After a rare week off on the PGA Tour, we move this week to Mexico and the Riviera Maya to be precise. El Camaleon has featured on the PGA Tour since 2007 and the 2019 renewal yet again sees an impressive $7.2 million prize fund to attract a strong enough field. This event has certainly raised itself a notch or three since its move to a standalone date as part of the wraparound season and 2019 sees Jason Day, Tony Finau, Matt Kuchar, Billy Horschel, Chez Reavie, Kevin Kisner, Abraham Ancer and Keegan Bradley from the OWGR top 50.
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Course Guide: El Camaleon at Mayakoba Resort is a sub-7,000 yard, 36/35 format Par 71 track in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The course runs through dense tropical jungle, mangrove forests and oceanfront so players who miss fairways can be in serious trouble. Green sizes are large at an average of 7,000 sq.ft. The course features some intense bunkering and the green complexes are Sea Isle Paspalum – these are similar to both those played at Coco Beach Golf and Country Club (Puerto Rico Open) and the Corales Golf Club (Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship). Paspalum green complexes also featured at TPC Kuala Lumpur for the CIMB Classic held between 2013 and 2017.
El Camaleon GC, Playa Del Carmon, Mexico: Designer: Greg Norman, 2006; Course Type: Coastal, Resort; Par: 71; Length: 6,987 yards; Water Hazards: A series of canals run through entire property, bordering the majority of holes; Fairways: Sea Isle 1 Paspalum; Rough: Sea Isle 1 Paspalum, 2″; Greens: 7,000 sq.ft average Sea Isle 1 Paspalum; Stimpmeter: 11ft. Course Scoring Average 2012: 71.65 (+0.65), Difficulty Rank 17 of 49 courses. 2013: 70.02 (-0.98), Difficulty Rank 39 of 43 courses. 2014: 69.95 (-1.05), Difficulty Rank 38 of 52. 2015: 70.02 (-0.98),Difficulty Rank 35 of 50. 2016: 69.61 (-1.39), Difficulty Rank 41 of 50 courses. 2017: 70.32 (-0.67), Difficultly Rank 33 of 51 courses. 2018: 69.25 (-1.75), Difficulty Rank 39 of 49 courses.
Course Designer Links: For research purposes other Greg Norman designs include:
- TPC San Antonio – 2009 – 2019 Valero Texas Open
- TPC at Sugarloaf – 1997 – 2008 AT&T Classic
- Earth Course – DP World Tour Championship (European Tour)
Overview: El Camaleon has been transformed in recent years from a technical scoring course to a set-up where low scoring has become the norm. Maybe this change has been as a result of the move in the PGA Tour schedule from February to November, but in reality this Greg Norman design plays pretty much as easily as conditions dictate.
2013 saw Harris English take advantage of incredibly soft conditions and virtually no rough to shoot a (then) tournament record -21/263 with the course playing an average of 1.5 strokes per round easier than 2012.
2014 saw Charley Hoffman tame a course that played faster and firmer across the opening 36 holes. However wind and rain across Saturday’s play softened the track allowing the Nevada man to shoot an excellent final 36 hole total of -9/133 to win by a single shot from ball-striker Shawn Stefani.
2015 saw G-Mac shoot an impressive 28 birdies (38% Birdie Conversion) on a very soft course. In the process Graeme claimed his first PGA Tour title for over 2 years, beating Jason Bohn and Russell Knox in a playoff.
No discernable wind and graduated rough saw Pat Perez take the course apart in 2016 where he equalled English’s tournament best -21/ 263 winning score and beat Gary Woodland by 2 shots and late charging course specialist Russell Knox by 3 shots.
Despite significant wind across the weekend in 2017, Patton Kizzire still defeated Rickie Fowler with a -19/265 total to capture his maiden PGA Tour title. And 2018 victor Matt Kuchar took advantage of low winds and fast fairway conditions (greens here are always watered), to shoot a tournament record -22/262 last year.
This 36/35 set-up always plays easier on the outward nine which features 2 of the 3 par-5s – indeed the 3rd through to the 8th holes all played under par 12 months ago. Conversely the closing stretch from the 14th onwards tests the mettle of the leaders come Sunday.
El Camaleon is a short set-up where ball-striking has been critical across November renewals of this tournament. With a north-east breeze and two sets of short par-4s and par-5s in play, El Camaleon never features in the longest driving distance charts. Instead consistent driving and approach play is rewarded with scoring opportunities on green complexes that are soft, slow and ranked amongst the easiest on Tour for Putting Average across 2013-2018.
The course was within the top-8 for Par Breaker percentage over recent renewals and with three of the par-3s measuring 116 yards (4th), 151 yards (8th) and 155 yards (15th) respectively, they have been the easiest set of par-3s on Tour across the last 4 PGA Tour seasons. Indeed it’s not often that you see winners like English, McDowell, Perez, Kizzire and Kuchar, shoot -9, -5, -4, -4 and -4 respectively across the par-3s on their way to collecting the trophy.
2016 saw longer rough – up to 2″ and the introduction of 1″ intermediate rough surrounding fairways, which only aided scoring. With a softer course than 2018 and light breezes forecast, there’s no reason to suggest this won’t be a birdie-fest again this week, with Matt Kuchar’s scoring tournament scoring record seriously under threat.
Winners: 2018: Matt Kuchar (-22); 2017: Patton Kizzire (-19); 2016: Pat Perez (-21); 2015: Graeme McDowell (-18); 2014: Charley Hoffman (-17); 2013: Harris English (-21); 2012: John Huh (-13); 2011: Johnson Wagner (-17); 2010: Cameron Beckman (-15).
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 Charles Howell III, Jason Day, Keegan Bradley, Danny Lee, Scott Piercy, Graeme McDowell, Russell Knox, Billy Horschel, Tony Finau, and Pat Perez.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 8-tournament window that stretches back to the BMW PGA Championship and Sanderson Farms Championship, across both 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) Brian Stuard / Brendon Todd; 3) Ryan Armour; 4) Chez Reavie; 5) Brice Garnett / Doc Redman; 7) Emiliano Grillo / Kevin Kisner / Andrew Landry / Vaughn Taylor; 11) Viktor Hovland / Nick Taylor; 13) Russell Henley / Billy Horschel; 15) Fabian Gomez; 16) Jason Dufner / Jim Herman / Russell Knox; 19) Tyler Duncan / Satoshi Kodaira.
- Greens in Regulation: 1) Harris English; 2) Emiliano Grillo; 3) Denny McCarthy; 4) Pat Perez; 5) David Hearn; 6) Bo Hoag / Billy Horschel; 8) Tyler Duncan / C.T. Pan; 10) Henrik Norlander / Doc Redman; 12) Brice Garnett / Viktor Hovland; 14) Charles Howell III; 15) Xinjun Zhang; 16) Brian Stuard; 17) Zach Johnson / Martin Laird; 19) Joaquin Niemann; 20) Russell Knox / Nick Watney.
- Top 20 Scrambling: 1) Kramer Hickok; 2) Lanto Griffin; 3) Brian Gay / Zach Johnson; 5) Brian Harman / Adam Schenk; 7) Carlos Ortiz; 8) Abraham Ancer; 9) Roberto Diaz; 10) Billy Horschel; 11) Tony Finau; 12) Jason Day; 13) Fabian Gomez; 14) Harris English / Harold Varner III; 16) Scott Stallings / Brendan Steele; 18) Dylan Frittelli / Russell Knox / Danny Lee.
- Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Maverick McNealy; 2) Beau Hossler / Viktor Hovland; 4) Jason Day; 5) Sebastian Munoz / Harold Varner III; 7) Billy Horschel; 8) Harry Higgs; 9) Peter Malnati / Nick Watney; 11) J.T. Poston; 12) Russell Knox; 13) Lanto Griffin / Rory Sabbatini / Vaughn Taylor; 16) John Huh / Kristoffer Ventura; 18) Adam Long; 19) Tony Finau / Brian Gay.
Winners & Prices: 2018: Kuchar 60/1; 2017: Kizzire 70/1; 2016: Perez 125/1; 2015: McDowell 33/1; 2014: Hoffman 60/1; 2013: English 25/1; 2012: Huh 35/1; 2011: Wagner 150/1; 2010: Beckman 100/1. Past 6 Renewals Average: 62/1. Average: 73/1.
- 2018: Thursday: Partly cloudy. High of 85. Wind E 6-12 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy. High of 86. Wind ENE 5-10 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy. High of 85. Wind ENE 7-14 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy. High of 85. Wind E 7-14 mph.
- 2017: Thursday: Partly cloudy, with spotty afternoon showers. High of 86. Wind NNW 10-15 mph, with gusts to 20 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 84. Wind NNE 7-14 mph, with gusts to 20 mph. Saturday: Due to heavy overnight and morning showers, play did not resume until 1:40 p.m. Sunday: With no re-pairing between rounds, final-round tee times were between 10:40 a.m. and 12:50 p.m. Cloudy, with a high of 85. Wind ENE 7-15 mph, with gusts to 32 mph.
- 2016: Thursday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 85. Wind SNE 8-14 mph. Friday: Mostly sunny, with a high of 86. Wind ESE 10-18 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 86. Wind E 5-10 mph. Sunday: Mostly sunny, with a high of 86. Wind E 8-14 mph.
- 2015: Thursday: Partly cloudy, with afternoon showers. High of 86 degrees. Wind ENE 10-15 mph. Friday. Mostly cloudy, with a high of 84 degrees. Wind E 8-14 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy, with highs in the upper 80s. Wind ENE 10-20 mph. Sunday: Cloudy, with heavy rains off and on throughout the day. High of 86 degrees, with ENE wind at 10-15 mph. Due to darkness, round four was suspended for the day at 5:57 p.m. Monday: The final round was again suspended, due to rain, for 15 minutes, from 7:58 a.m. until 8:13 a.m.
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Playa Del Carmen, Mexico is here. As ever, this tropical part of Mexico has had rain over recent weeks and more precipitation looks highly likely across Monday and Tuesday of tournament week. You can’t rule out periods of wet stuff Wednesday through Friday either, so for me we should expect soft conditions from tee-to-green.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of winners here at El Camaleon since 2011 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
- 2018, Matt Kuchar (-22). 290 yards (28th), 80.4% fairways (3rd), 79.2% greens in regulation (9th), 80.0% scrambling (5th), 1.70 putts per GIR (41st).
- 2017, Patton Kizzire (-19). 289 yards (21st), 62.5% fairways (52nd), 75.0% greens in regulation (7th), 72.2 % scrambling (13th), 1.61 putts per GIR (4th).
- 2016, Pat Perez (-21). 292 yards (19th), 64.3% fairways (49th), 76.4% greens in regulation (11th), 76.5 % scrambling (9th), 1.60 putts per GIR (3rd).
- 2015, Graeme McDowell (-18). 273 yards (56th), 73.2% fairways (16th), 70.8% greens in regulation (30th), 71.4 % scrambling (18th), 1.57 putts per GIR (4th).
- 2014, Charley Hoffman (-17). 295 yards (5th), 64.3% fairways (36th), 77.8% greens in regulation (4th), 68.8 % scrambling (26th), 1.64 putts per GIR (12th).
- 2013, Harris English (-21). 293 yards (10th), 58.9% fairways (61st), 76.4% greens in regulation (10th), 70.6% scrambling (18th), 1.58 putts per GIR (1st).
- 2012, John Huh (-13). 280 yards (44th), 73.2% fairways (8th), 81.9% greens in regulation (1st, 61.5% scrambling (21st), 1.75 putts per GIR (28th).
- 2011, Johnson Wagner (-17). 280 yards (54th), 67.9% fairways (36th), 79.2% greens in regulation (5th), 86.7% scrambling (1st), 1.68 putts per GIR (7th).
Tournament Skill Averages:
Driving Distance: 30th, Driving Accuracy: 33rd, Greens in Regulation: 10th, Scrambling: 14th, Putting Average 13th.
So let’s take a view from players as to how El Camaleon sets up and what skill sets the course favours:
Matt Kuchar: “ I’m pleased with my game. I felt like I played really well last week in Vegas, but just struggled to get the ball in the hole, struggled to execute on a few occasions. My couple practice rounds Tuesday, Wednesday felt really good, driving the ball well, which is really critical here. If you’re not driving it well, this course is extremely hard. If you’re driving it well, you can make some birdies, which I was able to do today. The rough is penalizing, of course the hazards, the mangroves, the difficult things you can get into are challenging. But if you drive it well, you have some opportunities to make some birdies, and I drove it well and took advantage of the opportunities when I can.”
Patton Kizzire: “I have been playing well recently. I missed a few fairways, but they were controlled misses. For the main, I missed those fairways. I was keeping it on the correct side, trying to give myself angles into the pins. Unfortunately on 18 I thought I hit a good one, but the wind held it in the bunker. I had good misses, that’s the key out here and then taking advantage of the opportunity holes.”
Charley Hoffman: “Usually the last few years I played here it’s been windy, so I’m a little more familiar with the wind than the calm of the first two days, they were very calm and then yesterday, obviously, with the rain and a little bit of wind, and today was, I would say, back to sort of normal weather for here at the golf tournament. To be honest with you, there’s not a ton of leaderboards out there. I knew there was some birdie holes coming in and I wasn’t going to shoot for middle of the greens and let someone else beat me. I wanted to win the golf tournament and I was able to do that.”
Jason Bohn: “I think what I like about this layout, obviously length is always an advantage. But here it’s about positioning yourself in the middle of the fairway or right side of the fairway or trying to attack some of these flags. That’s one of my strengths is just getting the ball in play. If I can get my putter hot, we’ll see what happens.”
John Huh: “Well, I kind of give the example, you know, my ball flies a little higher than a normal player, I mean, average on tour. I proved that that was wrong, but obviously you got to keep your ball on the fairway. If you’re not it’s pretty much you’re in the hazard, so I mean, it’s difficult to play with the wind, but we’re in the PGA Tour, highest on the tour, and I don’t think there is any issue playing this golf course because of the wind. If it blows more than 30 miles, yeah, it is difficult. But if it is just a normal wind, you know, the players are capable to shoot low score.”
Rory Sabbatini: “I just did what this golf course requires. I put the ball in play and played conservative, but when I got opportunities was able to take advantage of them and made some good putts. When I got myself off track, was able to recover nicely. If you can do that on this golf course, it’s definitely the way to do it. It’s a demanding golf course. If you hit the ball well you can score low out here; if you’re not hitting the ball well, you got to figure out a way to keep it in play and get it around the course.”
Path to Victory: Below are the end-of-round positions for the last 8 Mayakoba winners:
- 2018 – Matt Kuchar: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
- 2017 – Patton Kizzire: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
- 2016 – Pat Perez: Round 1: 20th, Round 2: 11th, Round 3: 2nd.
- 2015 – Graeme McDowell: Round 1: 10th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 3rd.
- 2014 – Charley Hoffman: Round 1: 7th, Round 2: 9th, Round 3: 3rd.
- 2013 – Harris English: Round 1: 17th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 2nd.
- 2012 – John Huh: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 8th, Round 3: 13th.
- 2011 – Johnson Wagner: Round 1: 23rd, Round 2: 5th, Round 3: 1st.
Shots From the Lead: Below are the last 8 winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:
- 2018 – Matt Kuchar: Round 1: level, Round 2: 2 ahead, Round 3: 4 ahead.
- 2017 – Patton Kizzire: Round 1: 32 ahead, Round 2: level, Round 3: 1 ahead.
- 2016 – Pat Perez: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 5 back, Round 3: 1 back.
- 2015 – Graeme McDowell: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 1 ahead, Round 3: 3 back.
- 2014 – Charley Hoffman: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 3 back.
- 2013 – Harris English: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: level, Round 3: 1 back.
- 2012 – John Huh: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 7 back.
- 2011 – Johnson Wagner: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 1 ahead.
Incoming form of winners since 2013:
- Matt Kuchar: 57th Shriners/28th Dunhill Links/43rd Dell Tech/60th Northern Trust.
- Patton Kizzire: 4th Shriners/10th Sanderson/MC Safeway /MC Dell Tech.
- Pat Perez: 7th Shriners/33rd CIMB.
- Graeme McDowell: 37th Turkey/24th Hong Kong/30th British Masters/19th Dunhill Links.
- Charley Hoffman: 35th Sanderson/MC McGladrey/MC Shriners/53rd BMW.
- Harris English: 27th McGladrey/7th CIMB/40th Shriners/50th BMW.
First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave (where applicable) and winning score since 2013. For full first round leader stats click here.
- 2018 – Bozzelli, Hickok, Kuchar – 2 AM / 1 PM wave split -7 64 – 250/1, 125/1, 55/1
- 2017 – Kizzire – AM Wave -9/62 – 66/1
- 2016 – Kirk – PM Wave -8/63 – 45/1
- 2015 – Baddeley, Fathauer, Leonard, Stefani – All AM wave -6/65.
- 2014 – Berger, Finau, Garrigus, MacKenzie, Swafford, Wheatcroft – All AM Wave -6/65.
- 2013 – Karlsson – PM Wave -8/63.
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, Harris English, Brian Gay, Brice Garnett, Charley Hoffman, John Huh, Patton Kizzire, Matt Kuchar, D.A. Points, Johnson Wagner.
Ball-strikers litter the top of leaderboards here from the inaugural 2007 tournament onwards, which is hardly a surprise on a design penned by Greg Norman. Since a change to a November slot in the PGA Tour calendar, soft conditions have been the norm here at El Camaleon. In 2013 Harris English and 2014 Charley Hoffman (in the final round) overpowered the course. However stronger winds in 2015 with similar soft conditions allowed wind specialists Russell Knox and Graeme McDowell the freedom to compete with the longer hitters, as well as Jason Bohn who was a 25/1 shot pre-event.
2016 saw Pat Perez, in only his 3rd appearance coming off a 5 month break for a shoulder injury, pocket only his 2nd PGA Tour win of a long career, defeating 54-hole leader Gary Woodland in a tournament blessed by tranquil conditions and a little cut in the turf. 2017 saw Patton Kizzire, who was in one of his hot-streaks, take his maiden PGA Tour title and last year saw Matt Kuchar who ranked 3rd in the embryonic PGA Tour statistics for Ball Striking take his first PGA Tour title for 4 and a half years here with a tournament record .
OWGR is an interesting angle to look at this week as we move inexorably towards the close of 2019. Since the event moved to its November position on the PGA Tour schedule, the tournament has been won by players ranked 68th (English), 90th (Hoffman), 82nd (McDowell), and 40th (Kuchar) in the Official World Golf Rankings. Perez (2017 OWGR 271st) Kizzire (2018 OWGR 236th) wins are a little out of kilter, but their nearest pursuers across both 2016 and 2017 were ranked 54th (Woodland), 19th (Knox), 35th (Piercy), 10th (Fowler) and 45th (Si Woo Kim) in the OWGR. 2015’s playoff where G-Mac triumphed also included Knox (31st) and Bohn (67th). This time of year does traditionally throw up plenty of players who would love to hear the drop of an Augusta invite on their doormat come December, earned via a win here or an OWGR top-50 exemption come close of the year.
My selections are as follows: