000.
The Mexico Open comes at a point in the schedule where many players take a break. Besides Jon Rahm ranked No. 1, many of the world’s top golfers weren’t in the field. Tony Finau, ranked No. 16, was the only other player in the top 20 on the Official World Golf Rankings. The $7.7 million purse, which is one of the smallest of the Tour’s season, could also have been a contributing factor to the low number of top ranked golfers playing.
There was no doubt that the final round would see both of the top ranked players in this year’s Mexico Open playing in the final threesome. Both Tony Finau -19 (65,64,65) and Jon Rahm -17 (67,68,61) wouldn’t have wanted it any other way but the third member Akshay Bhatia (68,65,63) -17 a PGA non-member who accumulated enough FedExCup points (175.228; No. 150 in 2022) to earn Special Temporary Membership this year just might spoil their party.
With a number of golfers within four shots of the leader, the final round was ripe for an exciting finish with predicted strong winds and fast greens playing a major role in the outcome. Tony Finau -20 started out with a birdie on the 1st hole to extend his lead to three over Rahm and Bhatia.
What looked like a three-man race quickly added Brandon Wu -18 (seeking first PGA win) to the mix moving up to 2nd place tied with Bhatia -18 and 3 behind Finau -21 while Rahm remains at -17 with 5 straight pars after 5 holes. Wu dropped a 45-foot eagle putt on the 6th hole to move to -20 one behind Finau at -21.
When the last group headed to the 10th tee the leaderboard clearly displayed just how challenging breaking away from the pack will be today even for the #1 player in the world. (1) Finau -22, (2) Rahm -19, (3) Bhatia -18 and (3) Brandon Wu -18 (double bogey #10) are holding the top spots after nine holes.
The back nine held a number of surprises as the same course that gave up record breaking low scores yesterday got a little stingy this afternoon as evident by the problems the wind and new pin placements were causing most players. Only Tony Finau -23 seemed to have the situation under control as he continued to extend his lead by 4 after 14 holes.
Tony Finau is the 2023 Mexico Open champion with a final score of -24. This was his 4th win of the 2023 season and puts him in the company of Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, and Max Homa. Along with the winner’s trophy and his $1.386,000 first place winnings he also managed to do it by beating 2nd place finisher Jon Rahm -21 the defending champion, course record holder, and No. 1 number one golfer in the world.
CBS Sports reporter Hailey Hunter asked Tony Finau about battling it out against the current world number one and you came out victorious. How good does it feels? Finau said “Amazing, you said it you know Rambo is the best he’s on top of the world right now I knew I was going to have my hands full with him all the way to the end you know, and I didn’t know this golf tournament was mine until I just saw the screen here it’s crazy how this game is. You never think you have a tournament until it’s over, so it feels great!”
Final results: (1) Tony Finau -24, (2) Jon Rahm -21, (3) Brandon Wu-19, (4) Akshay Bhatia-18, (5) Emiliano Grillo -16, (5) Eric Cole -16.
Next week, the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club will have a loaded field because of its status as a designated event, and two weeks later is the PGA Championship in Rochester, New York, at Oak Hill Country Club.