Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Corales Championship Tips

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Congratulations if you were on board Matt Jones at anything up to 80/1 (888Sport & bet365) at the Honda Classic. He ranked in the top 10 on my 8-week Strokes Gained Current Form tracker, so was clearly playing very well when arriving at PGA National – a course which I have described many times as very specialised and where he’d finished 4th way back in 2008.

I more or less covered the week with a full each-way return on Brendan Steele at 40/1, whilst another one of my selections, Shane Lowry, was T2 entering the back-9 Saturday before disappearing into oblivion. In that strength of field Shane needs to be doing far better!

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It’s easy to overlook these ‘second division’ alternate PGA Tour tournaments and focus on the main event which this week is the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play. However these alternate events are a massive opportunity for both players and punters alike.

This week we move from Florida to the Dominican Republic. This is the fourth ever Corales Championship on the PGA Tour, with Brice Garnett, Graeme McDowell and Hudson Swafford taking the first three renewals. 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 this 2020/21 season. Whether that contact is extended we will wait and see. This week’s tournament is a part PGA Tour event offering up 300 FedEx Cup points, a full 2-year exemption and a $3 million prize fund.

Before we go into the detail surrounding the Corales Championship we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System as we are only 2 weeks from The Masters. Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), the Steve Bamford Golf Channel on YouTube and our hugely popular, 5,800+ strong, private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

Course Guide: We’re starting to get accustomed to the Corales Golf Club which has played host to a couple of Korn Ferry events and now 3 PGA Tour events. 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 Korn Ferry 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 longer 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: 7,670 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 6; Fairways: Supreme Paspalum; Rough: Supreme Paspalum 2″; Greens: Supreme Paspalum; Tournament Stimp: 11ft; 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. 2019: 71.07 (-0.93), Difficulty Rank 30 of 49 courses. 2020: 71.12 (-0.88).

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

  • Atunyote GC – 2007-10 Turning Stone Championship.
  • Conway Farms GC – 2013, 2015, 2017 BMW Championship.
  • Eagle Point – 2017 Wells Fargo Championship
  • Raptor Course Greyhawk GC – 2008/09 Fry’ Open.
  • Shadow Creek Golf Course – 2020 CJ Cup.

Fazio has also had re-design input into:

  • Merion – 2013 U.S. Open.
  • Oakmont – 2016 U.S. Open.
  • Quail Hollow – 2016, 2018, 2019 Wells Fargo Championship & 2017 PGA Championship.
  • Riviera Country Club – Genesis Invitational.
  • Seaside Course at Sea Island – RSM Classic.

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 are dealing with Paspalum greens, so for PGA Tour stop-offs think again about El Camaleon, Grand Reserve Country Club 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 1.09 (2018), 1.07 (2019) and 0.95 (2020) shots below par across the 3 PGA Tour tournaments hosted here. The inward-9 is more stringent with both par-5s playing over 600 yards and the closing Devil’s Elbow putting up far sterner resistance. 2018 saw the back-nine play 0.59 over par, with 2019 at 0.15 and 2020 at 0.07 over par.

As with all coastal golf, winning scores tend to be dictated by wind. renewals here were won by Dominic Bozzelli (2016) at -20/268 and Nate Lashley (2017) at -24/264. Tough weekend 15-25 mph winds in 2018 took their toll on scoring with -18/270 being Garnett’s winning total and he won by a chunky 4 shots. 2019 saw Graeme McDowell again win at -18/270, with 15-20 mph winds on Thursday and light winds from that point onwards. And back in October Hudson Swafford won by a single shot from Tyler McCumber at -18/270 in a week when the wind never gusted over 16mph.

The par-3, par-4, par-5 splits over the 5 renewals have been -2 -9 -13 for Bozzelli, -5 -8 -7 for Lashley, -4 -4 -10 for Garnett, -2 -6 -10 for G-Mac and -2 -4 -12 for Swafford.  Undoubtedly the 16 looks at the longest holes tends to be the key here.

corales championship tips

Winners: 2020: Hudson Swafford (-18); 2019: Graeme McDowell (-18); 2018: Brice Garnett (-18). Korn Ferry Winners: 2017: Nate Lashley (-20); 2016: Dominic Bozzelli (-24).

Lead Score Progression:

  • 2020: Round 1 -7; Round 2 -12; Round 3 -17; Round 4 -18.
  • 2019: Round 1 -6; Round 2 -10; Round 3 -15; Round 4 -18.
  • 2018: Round 1 -9; Round 2 -13; Round 3 -16; Round 4 -18.

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 | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | 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 Pat Perez, Charles Howell III, Emiliano Grillo, Charley Hoffman, Brice Garnett, Justin Suh, Brian Stuard, Kelly Kraft, Aaron Baddeley and Jhonattan Vegas.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Farmers Insurance Open / Dubai Desert Classic, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) J.J. Henry; 2) Paul Barjon; 3) Josh Teater; 4) Roberto Castro / David Lingmerth; 6) Chris Baker / Brice Garnett; 8) Lee Hodges / Ted Purdy; 10) Michael Gellerman; 11) Ryan Blaum / Satoshi Kodaira; 13) Brian Stuard; 14) Tim Wilkinson; 15) Joel Dahmen; 16) Rafa Cabrera-Bello; 17) Carl Pettersson / Greyson Sigg / Justin Suh; 20) Tyler Duncan; 21) Nelson Ledesma / Vaughn Taylor; 23) Wes Roach; 24) Thomas Pieters; 25) Johnson Wagner.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Roger Sloan; 3) Stephan Jaeger; 3) Joseph Bramlett / Josh Teater; 5) Emiliano Grillo; 6) Lee Hodges; 7) Bronson Burgoon; 8) Hank Lebioda; 9) Sam Ryder / Zack Sucher; 11) Ricky Barnes; 12) Paul Barjon; 13) Roberto Castro / Will Gordon; 15) Brandon Wu; 16) Chris Baker; 17) Robert Garrigus / Michael Gellerman / Richard S Johnson / David Lingmerth / Taylor Pendrith; 22) Ryan Blaum / Thomas Pieters; 24) Danny Willett; 25) Charley Hoffman / Justin Suh.
  • Scrambling: 1) Lee Hodges; 2) Taylor Pendrith; 3) Luke Donald / Thomas Pieters; 5) Carl Pettersson; 6) Michael Gellerman / Dicky Pride / Seamus Power; 9) Greg Chalmers; 10) Brendon de Jonge; 11) Adam Schenk; 12) David Lingmerth; 13) Nate Lashley; 14) Satoshi Kodaira; 15) Rafa Cabrera-Bello / Lucas Herbert; 17) Troy Merritt; 18) Roberto Castro / Chris Couch / Danny Willett; 21) Aaron Baddeley / K.J. Choi; 23) J.J. Henry / Peter Uihlein; 25) Tom Lewis / Zach Sucher.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Thomas Pieters; 2) Robby Shelton; 3) Shawn Stefani; 4) George McNeill / Ted Potter Jnr; 6) Tim Wilkinson; 7) Andy Ogletree; 8) Scott Brown / Chase Seiffert / Brian Stuard; 11) Nate Lashley / Peter Uihlein; 13) Patrick Rodgers; 14) Kelly Kraft / Hunter Mahan; 16) Pat Perez; 17) Fabian Gomez / Will Gordon / Stephan Jaeger / Justin Suh; 21) Sepp Straka / 22) Rafa Cabrera-Bello; 23) Josh Teater; 24) Bronson Burgoon; 25) Luke Donald / Lucas Herbert / Charley Hoffman / Vincent Whaley.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Farmers Insurance Open / Dhabi Desert Classic, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Brandon Hagy; 2) Thomas Pieters; 3) Josh Teater / Jhonattan Vegas; 5) Ryan Blaum; 6) Nelson Ledesma; 7) Roberto Castro; 8) Will Gordon; 9) Luke List; 10) Sepp Straka; 11) Emiliano Grillo; 12) Charles Howell III; 13) Rafael Campos / Brice Garnett; 15) Jonathan Byrd / Joel Dahmen / Lucas Herbert / Tom Lewis; 19) Patrick Rodgers / Brandon Wu; 21) Michael Gellerman; 22) Luke List; 23) Danny Willett; 24) Grayson Murray / Roger Sloan.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Josh Teater; 2) Charley Hoffman; 3) Roger Sloan; 4) Ben Taylor; 5) Justin Suh; 6) Kelly Kraft; 7) Fabian Gomez / Sam Ryder; 9) Chesson Hadley / Hank Lebioda; 11) Chris Baker / Tom Lewis; 13) Ted Potter Jnr; 14) Michael Kim; 15) Nate Lashley; 16) Tim Wilkinson; 17) Tyler Duncan; 18) Satoshi  Kodaira; 19) Thomas Pieters / Shawn Stefani; 21) Joseph Bramlett; 22) Danny Willett; 23) Emiliano Grillo; 24) Luke List; 25) Greg Chalmers / Luke Donald / Padraig Harrington.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Johnson Wagner; 2) Zach Sucher; 3) Ben Martin; 4) Brandon Hagy; 5) Sang-moon Bae; 6) J.B. Holmes; 7) Bill Hass; 8) Scott Harrington; 9) Robby Shelton; 10) Nate Lashley; 11) Peter Uihlein / Danny Willett;  13) David Hearn / Ted Potter Jnr; 15) Ben Taylor; 16) Pat Perez / Vaughn Taylor / Tim Wilkinson; 19) Lucas Herbert / Charles Howell III / Seamus Power; 22) Thomas Pieters; 23) Ryan Blaum; 24) Justin Suh; 25) Brian Stuard / Xinjun Zhang.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Thomas Pieters / Josh Teater; 3) Charley Hoffman; 4) Johnson Wagner; 5) Chris Baker / Tom Lewis; 7) Fabian Gomez / Roger Sloan / Danny Willett; 10) Justin Suh; 11) Joseph Bramlett / Luke List; 13) Nelson Ledesma; 14) Bill Haas / Jhonattan Vegas; 16) Emiliano Grillo / Brandon Hagy; 18) Sam Ryder / Ben Taylor; 20) Lucas Herbert; 21) Ryan Blaum / Charles Howell III; 23) Satoshi Kodaira; 24) Sepp Straka; 25) Nate Lashley.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Justin Suh; 2) Thomas Pieters; 3) Peter Uihlein; 4) Shawn Stefani; 5) Brandon Hagy; 6) Lucas Herbert; 7) Will Gordon; 8) Ben Martin; 9) Brice Garnett; 10) Patrick Rodgers; 11) Nate Lashley; 12) Rafa Cabrera-Bello; 13) Scott Brown; 14) Ryan Blaum; 15) Charley Hoffman; 16) Satoshi Kodaira; 17) Rafael Campos; 18) Kristoffer Ventura; 19) Pat Perez; 20) Johnson Wagner; 21) Andy Ogletree; 22) Mark Anderson / Vaughn Taylor; 24) Brian Stuard; 25) Chase Seiffert / Danny Willett.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Thomas Pieters; 2) Justin Suh; 3) Charley Hoffman; 4) Brandon Hagy / Johnson Wagner; 6) Danny Willett; 7) Ryan Blaum / Shawn Stefani; 9) Bill Haas / Lucas Herbert / Nate Lashley / Roger Sloan; 13) Brice Garnett / Luke List; 15) Fabian Gomez / Tom Lewis; 17) Josh Teater; 18) Pat Perez; 19) Satoshi Kodaira; 20) Emiliano Grillo; 21) Ben Martin / Sepp Straka; 23) Will Gordon; 24) Patrick Rodgers; 25) Rafa Cabrera-Bello / Sam Ryder.

Winners & Prices: 2020: Swafford 200/1; 2019: McDowell 40/1; 2018: Garnett 66/1. Overall Average: 102/1. For a full summary of winner’s odds on the PGA Tour since 2010 click here.

Historical Weather:

  • 2020: Thursday: Partly cloudy, with occasional showers. High of 91. Wind ESE at 6-12 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy. High of 91. Wind ENE at 6-12 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy. High of 91. Wind ENE at 6-12 mph, gusting to 16 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy. High of 91. Wind NE at 8-12 mph, gusting to 16 mph
  • 2019: Thursday: Partly cloudy. High of 85. Wind SSE 8-14 mph, with gusts to 20 mph. Friday: Cloudy with isolated showers. High of 85. Wind SE 5-10 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy. High of 83. Wind NE 5-10 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy. High of 83. Wind NE 7-14 mph.
  • 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 30 degrees Celsius, and with forecasted winds only in double digits (barely) on the Friday, I’m expecting scoring to be nice and low. There’s been plenty of rain in the build up, 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 Corales GC winners since 2018 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

  • 2020, Hudson Swafford (-18). 303 yards (12th), 78.6% fairways (14th), 70.8% greens in regulation (25th), 71.4 % scrambling (21st), 1.65 putts per GIR (5th).
  • 2019, Graeme McDowell (-18). 286 yards (53rd), 73.2% fairways (31st), 72.2% greens in regulation (16th), 60.0 % scrambling (47th), 1.52 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 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).

Tournament Skill Averages:

  • Driving Distance: 39th, Driving Accuracy: 22nd, Greens in Regulation: 22nd, Scrambling: 28th, Putting Average 2nd.

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

Hudson Swafford (2020): “I came here two years ago and I actually, I missed the cut but I liked the golf course. It really, really sets up good for me. I was kind of not in a good place when I came here last year, struggling with my game. Got to be a great mid to long iron player here with the par 3s and a lot of long par 4s, so I thought the golf course set up great for me. Yeah, I had been playing good. I wasn’t going to miss it.”

Graeme McDowell: “No, I love the golf course. I think the golf course is really, really good. The front nine is kind of shortish and tricky and the back nine is actually very long. Eighteen (Devil’s Elbow) is a beautiful hole. I played it yesterday and it was kind of downwind and you’re able to bite off a lot of the corner. When I was here last year, we had more of the north wind and you had to go way left and play a long second shot in.  Made a bunch of birdies and it comes to a halt when you’ve got 5-wood into 10 and 5-wood into 11. Listen, happy with that. That was a bit more like it. But like I say, I was very clean today, hit a lot of nice shots, hit a lot of better iron shots. I feel pretty good on these greens. I’ve got a house in the Bahamas and play a lot on this Paspalum type stuff, so I kind of feel like I practice more on this type of stuff. In a funny way that kind of stands me in good stead here as well.”

Brice Garnett: “Yeah, 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 5 winners here at Corales:

  • 2020 – Hudson Swafford: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2019 – Graeme McDowell: Round 1: 81st, Round 2: 7th, Round 3: 1st.
  • 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 5 winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

  • 2020 – Hudson Swafford: Round 1: level, Round 2: 2 ahead, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2019 – Graeme McDowell: Round 1: 7 back, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 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:

  • Hudson Swafford: 56th Silverado/MC Lincoln Land/MC 3M Open/MC Workday.
  • Graeme McDowell: 46th Valspar/54th Arnold Palmer/ MDF Honda/42nd Puerto Rico.
  • Brice Garnett: 31st Valspar/MC Honda/MC Genesis/35th Pebble.

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

  • 2020 – Harrington/McCumber/Straka/Swafford 1AM/3PM -7/65 110/1, 150/1, 50/1, 110/1.
  • 2019 – Dahmen/Dunne/Jones 1AM/2PM -6/66 40/1, 50/1, 45/1.
  • 2018 – Garnett AM -9/63 – 60/1

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

  • 2 – Graeme McDowell, Pat Perez.
  • 1 – Scott Brown, Alex Cejka, Brice Garnett, Chesson Hadley, Charley Hoffman, George McNeill,  Martin Trainer, Johnson Wagner.

Renewal number 4 at Corales offers up a little more detail on what we’re potentially looking for this week. Brice Garnett can only be described as a Paspalum and tropics specialist on the basis that prior to his win here in 2018, he’d finished 6th (2014) and 7th (2015) at El Camaleon – host course of the Mayakoba Classic. You may also remember a few weeks ago Brice finishing 5th at Grand Reserve – host course of the Puerto Rico Open. An understated coastal specialist, Garnett in an understated PGA Tour career had also finished in the top 20 across Pebble Beach and Harbour Town, prior to winning this off a 31st place finish at Copperhead.

2019 saw veteran Graeme McDowell take his 4th PGA Tour title. Now we know with G-Mac that coastal affairs are exactly what he excels at. The 2010 U.S. Open winner at Pebble Beach, McDowell’s wins on the PGA Tour have also come at Harbour Town (2013), Mayakoba (2015) and naturally here. So all 4 victories on the coast. You can also add the 2020 Saudi International to that list, played at Royal Greens G&CC. That course is played around 4 lakes, with a stretch of the course being on the Red Sea. The eagle-eyed amongst you will have also noted that McDowell’s wins in Mexico, the Dominican Republic and Saudi Arabia were all on Paspalum putting surfaces.

And onto 2020 and Hudson Swafford. You’ll have done well to dig him out at 200/1. Injury had ravaged his 2020 with far more MCs than pay cheques, but he arrived in the Dominican Republic off 56th at Silverado. A winner on the Bermudagrass greens of PGA West in 2017, Swafford’s coastal highlights on the PGA Tour had been exclusively at Waialae Country Club where he’d finished 8th (2014), 9th (2016) and 3rd (2019). Prior to winning this, 11 appearances on Paspalum golf courses on the PGA Tour had heralded no better finish than 24th at the 2015 CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur, and Swafford’s previous visit to Corales Golf Club had resulted in a MC.

Described as a second shot golf course, a player who can find plenty of greens consistently has to be a key element this week. Ultimately though it’s a hot putter on these Paspalum greens who wins the coveted 2-year PGA Tour exemption.

Charles Howell III 2pts EW 28/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

Let’s start with Charles Howell III who played fantastically well last time out at TPC Sawgrass. A closing -6/72 when paired with Phil Mickelson must have boosted his confidence no end, as he recorded his best ever finish in 18 appearances on the Stadium Course with 9th. From a Strokes Gained perspective, CHIII was 1st for Off the Tee, 25th for Approach and 3rd for Tee To Green – some performance at a tournament which is undoubtedly the strongest of the year.

But at 104th in the FedEx Cup standings, Charles still has work to do to lock-in his playing privileges for next season. So it’s good to see him adding Corales to his schedule, after all this is a player who over recent seasons has been used to playing WGC events. And I’m certain he will love Corales Golf Club, a course he missed the cut at last September on debut – but that is excusable coming off 30th the week before at the grueling U.S. Open at Winged Foot.

A glance at Howell’s record highlights just how good he is by the coast. 8th (2008) at Kapalua; 4th (2002), 3rd (2005), 2nd (2007), 4th (2009), 5th (2010), 2nd (2012), 3rd (2013), 8th (2014), 8th (2017) and 8th (2019) at Waialae Country Club; 7th (2003), 2nd (2005), 2nd (2007), 9th (2010), 9th (2013), 5th (2015), 2nd (2017) and 6th (2018) at Torrey Pines; 6th (2010), 7th (2012), 9th (2015) and 1st (2018) at Sea Island.

I also love his record at the Mayakoba Golf Classic – another coastal assignment, located on the Mexican Caribbean coast, played on the Paspalum greens at El Camaleon. 20th (2010), 13th (2011), 16th (2012), 6th (2013), 17th (2015), 7th (2016), 4th (2018) and 20th (this season). A winner at 50/1 as recently as November 2018 at the RSM Classic, I like the 41 year-old’s chances this week. RESULT: T28

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Sepp Straka 1.5pts EW 40/1 (7Ew, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Sepp Straka seems a player more at ease on the PGA Tour and he’s also the sort who takes these ‘2nd Division’ tournaments seriously.

2019 saw him finish 3rd at the Barbasol Championship and then 12th at the Barracuda Championship in consecutive July outings. He’s also fared well here in the Dominican Republic with 26th (2019) and 33rd (2020), although those finishes could have been far better. 5th after 54 holes in 2019, he went out in the second last group on Sunday. And back in September he was joint 1st Round Leader after shooting -7/65 on Thursday and was still 14th going into Sunday. Final round +2/74s on Sunday killed his chances of top-10 finishes.

But Sepp is undoubtedly the sort to have on your side on gettable Par 72s. 4th at Keene Trace (2019), 4th at the GC of Houston (2019), plus 4th at PGA West (2020), Sepp undoubtedly likes to take advantage of courses where he gets 16 looks at the par-5s. And at the moment Straka seems to be returning to form. I would never have PGA National down as the kind of course that would favour him and he ground his way to 33rd last week. 11th for Strokes Gained Off the Tee and 15th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green, Sepp is a fantastic iron player who also ranks 41st for Birdie Average this season, which places him behind only Justin Suh and Charley Hoffman in the field this week. RESULT: T9

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Brice Garnett 1pt EW 50/1 (6EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Brice Garnett could do with a good result this week at Corales. He finds himself upwardly mobile in the FedEx Cup standings but at 120th, a top 5 result or better would really help on the basis that when the Tour disappears ‘Up-State’, so do Brice’s results. The winner here of the inaugural PGA Tour event in 2018, Brice has always been the sort who steps up in the tropics. On the Korn Ferry, Garnett was 6th in Brazil in 2013 and 6th in Columbia in 2017.

And whilst he’s been on the main Tour, Garnett always plays his best stuff with the smell of sea-salt in his nostrils. 19th at Pebble Beach (2014), he’s also finished 11th (2015) and 17th (2020) at Harbour Town. But take Brice to the Caribbean Sea and things really lift-off in a big way. His form at El Camaleon in Mexico reads 6th (2014), 7th (2015), 25th (2017), 5th (2018) and 11th (2019). And his last 3 trips to Grand Reserve Country Club have generated 26th (2016), 20th (2020) and 5th 4 weeks ago. I love the grass. It’s what I actually won on in Dominican. I usually play well in Mexico as well. So I like the Paspalum greens, I like the wind.”

Well he will get both again this week at Corales, with warm winds up to 20mph and those Supreme Paspalum greens he thrives on. 25th last week at the Honda Classic was also memorable on the basis he shot -6/64 on Friday to break into the top 10. An eventual 25th was helpful in his quest to capture his PGA Tour card for another year, plus for this week in-mind, Brice encouragingly was positive across all facets of his game. Across the past 8-weeks in this field he ranks 13th for Strokes Gained Off the Tee, 13th for Strokes Gained Putting and 13th for Strokes Gained Current Form. There’s an omen if ever I have seen one! RESULT: T9

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Ted Potter Jnr 1pt EW 100/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

At these alternate events it’s worth looking down the market and I’m having a dabble on 2018 Pebble Beach Pro-Am victor Ted Potter Jnr who has been showing glimpses of a little form recently.

The 2-time PGA Tour winner is a cult figure in professional golfing circles. A 12-time winner on the Hooters Tour and 2-time winner on the Korn Ferry Tour, Ted is most famous for his win Pebble victory where he stared down World Number 1 and Pebble Beach hotshot Dustin Johnson on Sunday. Whilst Johnson in a last group twosome with ‘TPJ’ shot a final round 72, Potter played the best golf of his career with a 69 on a firm golf course to take the title by 3 shots.

Now there’s absolutely no doubt that Ted saves his best work for the United States coast. 3 of his 4 top-10 finishes post-Pebble win have been 7th at Waialae Country Club in 2020, plus 6th and 7th on the Paspalum greens at Grand Reserve Country Club across the last 2 renewals – so 2020 and this year.

With Potter Jnr’s PGA Tour win exemption in the rear-view mirror, he needs to find a stellar result or two from the rest of this season’s schedule – so a blast in the wind around Corales this week should be right up his street. The course rewards great mid-to-long iron play and in Garnett and G-Mac it’s clear that short hitters can be more than competitive.

Across my 8-week skill-set trackers in this field, Ted ranks 4th for Putting Average (Putts per GIR) and 13th for Strokes Gained on Approach. Plus at a tournament where birdies are a commodity, in this field he ranks in the top 10 this season for Birdie Average. So I like his chances this week and if Potter Jnr was to get into contention, he does not tend to disappear come Sunday. RESULT: MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 07:20GMT 23.3.21 but naturally subject to fluctuation.