The Tour’s perennial visit to Mexico offers the same 2-year exemption for the winner as any other PGA tournament and has been a vital stepping stone for a number of touring pros. That 2-year exemption has attracted a reasonable quality of field with the likes of Gay, Baddeley, Vegas, Howell III, Sabbatini, Levin, Kelly and Henry heading up the market….and there-in lies the opportunity for canny punters...
Short-term form goes out of the window when it comes to the Greg Norman designed El Camaleon course. On the Mexican coast close to Cancun, it’s a brute of a test. Conditions were tranquil in 2010 and Beckman triumphed with a -15 total. However El Camaleon’s coastal position means that it is hit by all the elements you’d expect, especially wind. With strong winds forecast throughout the 4 days of play, the course is likely to show it’s teeth and back in 2009 it ranked as the 14th toughest course on Tour. This won’t be a Mexican holiday for those serious about needing to perform.
So what about the favourites? Well these secondary events have a habit of throwing up unexpected winners. Take 2010 Bill Lunde - Turning Stone (175/1), Matt Bettencourt – Renoe-Tahoe (200/1), Derek Lamely – Puerto Rico (110/1) and Cameron Beckman Mayakoba Classic (100/1). The reason? Well the lead tends to be like a hot potato with players not used to winning crumbling as soon as they get to the top of the leaderboard. The favourites who ultimately aren’t used to being in such a lofty position of expectation with the bookies tend to collapse early and take themselves out of contention. The winner tends to come from outside of the final group come Sunday and steal the win without having time to realise their achievement. In 2009, 3 of the 4 secondary tournament winners were previous PGA Tour winners, so you take your choice for 2011.
With wind a huge factor, look for El Camaleon to play into the experienced hands of those whose games are based around accuracy and patience which will be paramount to victory. Course experience is of real benefit, especially with regards to the slow 10 – 10.5 stimp seashore paspalum grassed greens. Those that don’t hit the fairways tend to end up in mangroves or worse as Greg Norman’s diverse layout features ever-changing landscape, which bends through the tropical jungle, dense mangrove and stunning oceanfront stretches of sand. I’m going for a mix of talent who in the main have experience of El Cameleon, allied to decent records on tough Bermuda green courses in windy conditions.
The Florida-domiciled Swede offers some decent value this week and reminds me of Brian Gay prior to his 2008 Mayakoba win (in his 10th season on Tour). “Fast Freddie” is renowned for his short game but of late he is hitting plenty of fairways and greens and that bodes well for El Cameleon. He has course experience although it was a MC (the 3rd of 3 followed by a 5th at PGA National). Current form isn’t spectacular but is consistent and that’s why he’s available at this price. What really appeals is Jacobson’s Bermuda record, especially that in 2010 which included a stunning 2nd at TPC San Antonio where he never buckled, 6th at a wind-swept PGA National and 10th at TPC Sawgrass. Slightly under the radar - so no expectation - could finally see him get into the PGA winners circle for the first time in his 8th season on Tour. RESULT: T19
Let’s get this straight - Campbell is only available at 55s with Bet 365 on the basis of his 3 straight MCs, but as I said in my commentary that shouldn’t bother us this week, especially when Beckman last year won with virtually the same record coming into Mexico. He must be playing terribly right? Well tee to green Campbell is his usual self, hitting fairways then using his great ball striking technique with accurate approach shots. Indeed he sits in the Top 20 on Tour for both Driving Accuracy and proximity to hole. Even his putting isn’t terrible at the moment. Put simply he hasn’t pieced everything together. His 3 PGA Tour victories have all come on Bermuda carpet with the last at Annandale in 2007 being pretty perfect for our purposes this week. With Campbell’s days of Tour exemption well and truly gone, don’t be surprised to see a motivated Texan click this week on a course which he has experience. RESULT: M/C
Boo needs to get back on his trusty Ryder Cup steed and soon! Here is a player more used to Majors and WGC events than the Mayakoba Classic, but like many a professional golfer, the glory days are well and truly over and a World Ranking of 251 is now reality. Fact is though, Weekley loves to play coastal golf - after all he was brought up in the wilds of coastal Florida. So it’s no wonder that windy conditions and Bermuda greens don’t overly worry this 2-time PGA Tour winner. It’s hardly amazing therefore that both of those victories came at the tight coastal venue of Hilton Head on Bermuda/Poa Trivialis carpet. The slow greens this week will suit Boo and his accurate tee to green game is still in decent shape. RESULT: T35
Now I’m thinking 33s is a great price for Toms who is a 4-time Bermuda winner. In fact rewind to the McGladrey Classic in October and Toms was as short as 20/1 where he contended with Heath Slocum around the coastal confines of Sea Island in Georgia. That’s the deal for me as Paddy Power again offer Toms as short as 20s this week so Stan James are offering market leading value that won’t last…… for a player who is due a win on a track where accuracy and experience is key. In 2010 he also finished 11th at Annandale and 2nd at Sedgefield. In 2009 he finished 6th on debut at El Camaleon but also finished 2nd at St Jude and Waialee plus 5th in New Orleans and 9th at The Players. A player of the calibre of Toms who still sits in the World Top 100 has to convert soon and win for the first time since 2006. RESULT: T5
Nick O’Hern 1pt EW 100/1 with Victor Chandler. £25 Free Bet and 'Hole In Won' Offer, click here.
My final 2 points this week are staked on the Perth, Australia raised O’Hern who again is one of those players who pops up on leaderboards more often than not in windy conditions. Now an Orlando resident, O’Hern unsurprisingly performs well on Bermuda carpet and is fighting back from an injury-stricken 2010 where his season ended as early as TPC Sawgrass. His 3 appearances back on Tour in 2011 almost inevitably generated 3 MCs but last time out at Pebble his game started to gel and he finished Top 40. O’Hern is definitely wind positive as 3rd in Houston behind Paul Casey in 2009 indicates and his single visit to Mexico saw a 20th place finish. Don’t be surprised to see his liking for Florida type conditions see a further step in his rehab this week. RESULT: T35
The little known Californian rookie Brian Stuard almost won this at 300/1 last year, with Nationwide grad Chad Collins finishing 4th at 50/1. The Florida rookie Derek Lamely proceeded to conquer in Puerto Rico at 110/1. The Soboba Classic links all these players together as they all finished in the higher echelons of the 2009 Nationwide Tour event in California. Well the winner last year was Steven Bowditch and I’ve got an educated feeling that he will go well around El Camaleon this week. The Aussie who hails from Peregian Beach, Queensland loves to play coastal golf (9th at Pebble a fortnight ago) and Mexico is a happy hunting ground as well. Indeed he finished 6th in the Mexico Open in 2009 where Lamely finished 7th…..you see where I’m heading here. Bowditch also won the Jacobs Creek Open Championship (as part of the Nationwide Tour) in 2005 which was played at the Royal Adelaide Golf Club on the classical links at Seaton. I can see why Stan James are marking Bowditch up at 80s, so well worth a speculative Each Way punt. RESULT: T65
Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 17:30GMT 22.2.11 but naturally subject to fluctuation.