Steve Bamford Golf Tips

Steve Bamford's Corales Championship Tips 2019

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This is the second Corales Championship, as we saw Brice Garnett win pretty easily here 12 months ago to capture his first ever PGA Tour title. The PGA Tour has signed a 4-year contract with Grupo Puntacana, the owner of the Puntacana Resort & Club, which will see this tournament on the schedule through the 2020/21 season. An alternate event alongside the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, as per all alternate events it offers a $3million prize fund (the same as the prestigious Abu Dhabi and Dubai Desert Classic events on the European Tour) and 300 FedEx Cup points to the winner. However rookies, veterans and PGA Tour journeymen flying into Punta Cana this week all have the opportunity to grab a PGA Tour victory and, more importantly, full playing privileges until the close of 2020/21. It’s a huge prize for plenty of players, but equally a pressure that a large number of the rank-and-file in attendance will struggle to handle mentally if and when they hit the front.

Before we talk the Corales Championship, the number of new visitors to Golf Betting System is increasing in the inevitable build-up to The Masters. Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published Tuesday) our Golf Betting Show on YouTube and our hugely popular private group on Facebook – you can Join Here. Masters lovers will also enjoy our Ante-post Masters Podcast.

Corales Championship – Featured Bookmaker: boylesports

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Course Guide: We’re starting to get accustomed to the Corales Golf Club which has played host to a couple of web.com events and its first PGA Tour event 12 months ago.  Set by the coast, it plays to a long 7,668 yards and is a Par 72, but with temperatures pushing 30 degrees Celsius each day the ball travels a mile in these parts. As part of the Puntacana Resort, the course is not the most difficult even at web.com Tour level, so expect plenty of attacking play this week. The inland front-9 is where the heavy scoring happens, with the back-9 featuring plenty of coast-lined holes and some long par-3s, par-4s and par-5s.

Corales Golf Club, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic: Designer: Tom Fazio 2010; Course Type: Resort, Coastal; Par: 72; Length: 7,668 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 4; Fairways: Supreme Paspalum; Rough: Supreme Paspalum 2″; Greens: Supreme Paspalum; Tournament Stimp: 11ft; web.com Course Scoring Average 2016: 69.67 (-2.33), Difficulty Rank 25 of 26 courses. 2017: 70.34 (-1.66), Difficulty Rank 22 of 28 courses. PGA Tour Scoring Average 2018: 71.50 (-0.50), Difficulty Rank 26 of 51 courses.

Course Designer Links: For research purposes, other Tom Fazio designs include:

  • Atunyote GC – Turning Stone Championship 2007-10
  • Eagle Point – Wells Fargo Championship 2017
  • Raptor Course Greyhawk GC – Fry’s.com Open 2008/09

Fazio has also had re-design input into:

  • Conway Farms GC- BMW Championship 2013, 2015 & 2017.
  • Seaside Course at Sea Island – RSM Classic
  • Quail Hollow – Wells Fargo Championship to 2016 + 2018 & 2017 PGA Championship.
  • Riviera Country Club – Genesis Open 2009 onwards.

Course Overview: The Corales course opened in 2010 and is a Tom Fazio design. A little like El Camaleon which hosts the Mayakoba Golf Classic in the autumn, the Corales is split between inland and coastal sections. Away from the shore, the course features a number of water hazards and fairways marked with coconut trees, but, in the main, the inland section is more than scoreable. 6 holes play along the coast, including the home stretch across holes 16 to 18, known as the ‘Devil’s Elbow’. From a grass perspective, this week we’re dealing with Paspalum greens, so for PGA Tour stop-offs think again about El Camaleon, Coco Beach G&CC, host of the Puerto Rico Open, and TPC Kuala Lumpur which had Paspalum green complexes for CIMB Classics between 2013 – 2017.

As part of the Corales Puntacana Resort complex, the course is clearly designed around the needs of amateur golfers, so this isn’t intrinsically a hard test. The outbound set of 9 holes is where some serious scoring is essential. With the longest par-4 measuring 465 yards and 2 par-5s which only measure 563 yards (4th) and 515 yards (7th), the front side of the golf course is there for the taking. Indeed it has averaged 1.50 (2016), 1.66 (2017) and 1.09 (2018) shots below par across the 2 web.com renewals and the first PGA Tour tournaments hosted here. The inward-9 is more stringent with both par-5s playing over 600 yards and the closing Devils Elbow putting up far sterner resistance. 2018 saw the back nine play 0.59 over par.

As with all coastal golf, winning scores tend to be dictated by wind. web.com renewals here were won by Dominic Bozzelli (2016) at -20/268 and Nate Lashley (2017) at -24/264. Tough weekend 15-25 mph winds last year took their toll on scoring with -18/270 being Garnett’s winning total and he won by a chunky 4 shots. The par-3, par-4, par-5 splits over the 3 renewals have been -2, -9, -13 for Bozzelli; -5, -8, -7 for Lashley; and -4, -4, -10 for Garnett. Undoubtedly the 16 looks at the longest holes tends to be the key here.

Winners: 2018: Brice Garnett (-18). web.com Winners: 2017: Nate Lashley (-20); 2016: Dominic Bozzelli (-24).

Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Course Form | First Round Leader | Top 20 Finishes | Combined Stats.

Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Jhonattan Vegas, Matt Every, Davis Love III, Denny McCarthy, Sungjae Im, D.J. Trahan, Fabian Gomez, Adam Schenk and Shawn Stefani.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Waste Management Phoenix Open and Saudi International, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Tyrone Van Aswegen; 2) Tyler Duncan / Fabian Gomez; 4) David Hearn / Brady Schnell / Ben Silverman; 7) Davis Love III; 8) Brian Stuard; 9) Kyle Jones / Andres Romero; 11) Brian Davis; 12) Kramer Hickok / Hunter Mahan; 14) John Senden / Brendon Todd ; 16) Chase Wright; 17) Jim Herman; 18) Alex Cejka; 19) Jonas Blixt; 20) Josh Teater.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Carlos Ortiz / Johnson Wagner; 3) Trey Mullinax; 4) Tyrone Van Aswegen / Jhonattan Vegas; 6) John Senden; 7) Fabian Gomez / Hank Lebioda; 9) J.J. Henry; 10) Shawn Stefani / Sepp Straka; 12) Adam Schenk; 13) K.H. Lee / Joaquin Niemann; 15) Roberto Diaz / David Lingmerth; 17) Tim Herron; 18) D.J. Trahan; 19) Sungjae Im /  Denny McCarthy / Josh Teater / Hudson Swafford.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Seth Reeves; 2) Jonathan Byrd; 3) Chad Campbell; 4) Curtis Luck; 5) Freddie Jacobson; 6) Fabian Gomez; 7) Ben Crane /Parker McLachlin /  D.J. Trahan; 10) Billy Hurley III; 11) Hank Lebioda / Rory Sabbatini; 13) Ricky Barnes / Dominic Bozzelli; 15) Brandon Harkins / Brendon Todd / Cameron Tringale; 18) Jim Herman / Matt Jones / West Roach / Roger Sloan.

Winners & Prices: 2018: Garnett 66/1.

Historical Weather:

  • 2018: Thursday: Partly cloudy and humid with a high of 84. Wind ESE 8-14 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy and humid with a high of 84. Wind ESE 8-14 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy with a high of 83. Wind NE wind 15-20. Sunday: Cloudy with scattered showers. High of 82. Wind NE 15-20 mph, with gusts of 25 mph.
  • 2017: Thursday: Light rain shower early AM. Dry rest of day. High of 85. Winds out of the E-E/SE 8-16 mph with 0.05 inches of rain. Friday: Dry. High of 85. Winds coming out of the E/SE 7-14 mph. Saturday: Dry. High of 84. Winds coming out of the E-SE 7-15 mph. Sunday: Very light rain shower AM. Dry rest of day. High of 85 with winds coming out of the ESE-SE 7-15 mph.
  • 2016: Thursday: Partly cloudy with a high of 85 degrees. Wind WSW 7-12 mph. Friday: Mostly cloudy with a high of 88 degrees. Winds SSW 7-12 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy. Afternoon gave way to scattered showers totalling 0.25” of rainfall. High of 82. Wind SW 10-15. Sunday: Scattered showers in the morning followed by partly cloudy and breezy conditions in the afternoon. High of 80. Wind WNW 10-15.

Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, is here. I’m expecting typical equatorial conditions with temperatures approaching 28 degrees Celsius; with forecasted winds only in double digits on the Thursday, I’m expecting scoring to be lower than we saw here 12 months ago. 40mm of rain fell on Saturday and with the possibility of showers across the tournament, I’m expecting pretty much ideal conditions for this.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of Brice Garnett’s victory here 12 months ago gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this:

  • 2018, Brice Garnett (-18). 288 yards (51st), 80.4% fairways (20th), 66.7% greens in regulation (24th), 75.0 % scrambling (15th), 1.54 putts per GIR (1st).

Let’s take a view from players as to how the course sets up and what skill sets the course favours:

Brice Garnett: “I think last year I just kind of approached the golf course wrong. Everybody’s kind of in play off the tee box. I kind of got out of my element, out of my game. To me, this is a second-shot golf course. Everybody’s in play off the tee and it comes down to a putting competition. I would say one of my best aspects of my game is probably my tee ball. I wouldn’t say this helps me tremendously, but there’s a lot of tee balls with the wind off the right and that’s what I prefer. Today I was able to hit a lot of fairways and get good looks from there.

Well, I think last year I was focused too much on bombing the driver. That’s just not my game. My game is put it in the fairway and try to take advantage from there. So this year my wedges have been great. I’ve played the par 5s great, and I’ve putted good, too. So I’ll just kind of stick more to my game plan and not let the width of the fairways or the length kind of deter me from my game.”

Keith Mitchell: “I played it two years ago and I’ve played enough on Paspalum that I know that when you’re putting on Paspalum, if there’s ever any doubt, it’s usually straighter than you think and usually hit it a little firmer than you think. But no, it was both. The wind, it all depended on where you were when the wind and the rain picked up to determine if it was – your luck on that hole. 15 was the hardest hole and we played it right into the wind..

Jonathan Byrd: ” It was a solid day. It’s kind of, it’s one of those courses that I think if you’re disciplined on your second shots, that you can have a fairly solid day because there’s plenty of room off the tee. But I really drove the ball pretty well. I didn’t feel quite as great about my swing today, I felt a little out of rhythm, but I kept hitting some pretty good tee shots. I really only hit about two bad shots today, maybe just one on a par 5 and I still made birdie. It was a clean day and I made some good putts and hit some good pitch shots on the par 5s. Yeah, I just feel I’ve got to take advantage of every day. You’ve just got to stay aggressive on this golf course. If you get a little passive, you’ll make a lot of pars, but you’ve got to be intent on making some birdies because guys are going to shoot low scores.”

Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the 3 winners here at Corales:

  • 2018 – Brice Garnett: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2017 – Nate Lashley: Round 1: 53rd, Round 2: 8th, Round 3: 5th.
  • 2016 – Dominic Bozzelli: Round 1: 45th, Round 2: 5th, Round 3: 1st.

Shots From the Lead: Below are the last 3 winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

  • 2018 – Brice Garnett: Round 1: 1 ahead, Round 2: 1 ahead, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2017 – Nate Lashley: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 5  back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2016 – Dominic Bozzelli: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: level.

Incoming form of winners:

  • Brice Garnett: 12th Mexico/49th Riviera/8th Pebble/9th Abu Dhabi.

First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.

  • 2018 – Garnett AM -9/63 – 60/1

For the record, here’s the breakdown of Paspalum PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

  • 1 – Alex Cejka, Harris English, Brice Garnett, Graeme McDowell, George McNeill, D.A. Points, Johnson Wagner.

Recent alternate PGA Tour tournament winners and odds since the new style wrap-around PGA Tour season was put in place can be seen here: Trainer (125/1), Champ (66/1), Merritt (55/1), Putnam (28/1), Garnett (66/1), Armour (100/1), Stroud (80/1), Murray (66/1), Points (175/1), Gribble (125/1), Baddeley (55/1), Chalmers (300/1), Finau (50/1), Piercy (25/1), Henry (80/1), Cejka (125/1), Ogilvy (40/1) and Hadley (50/1). Chesson Hadley was the highest ranked of these in 2014 when he won the Puerto Rico Open at 92nd in the OWGR.

Since 2010, only Andrew Putnam (28/1) at the 2018 Barracuda Championship, Cody Gribble (125/1) at the 2016 Sanderson Farms Championship and Scott Brown (50/1) at the 2013 Puerto Rico Open have won one of these alternate events after entering the tournament off the back of a top-10 finish. So selecting a player based purely on strong immediate form has not been the differentiator across the vast majority of the events. That philosophy links in well to the psyche of players who enter these second tier tournaments knowing they can win – a pressure that they generally aren’t comfortable with.

Year 2 at Corales offers up a little more clues on what we’re potentially looking for this week. Both Brice Garnett and runner-up Keith Mitchell ranked in the top 25 for par-5 Birdie or Better Conversion arriving in the Dominican Republic. Profiting on the 16 looks at the longest holes is an excellent recipe for success around this pretty stock Par 72. Described as a second shot golf course, a player who can find plenty of greens consistently has to be a key element this week, so I’m using my 8-week Greens in Regulation tracker as a basis for those who are confident with their fairway metals and irons arriving at the Corales.

My selections are as follows:

Joel Dahmen 1.5pt EW 40/1 (7ew, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Joel Dahmen is undoubtedly on an upward trajectory and has a lot of things going for him this week. Unlike many in the field, he’s played here at Corales twice finishing 11th here in 2016 in the web.com event and 13th here last year. With a Corales Average Score of 68.83 per round, he sits 7th in that category and on a course where scoring on the par-5s is critical, he shot -13 on them back here in 2016, which was T1 across the field, level with the likes of Dominic Bozzelli and Blake Adams who finished 1st and T2. That ability to score heavily on the par-5s is something that really jumps off the page with Joel, who’s based in Scottsdale, Arizona. In the top 10 for par-5 scoring across the Sony Open, Farmers Insurance Open and top 20 at The Players, Dahmen sits 8th for par-5 Birdie or Better Conversion in this field.

It’s also worth remembering that the 31 year-old can also shoot some resort-level scoring totals. His runner-up finish at the John Deere Classic last July came at -19/265 which he backed up with a further 1 Eagle and 20 Birdies and 24 Birdies in consecutive weeks across the Barbasol and RBC Canadian Open, events where he finished 15th and 8th respectively. 12th at The Players a fortnight ago was undoubtedly his best career finish to date and buoyed by that he started like a train at Copperhead last week, shooting a -5/66 to jointly lead with Sepp Straka after Round 1. 30th at the close, a technical test around Copperhead, for me, is not Dahmen’s best suit; instead, I think he will look forward to returning to the Dominican Republic and a course he knows he can play very well around. RESULT T12

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Johnson Wagner 1pt EW 66/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

Brice Garnett won this 12 months ago at 66/1 and a cursory look at his results CV on the main Tour highlights 6th (2014), 7th (2015) and 5th (2018) at El Camaleon – home of the Mayakoba Golf Classic. 7th (2014) at the GC of Houston and 9th (2015) at the CC of Jackson are Garnett’s other top 10 finishes on the PGA Tour across 116 tournaments in singles competition. To say that Garnett plays well on Paspalum greens is an understatement, so that angle tied in with results across the aforementioned 3 tracks can’t be a bad way to go, so on this basis Johnson Wagner makes a lot of sense for me in this.

A 3-time PGA Tour winner, the 39 year-old Texan now plays off a 126-150 category exemption meaning that he has to play the low-grade events. 25th at Silverado, 35th at CC of Jackson, 54th at Sea Island and 67th at Waialae were Johnson’s best results coming into the recent Puerto Rico Open where 3 straight rounds of 69 delivered a T2 finish behind Martin Trainer. As we know Coco Beach Resort is a coastal, Par 72, which features Paspalum greens and Wagner also has previous on that score as well: 1st at El Camaleon in 2011, Johnson was also 8th there in 2015. So he clearly putts well on these surfaces and if you add his 2012 Sony Open win at Waialae into the mix, it starts to become clear that he also likes to play well by the coast.

When confident Johnson can shoot the low scores necessary to win this week. His win at Mayakoba came at -17/67, 2nd at the PGA West in 2012 came at -22/268 and 7th, 5th and 5th in 2014, 2015 and 2016 at Deere Run came at -16/268, -18/266 and -15/269. His first win came at the GC of Houston in 2008, where he also finished 2nd in 2015. I’m also the sort who likes players who have delivered in alternate events in the past, so again Wagner’s win at El Camaleon in 2011 makes sense, and since then he’s produced 10th at Reno-Tahoe (2013), 10th at Barbasol (2015), 15th (2015) at the Sanderson Farms and that 2nd in February in Puerto Rico. Tops my 8-week rolling Greens in Regulation tracker. RESULT MC

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Brian Stuard 1pt EW 60/1 (7ew, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Sharing Garnett’s liking for the Mayakoba Classic is Brian Stuard who makes his Corales debut this week. Runner-up at El Camaleon in both 2010 (when an alternate event) and 2013, Floridian Stuard was also 9th there in 2017. An excellent putter and scrambler on both Bermudagrass and Paspalum, Stuard is the sort who pops up at low-grade affairs where scoring is low. 5th at the 2013 Sony Open, 4th at the 2013 Puerto Rico Open, 6th at the 2014 Sony Open, 5th at the 2014 Humana Challenge, 5th at the 2014 Heritage, 1st at the 2016 Zurich Classic of New Orleans, 4th at the 2017 Sanderson Farms Championship, 4th at the 2018 Sony Open, 8th at the 2019 Sony Open. To summarise – loves Bermudagrass and Paspalum, loves coastal golf, loves humid conditions and comes to the party at proper birdie fests.

20th at the Honda Classic and 18th last week at the Valspar Championship at a couple of grind assignments that really aren’t Brian’s bag, the 36 year-old is hitting Greens in Regulation at the moment and was 12th for All-Round at Copperhead. I just get the feeling that he’s ready to pop up at a price and we know from past experience that Stuard will see this week’s alternate event as a huge opportunity to contend and lock-up his playing privileges as early as March for next season. RESULT MC

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D.J. Trahan 1pt EW 80/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

D.J. Trahan is a must-pick for me this week. The 38 year-old is playing very nicely from the limited PGA Tour chances that he has had this season and it’s very nice to get a former Bob Hope Classic winner on side this week at a decent enough price. 18th for SG Off the Tee, 18th for SG on Approach, 16th for par-5 Birdie or Better Conversion, 44th for Proximity to Hole and 24th for Birdie Average highlight a player who is playing some great stuff of late. Trahan averages 301 yards off the tee and the wide fairways here at Corales will be perfect for him. He also sits 18th and 7th across both Greens in Regulation and Putting Average 8-week trackers.

15th at the Barracuda, 7th at the Sanderson Farms, 18th at the AT&T Pebble and 16th at the Puerto Rico Open across his last 6 PGA Tour appearances highlight a player who’s maximising the small number of opportunities he gets to play out of his former winner PGA Tour category right now, and the key to this uptrend is that D.J. has finally beaten his long term back problem and has been working hard on both his game and his temperament.

The co-leader after 36 holes in Puerto Rico, Trahan in interview said, “I just finally realized that the sob story is over, it’s time to start taking responsibility for everything and man up and choose to think and act positively. And it really is, it’s a process, because it’s so easy to be negative. Quite frankly, it is more difficult to be positive. That was a choice I made and it certainly wasn’t an easy one, but it’s been very beneficial for me.” Undoubtedly he’s playing out of the top drawer right now and I’ll be fascinated to see how well he goes on a track where last year he made the cut and finished 60th. That doesn’t sound significant but it was the only pay cheque he banked across an 8 tournament stretch prior to this renaissance. RESULT T10

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Hank Lebioda 1pt EW 100/1 (7ew, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Hank Lebioda could well feature at a decent price this week. 40th for par-5 Birdie or Better Conversion, 44th for Proximity to Hole and 39th for Birdie Average across the PGA Tour season to date are impressive enough numbers for the task ahead this week. To date 29th is his best finish on Tour in his rookie season at Torrey Pines, but he’s undoubtedly becoming more comfortable. His last 8 appearances have produced 6 pay cheques and mid-rounds of 67/68 at Torrey, plus opening rounds of 67 at PGA National and 69 at Copperhead. highlight a player whose confidence is growing.

7th in my 8-week Greens in Regulation tracker and 11th in the 8-week Putting Average tracker to boot, Lebioda is the sort who could really flourish this week if Greens in Regulation prove relatively easy with the wind down. He needs a test where Scrambling is eliminated for high quality ball-strikers and in Corales he may well just find it. 2nd in Honduras and 6th in Costa Rico in 2017 on the Latinoamerica Tour, last year saw Hank finish 9th at the Great Exuma and 4th at the Great Abaco web.com events in the Bahamas – both coastal courses feature Paspalum greens. 2018 also saw Lebioda finish 2nd at the Rex Hospital Open and 4th at the LECOM Health Challenge again, web.com events which tie in quite nicely with previous 2016 winner here Dominic Bozzelli. RESULT T61

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 07:00GMT 26.3.19 but naturally subject to fluctuation.