Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Mayakoba Golf Classic Tips 2020

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After a rare week off on the PGA Tour, we move to Mexico this week and the Riviera Maya to be precise. El Camaleon has featured on the PGA Tour since 2007, and the 2020 renewal yet again sees an impressive enough $7.2 million prize fund to attract what I consider to be the strongest ever 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 with Tiger’s World Challenge at Albany scrapped for 2020 we have some interesting players to consider this week. World Number 3 Justin Thomas heads the list with Daniel Berger, Tony Finau, Abraham Ancer, Viktor Hovland, Marc Leishman, Harris English, Gary Woodland and Billy Horschel all playing in Mexico this week from within the OWGR top 40.

After 38 events, we finally reach the last PGA Tour tournament of 2020. Thanks to all readers, listeners of the podcast and watchers of our YouTube content across 2020 – it’s great to have had you on board this year!

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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. 2019: 70.09 (-0.91), Difficulty Rank 21 of 41 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)

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 play-off. 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. 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. And 2019 saw a soft golf course yield birdies galore, as Brendon Todd won at -20/264.

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 predominant northerly 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.

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 5 PGA Tour seasons. Indeed it’s not often that you see winners like English, McDowell, Perez, Kizzire, Kuchar and Leishman shoot -9, -5, -4, -4, -4 and -7 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 soft course likely with rain forecast for Thursday and Friday, and light breezes, 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.

mayakoba golf classic tips

Winners: 2019: Brendon Todd (-20); 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 Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka, Brooks Koepka, Corey Conners, Brendon Todd, Russell Henley, Chez Reavie, Ryan Armour, Kyle Stanley and Abraham Ancer.

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

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Abraham Ancer; 2) Keegan Bradley; 3) Wesley Bryan / Henrik Norlander; 5) Chris Baker; 6) Adam Long; 7) Mark Hubbard; 8) Ryan Armour / Russell Henley / John Huh / Cameron Percy; 12) Corey Conners / Brendon Todd; 14) K.J. Choi / Austin Cook / Rickie Fowler; 17) J.J. Spaun; 18) Kiradech Aphibarnrat / Joel Dahmen / Chris Reavie; 21) Bo Van Pelt; 22) Brian Harman; 23) Chris Kirk / Justin Thomas; 25) David Hearn / Vaughn Taylor.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Will Zalatoris; 2) Viktor Hovland; 3) Cameron Tringale; 4) Johnson Wagner; 5) Joaquin Niemann; 6) Henrik Norlander / Justin Thomas; 8) Abraham Ancer; 9) Corey Conners; 10) Brian Harman / Marc Leishman; 12) Russell Henley; 13) Emiliano Grillo; 14) Aaron Wise; 15) Brooks Koepka / Adam Long / Kevin Streelman; 18) Tony Finau / Vaughn Taylor; 20) Sepp Straka; 21) Austin Cook / Billy Horschel / Russell Knox / Carlos Ortiz; 25) Peter Malnati.
  • Scrambling: 1) Roger Sloan; 2) Russell Henley; 3) Scott Piercy; 4) Daniel Berger; 5) Billy Horschel; 6) Will Zalatoris; 7) Brooks Koepka; 8) Kiradech Aphibarnrat; 9) Andy Ogletree; 10) Joel Dahmen / Bo Hoag; 12) Hank Lebioda / Justin Thomas; 14) Chris Kirk; 15) Corey Conners / Carlos Ortiz; 17) Byeong Hun An; 18) Graeme McDowell / Joaquin Niemann; 20) D.A. Points / Maverick McNealy; 22) Tyler Duncan / Harris English / Adam Long; 25) Sepp Straka.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Brian Gay; 2) Patton Kizzire; 3) Peter Malnati; 4) Brooks Koepka; 5) Rickie Fowler; 6) Justin Thomas; 7) Ollie Schniederjans / Gary Woodland; 9) Andy Ogletree; 10) Harry Higgs; 11) Tom Hoge / John Huh / Jhonattan Vegas; 14) David Hearn; 15) K.J. Choi; 16) Max Homa; 17) Daniel Berger; 18) Alex Noren; 19) Tony Finau / Chris Kirk; 21) Corey Conners / Viktor Hovland / Graeme McDowell; 24) Kiradech Aphibarnrat / Will Gordon / Russell Henley.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Shriners Open and BMW PGA Championship, 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) Joaquin Niemann; 2) Viktor Hovland; 3) Jhonattan Vegas; 4) Will Zalatoris; 5) Justin Thomas; 6) Abraham Ancer; 7) Corey Conners / Michael Gligic; 9) Harris English; 10) Vincent Whaley; 11) Henrik Norlander; 12) Joseph Bramlett / Billy Horschel; 14) Rickie Fowler / D.J. Trahan; 16) Kiradech Aphibarnrat / Daniel Berger / Joel Dahmen / Tony Finau / Chris Kirk; 21) Keegan Bradley / Cameron Tringale; 23) Hank Lebioda; 24) Brooks Koepka / Marc Leishman.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Sepp Straka / Will Zalatoris; 3) Russell Henley; 4) Keegan Bradley; 5) Justin Thomas; 6) Emiliano Grillo; 7) Daniel Berger / Brian Stuard; 9) Byeong Hun An; 10) Roger Sloan / Camilo Villegas; 12) Chez Reavie; 13) Corey Conners / Adam Long; 15) Tony Finau / Will Gordon / Scott Piercy / Chase Seiffert; 19) Andrew Putnam; 20) Peter Malnati; 21) Russell Knox / Cameron Percy; 23) Brian Harman / Carlos Ortiz; 25) Harris English / Sebastian Munoz.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Aaron Baddeley; 2) Lucas Glover; 3) Roger Sloan; 4) Byeong Hun An; 5) Harold Varner III; 6) Patton Kizzire / Brooks Koepka / Justin Thomas; 9) Carlos Ortiz / Gary Woodland; 11) Bo Hoag / Aaron Wise; 13) Billy Horschel / Will Zalatoris; 15) Russell Henley; 16) Harry Higgs; 17) Adam Hadwin; 18) Brendon Todd; 19) Joaquin Niemann; 20) Austin Cook / Ollie Schniederjans; 22) Tony Finau / Alex Noren; 24) Mark Hubbard / Peter Malnati / Scott Piercy.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Will Zalatoris; 2) Justin Thomas; 3) Russell Henley / Joaquin Niemann / Scott Piercy; 6) Viktor Hovland; 7) Roger Sloan; 8) Corey Conners; 9) Byeong Hun An / Brooks Koepka; 11) Peter Malnati; 12) Keegan Bradley; 13) Tony Finau / Carlos Ortiz / Sepp Straka; 16) Harold Varner III; 17) Lucas Glover; 18) Harris English / Cameron Tringale; 20) Daniel Berger; 21) Abraham Ancer / Joseph Bramlett / Cameron Percy; 24) Chris Kirk / Brian Stuard / Aaron Wise.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Brendon Todd; 2) Brice Garnett; 3) Tony Finau; 4) Patton Kizzire / Hunter Mahan; 6) Chesson Hadley / Beau Hossler; 8) Brooks Koepka / Justin Thomas; 10) Daniel Berger / Ollie Schniederjans; 12) Austin Cook / Cameron Percy; 14) Graeme McDowell; 15) Abraham Ancer; 16) Rickie Fowler / Cameron Tringale; 18) Brian Gay; 19) Michael Gligic / Viktor Hovland; 21) Gary Woodland; 22) Harris English / Joaquin Niemann / Martin Trainer; 25) Alex Noren.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Will Zalatoris; 2) Justin Thomas; 3) Joaquin Niemann; 4) Patton Kizzire / Brooks Koepka; 6) Tony Finau / Cameron Tringale; 8) Russell Henley / Roger Sloan; 10) Abraham Ancer / Daniel Berger  12) Corey Conners / Austin Cook / Scott Piercy; 15) Viktor Hovland; 16) Cameron Percy; 17) John Huh; 18) Harris English / Harold Varner III; 20) Peter Malnati; 21) Brian Harman; 22) Carlos Ortiz; 23) Chris Kirk; 24) Jhonattan Vegas; 25) Emiliano Grillo.

Winners & Prices: 2019: Todd 110/1; 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 7 Renewals Average: 69/1. Average: 77/1.

Historical Weather:

  • 2019: Thursday: Rain and thunderstorms prevented any play. Friday: Partly cloudy. High of 82. Wind NNW at 5-10 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 80. Wind NNW 10-15 mph, with gusts to 20 mph. Sunday: Sunny, with a high of 80. Wind NNW 7-13 mph. Monday: Sunny. High of 72. Wind NNW 5-10 mph.
  • 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.

We’re dealing with the warm, tropical part of Mexico this week and despite Playa having dry conditions in November, rain on Monday will soften the course. The forecast for Thursday is particularly wet, so there is the potential for a total rain-off as we saw here last year, or at least a suspension of play. That threat continues into Friday as well. With temperatures between 26-28 degrees Celsius and light winds, expect a true birdie-fest.

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:

  • 2019, Brendon Todd (-20). 272 yards (79th), 62.5% fairways (25th), 79.2% greens in regulation (3rd), 80.0% scrambling (4th), 1.61 putts per GIR (8th).
  • 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: 35th, Driving Accuracy: 32nd, Greens in Regulation: 9th, Scrambling: 13th, Putting Average 12th.

So let’s take a view from players as to how El Camaleon sets up and what skill sets the course favours:

Brendon Todd: “I proved in Bermuda that I can kind of get into that mentality where I can go low again, and I basically started the day and said let’s try and birdie every hole, I know it’s going to be soft and there’s going to be birdies out there. So I was able to pick up a few on the front nine and play well coming in. The fairways are so soft in-places that is they’ve moved a couple of the tees up so we could hit the ball into a spot on the fairway that was a little bit drier. So there was some holes playing a little bit shorter, like five and nine, and I was able to take advantage of a couple of those. But the way I’m playing with my irons in, I felt like the only way I was going to make a bogey was to miss a fairway, lose a golf ball, and that’s what happened. But I’m sure it’s going to happen to most guys this week. I’m just happy I hit some good shots after that and gave myself chances to make birdies coming in.

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 9 Mayakoba winners:

  • 2019 – Brendon Todd: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 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 9 winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

  • 2019 – Brendon Todd: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 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:

  • Brendon Todd: 1st Bermuda/28th Houston/MC Shiners/MC Safeway.
  • 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.

  • 2019 – D Lee – AM Wave -9/62 – 55/1
  • 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, Justin Thomas.
  • 1 – Harris English, Tony Finau, Brice Garnett, Brian Gay, Chesson Hadley, Charley Hoffman, Viktor Hovland, John Huh, Patton Kizzire, D.A. Points, Brendon Todd, Martin Trainer, Johnson Wagner.

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 2018 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. Last year saw Brendon Todd win back-to-back at coastal courses namely the Bermuda Championship and here in Mexico. In Bermuda he had ranked 6th for Total Accuracy and 3rd for Putting Average (Putts per GIR).

OWGR is an interesting angle to look at this week as we move inexorably towards the close of 2020, with this being the last PGA tournament of 2020. Since the event moved to its book-end 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) and Todd (2019 OWGR 185th) wins are a little out of kilter, but their nearest pursuers across both 2017 and 2018 were ranked 51st (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 late December, earned via a win here or an OWGR top 50 exemption come close of the year.

My final selections are as follows:

Carlos Ortiz 1.25pts EW 50/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

Whilst many will fancy Abraham Ancer to break his Tour maiden this week in his homeland, I can’t back him at prices as short as 16/1. Instead I’m going for fellow Mexican Carlos Ortiz, who must arrive in Playa del Carmen extremely motivated.

In Carlos we now have a proven PGA Tour winner after his victory in Houston 4 weeks ago and Ortiz played some magnificent stuff in Texas. 8th for Greens in Regulation, 19th for Ball Striking and 1st for Scrambling at Memorial Park, the 29 year-old from Guadalajara, from a Strokes Gained Perspective also ranked 14th for Approach, 2nd for Around the Green, 5th for Tee to Green and 5th for Putting. And what a way to take your first PGA Tour victory, taking on World Number 1 Dustin Johnson down the stretch in a true head-to-head battle and being victorious.

So Carlos enters a tournament which is special to him with massive confidence, and a tournament where he has recently performed well. 9th (2014) and 2nd (2019) here at El Camaleon, Ortiz also has an excellent record when playing in his homeland. He won the 2014 Mexico Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour at El Bosque GC, beating one Justin Thomas into runner-up spot and this year finished 16th at the WGC- Mexico Championship at Chapultepec. This guy undoubtedly raises his game when playing at home.

I remember Ortiz back in 2014 when he was promoted to the PGA Tour to a true fanfare. 3rd in Colombia, Carlos then went on to win 2 tournaments in 3 appearances in Panama and Mexico, as part of a consecutive run of tournaments with a form line of 22-1-17-1-9-3. When confident Ortiz is the sort who contends in ‘chunks’ and he can also get over the line, as 3 Korn Ferry wins in 14 appearances highlights.

So Carlos undoubtedly arrives at El Camaleon in confident manner and with the huge bonus that he currently sits 64th in the Official World Golf Rankings. As we saw last week in South Africa, Christiaan Bezuidenhout’s win at the Joburg Open took him into the coveted top 50, so I would not be surprised to see Ortiz continue on a roll as he attempts become the first Mexican to win on the PGA Tour in his homeland. RESULT: T8

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Marc Leishman 1.25pts EW 55/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Unibet

The name of Marc Leishman peaked my interest as soon as I read it in this field, and the Australian plays this and the QBE Shoot Out with Cameron Smith next week. 2020 has undoubtedly been a mixed bag for Marc who, pre-Covid lockdown, finished 1st at Torrey Pines – capturing his 5th PGA Tour victory – and backed that up with 2nd at Bay Hill. Big tournaments and great results.

But as soon as the PGA Tour returned at Colonial in June, Leishman’s form slumped with nothing better than 28th at the 30-man Tour Championship or 40th in a full-field event across 12 tournaments. But that changed 3 weeks ago at The Masters, where the World Number 27 finished with a -4/68 in windy Sunday conditions to finish in 13th spot. Worth mentioning that is his best finish in a Major since the 2018 Masters. 16th for Driving Accuracy, 5th for Greens In Regulation, 6th for Total Accuracy and 4th for Ball Striking, the 37 year-old Victorian played some great stuff from tee-to-green and that peaked my interest for this week.

7th (2018) and 4th (2019) at Kapalua; 9th (2013), 5th (2014), and 3rd (2019) at Waialae; 1st (2020), 2nd (2010) 9th (2011), 2nd (2014) and 8th (2018) at Torrey Pines; plus 9th (2013) at Harbour Town; Marc has always played well by the coast in the United States. And his Open Championship record is pretty stellar with 5th (2014) at Hoylake, 2nd (2015) at St Andrews and 6th (2017) at Birkdale. The coastal confines of El Camaleon, where he finished 24th in 2016, should be ideal for him.

But there are a couple of other reasons I like Leishman this week. He won the 2018 Nedbank Golf Challenge on the European Tour in the month of December and his record pre-Christmas in his homeland is impressive enough with 4th, 6th, 8th, 4th and 2nd at the Australian PGA Championship. Wins at the 2017 BMW Championship and 2018 CIMB Classic also came at -26/262 and -23/261, highlighting that Marc can compete when scoring gets low. RESULT: MC

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Adam Long 1pt EW 70/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Adam Long has been playing some nice golf of late. 11th in Houston and 30th at Sea Island in his last 2 appearances, the 33 year-old has been striping it. 10th for Driving Accuracy, 8th for Greens in Regulation and 2nd for Total Accuracy at Memorial Park, that clinic of accurate driving and approach play continued at Sea Island last time out, where he ranked 6th for Driving Accuracy, 7th for Greens in Regulation, 1st for Total Accuracy and 6th for Ball Striking. 5th and 11th for Strokes Gained on Approach, he also ranked 10th and 7th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green.

Into his 3rd season on the PGA Tour, it’s also apparent that Long comes to the fore on short tests where low scoring is the requirement. The winner of the 2019 Desert Classic at PGA West, he won with a winning total of -26/262.

Born and raised on the coast in New Orleans, Louisiana, the Florida resident will be comfortable with both the humid conditions and the agronomy this week at El Camaleon and that shines through with his results on Paspalum. 8th (2017) and 5th (2020) when we were on-board in September at the Corales Championship, played on another mixed mangrove and coastal course in the Dominican Republic, Long also landed 3rd place here last year. Adam opened with a -8/63 which got him to the front of the pack, and he went on to battle with the likes of Harris English, Carlos Ortiz, Vaughn Taylor and eventual winner Brendon Todd, eventually falling a stroke shy of a play off.

At 75th in the Official World Golf Rankings, Long is up over 40 spots in 2020 and he’s the accurate sort who could well come to life this week on his second visit to Playa del Carmen. RESULT: T3

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Brian Gay – WD PRE-EVENT

Brian Gay surprised many in Bermuda where he captured his 5th PGA Tour victory – for those counting that’s the same number of wins as Rickie Fowler.

The 48 year-old Texan showed nerves of steel to chase down Wyndham Clark, and then beat him in a play-off. 4th for Driving Accuracy, 15th for Greens in Regulation, 6th for Total Accuracy and 6th for Putting Average (Putts per GIR), Brian put on a masterclass and now can look forward to a visit to Augusta National next April.

Brendon Todd stamped a template 12 months ago winning the Bermuda Championship and then, 2 weeks later, the Mayakoba Golf Classic in consecutive outings, and Gay and Todd from a golf player perspective are two peas in a pod. Amazing short game wizards, who when on with their irons can light up a short, scoreable test. Indeed Brian’s other 4 wins have come here at El Camaleon (2008), Harbour Town (2009), TPC Southwind (2009) and PGA West (2013), and his winning totals have been -16/264, -20/264, -18/262 and -25/263.

So I can follow the logic that Gay will arrive at a short, coastal course where he’s won in the past, and has further top 5 (2011) and top 20 (2009 and 2019) finishes, confident and in great spirits. An experienced pro, Brian will also know to strike whilst the iron is hot with another contending performance this week, guaranteeing an extended run in the end-of-season FedEx Cup Playoffs. 47 year-old Stewart Cink won the season-opening Safeway Open and then finished 12th and 4th in 2 of his 3 next appearances – he’s already a lock for the lucrative BMW Championship in August. WD PRE-EVENT

Peter Malnati 1pt EW 100/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Last tip of 2020 and it’s Peter Malnati, who is enjoying the very best golf of his career.

An amazing putter, Peter has transformed his tee to green game of late and that makes him an interesting proposition this week at El Camaleon. Form of 48-21-5-2 across his last 4 appearances – we were on-board last month at the Bermuda Championship, where he led after Round 1. He slowly fell back that week, but in reality I was fairly impressed with Peter across both Port Royal and Sea Island, on the basis both tournaments became windswept affairs and he ground out 21st and 48th respectively.

That kind of golf though isn’t the World Number 168’s ball-park. Instead a short, scoreable assignment, where you can go low is definitely more up the Knoxville, Tennessee resident’s street. 2nd at the Sanderson Farms Championship where he shot -18/270, Malnati backed that up a week later with 5th at the Shriners Open, where his total was -19/265. So I have the feeling that a soft and warm El Camaleon this week, with low scores available will be far more to Peter’s liking. Across my 8-week skill-set trackers in this field Malnati ranks 20th for SG on Approach, 25th for Greens in Regulation, 25th for SG Around the Green, 11th for SG Tee to Green, 3rd for Putting Average (Putts per GIR) and 20th for SG Total – i.e. SG Current Form.

And on the quiet, Peter plays very well by the coast. 6th (2016) at Kapalua, 12th (2020) at Waialae, 11th (2020) at Pebble Beach, 16th (2019) at Harbour Town, and 15th (2013) and 10th (2015) here at El Camaleon. Plus with wins in Tennessee (2013 Knoxville Open), Brazil (2015 Brasil Champions) and Mississippi (2015 Sanderson Farms Championship), it’s clear that Malnati comes to the fore in hotter climes. RESULT: MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 16:30GMT 30.11.20 but naturally subject to fluctuation.