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Justin Rose at 9/2 and Bryson DeChambeau at 14/1 delivered a pair of short-odds winners last week across both Tours. For the record, since we moved into the new season on the PGA Tour, we’ve seen 50/1 (Kevin Tway), 22/1 (Marc Leishman), 10/1 (Brooks Koepka), 66/1 (Xander Schauffele), 66/1 (Cameron Champ) and now 14/1 winners. DeChambeau has now won 5 PGA Tour tiles in 16 months – that already puts him ahead of Rickie Fowler, who until this point sits on 4 PGA Tour victories. Comparative food for thought when we see the weekly odds on offer.
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 2018 renewal yet again sees an impressive $7.2 million prize fund. This event has certainly raised itself a notch or three since its move to a standalone date as part of the wraparound season and 2018 sees Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Tony Finau, Gary Woodland, Kevin Kisner, Billy Horschel and Matt Kuchar from the OWGR top 40.
Over on the European Tour, Paul Williams previews the Nedbank Golf Challenge – you can read his thoughts on that event here.
Paddy Power are attacking this week’s Mayakoba Golf Classic and are offering a record-setting 8 places each-way at 1/5 odds on this 132 man PGA Tour event. If you haven’t already got a Paddy Power account then new customers can access a £/€20 risk-free bet which is refunded in CASH if it loses. 18+, T&Cs apply: Promo code YSKA01 required – use this qualifying link to claim.
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 slightly smaller than TPC Summerlin last week 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 TPC Kuala Lumpur a couple of weeks back. They are also similar to the the greens found at Coco Beach Golf and Country Club (Puerto Rico Open) and the Corales Golf Club (Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship).
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.
Course Designer Links: For research purposes other Greg Norman designs include:
Course 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. And despite significant wind across the weekend last year, Patton Kizzire still defeated Rickie Fowler with a -19/265 total to capture his maiden PGA Tour title.
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 9th 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 relatively soft, slow and ranked amongst the easiest on Tour for Putting Average across 2013-2017. 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 3 PGA Tour seasons. Indeed it’s not often that you see winners like English, McDowell, Perez and Kizzire, shoot -9, -5, -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 typically soft course and light breezes, there’s no reason to suggest this won’t be a birdie-fest again this week.
Winners: 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 | Top 20 Finishes.
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 Rickie Fowler, Gary Woodland, Robert Streb, Tony Finau, Scott Piercy, Bill Haas, Charles Howell III, Pat Perez, Jordan Spieth and Harold Varner III.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 8-tournament window that stretches back to the BMW Championship, Omega European Masters, and DAP Championship includes PGA Tour, European Tour and web.com Playoff 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:
Winners & Prices: 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 5 Renewals Average: 67/1. Average: 75/1. For a full summary of winner’s odds on the PGA Tour since 2010click here.
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Playa Del Carmen, Mexico is here. As ever, this tropical part of Mexico has had plenty of rain over recent weeks so expect cut in the fairways and receptive enough greens. Temperatures up to 30 degrees Celsius will also see the ball travelling some distances. They key here on the Gulf of Mexico is the strength of the wind and 2018 sees very light breezes likely. Birdies again will be the currency.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of winners since 2011 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
Tournament Skill Averages:
So let’s take a view from players as to how El Camaleon sets up and what skill sets the course favours:
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 7 Mayakoba winners:
Incoming form of winners since 2013:
First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2013. Full First Round Leader stats are here.
For the record, here’s the breakdown of Paspalum PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
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.
OWGR is an interesting angle to look at this week as we move inexorably towards the close of 2018. 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), 271st (Perez) and 236th (Kizzire) in the World Rankings. Both Perez and Kizzire wins seem a little out of kilter, but nearest pursuers across both 2016 and 2017 were 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:
There are question marks against many at the top of the market this week. Rickie Fowler is the rightful favourite after a fast finish last week and runner-up position here 12 months ago. Fact is though that Bryson DeChambeau already has more PGA Tour titles than Fowler. Jordan Spieth seems to be using these pre-wedding appearances as an equipment test session. Tony Finau will have his supporters, especially as he won the Puerto Rico Open on Paspalum greens, but his price is well and truly marked. The likes of Gary Woodland and Emiliano Grillo at 20/1 and 25/1 don’t hold much appeal and I was very interested in Billy Horschel at 28/1, but his putter seems to be in a period of decline. That takes me to Aaron Wise who on his last PGA Tour appearance of 2018 may well have his eye on a OWGR top-50 spot. Many a shrewd observer rank Wise as the real deal – a player who along with the likes of Bryson DeChambeau and Cameron Champ may well dominate in the future. What we have learnt in 2018 is that Wise can tackle real tests and tame them. 2nd at Quail Hollow to Jason Day in May was a superb course debut and post his win at the AT&T Byron Nelson, Wise went on to finish 6th at Firestone South, 5th at Ridgewood and 15th at East Lake. Tough golf courses, which often eat inexperienced professionals for breakfast! But naturally the 2018 PGA Tour Rookie of the Season is a level above most. Long and straight off the tee, Aaron was 19th for Ball Striking, 37th for Greens in Regulation, 32nd for Putts per GIR and 12th for Birdie Average in his debut PGA Tour season. Impressive stuff.
Highly fancied for the Shriners Open last week, Wise started slowly(+1/72) on Thursday after no competitive action since the Tour Championship, but 2 straight -5/66s over the weekend shows that all is now well with his game. 27 Birdies last week was the best in the field and it’s often easier to cut out the silly bogeys when moving forward to an El Camaleon test I think he will like on his second visit. I also take a positive from Aaron’s first PGA Tour victory at Trinity Forest. An inland-links type affair which featured wide fairways and large Bermudagrass greens, Wise shot -23/261 to capture the title. He also beat the likes of Marc Leishman (2nd), Branden Grace (3rd), Jimmy Walker (6th) and El Camaleon expert Charles Howell III (9th) into the bargain – all coastal golf experts.
Sam Ryder has made huge waves across 2018 and I think he has an excellent chance to capture his maiden PGA Tour title this week in Mexico. 3rd last week at TPC Summerlin featured rounds of -5/66 (Thursday), -5/66 (Saturday) and a magnificent closing -9/62 highlighting that the talented 28 year-old can go low. That shouldn’t surprise on the basis that we’d already seen the Atlantic Beach, Florida resident shoot -15/283 when finishing 5th at GC Houston, -19/265 when finishing 2nd at TPC Deere Run, -19/269 when finishing 7th at Keene Trace and -14/274 when finishing 4th at Silverado – he’s an undoubted talent. 1st for Ball Striking across last season on the PGA Tour is an accomplishment in itself, beating the likes of Kyle Stanley, Gary Woodland, Francesco Molinari and Justin Rose. In the embryonic 2018/19 season statistics he sits 45th for Ball Striking and 22nd for Putts from 5-15 feet and that warming of the putter has naturally taken his results to the new level we are seeing. Sitting joint top of my 8-week Putting Average tracker highlights that Sam is putting beautifully at the moment and when you tie that in to Stokes Gained Tee to Green numbers of 13th (Silverado) and 3rd (TPC Summerlin), it’s obvious to see how the Floridian is generating his results. Despite no coastal results within his first 13 months on the PGA Tour, there’s enough within his 2 years on the web.com Tour to suggest he’ll love his second visit to El Camaleon. 2016 saw him finish 2nd at the Corales Puntacana Resort in the Dominican Republic – a course and tournament we’re now familiar with on the main Tour – with 2017 also seeing Sam finish 3rd at the Great Abaco Classic in the Bahamas. Naturally both are coastal tests within the tropics and features Paspalum greens. The way Ryder made clutch putts on both 17 and 18 at TPC Summerlin was impressive and I think he has mental fortitude to compete for the win again this week.
A ball-striking test in relatively soft conditions always shouts Scott Piercy to me and the Las Vegas resident arrives off the back of form reading 27 (CIMB), 5 (CJ Cup) and 10 (Shriners). 69-68-68-65 was his story last week as the putter warmed throughout. 1 Eagle and 18 Birdies was a decent enough haul and Piercy only leaked 6 bogeys across the week, where he also ranked 9th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green. His Sunday -6/65 almost grabbed us an each-way place, but yet again the signs are very much there that Scott is very close to a 4th PGA Tour win and El Camaleon has to be high on his hit-list. 20th (2009), 16th (2015) and 4th (2016) here from 5 appearances, it’s interesting to see that Scott ranked in the top-20 for Putts per GIR across all 3 of those outings. 2nd at Waialae in 2015 again highlights that Scott likes a scoreable, coastal course in the tropics and it’s also fascinating to see that Piercy finished 7th (2015) and 10th (2016) on the Paspalum greens at TPC Kuala Lumpur – another course where top-notch ball-striking in sweltering conditions is the remit. An experienced hand here often takes the prize and Scott is undoubtedly on the upward curve right now.
Sung-jae Im is another of the web.com rookies who’s clearly a level above. The regular season Number 1 in the hyper-competitive web.com ranks, Im has taken the jump onto the main Tour in his stride. 4th at the season-opening Safeway Open at Silverado, Sung-jae was a feature throughout after shooting a -6/66 on opening Thursday. He backed that up with a -3/69 (tied 5th in the field) on Saturday when the course was starting to really show its firmness and that placed him in the final Sunday group. He didn’t disgrace himself shooting a -1/71 when the course was at its toughest to deliver a sensational 4th place finish. That was a truly amazing performance in his first PGA Tour outing. Naturally bookmakers and punters got carried away after that, so a couple of short-price disaster appearances were almost inevitable, but last week in Vegas there were once again signs that the South Korean 20 year-old is hitting his straps. 8th for Stokes Gained Off the Tee, 19th for Stokes Gained on Approach and 6th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green were impressive numbers, as was 3rd for Greens in Regulation. Friday and Sunday -5/66s were tied 1st and tied 5th best in the field respectively and save for a pedestrian Thursday the world number 94 would have been in the heat of the battle, eventually finishing 15th. His season at the web.com level also shows what we could be dealing with here: 1st on his web.com debut came at Bahamas Great Exuma Classic on the Greg Norman designed Sandals Emerald Bay Golf Course and he backed that up the week after with 2nd at the Great Abaco Classic. Tropical, coastal golf on Paspalum greens clearly suits.
Robert Streb played some lovely stuff last week at TPC Summerlin to finish in 4th spot – his best finish on the PGA Tour since the Greenbrier Classic in July 2017. His game is in the ascendency and that makes him a dangerous animal this week. A decent ball-striker and birdie-maker when he’s on song, Robert was 14th for Strokes Gained on Approach and 5th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green in Las Vegas. 2 Eagles and 17 Birdies was impressive, as was the fact that he only made 4 bogeys across the week – only Bryson DeChambeau was more watertight. That kind of play is just what the doctor ordered at El Camaleon and a look back at Streb’s earlier career again heightens my interest. A PGA Tour member since 2013, Robert’s best early finishes were on Paspalum in Puerto Rico as he finished 11th (2013) and 14th (2014). Indeed 2014 was when he started to mature quickly to life with the best players in the world. 2nd at TPC New Orleans (-17/281) and 9th at TPC Boston preceded a super showing in the autumn where he finished 31st at Silverado, 9th at TPC Summerlin, 1st on the Georgia coastline at Sea Island and 8th at the CC of Jackson. A PGA Tour winner by the sea, ‘Strebber’ has a half-decent coastal result collection with 8th at Kapalua (2015, -16/276), 10th at the Whistling Straits-hosted PGA Championship (2015) and 9th at Torrey Pines (2017) showing that he’s comfortable with sea salt in his nostrils. He’s also the sort who carries over form when confident – his 2014 win came off a top 10 at TPC Summerlin. An August win at Ohio State GC in the web.com Tour Playoffs has clearly boosted his confidence and there’s no reason why like Perez and Kizzire in the past 2 renewals here, Streb can’t make a sustained attempt at victory this week.
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