After a rare week off for the PGA Tour, the crew heads down to Mexico for this week's Mayakoba Golf Classic.
The event is known for its laidback atmosphere as you'd expect when traveling to a resort.
There may be a bit more tension in the air this air as Matt Kuchar returns after his tipping incident last year after winning the event and then coughing over the bare minimum to his fill-in caddie, El Tucan. It will be interesting to see if El Tucan picks up another bag this week. Surely it won't be on Team Kuchar.
The field sits at 132 golfers this week with top 65 and ties playing the weekend. That's a nice return to normalcy after a lot of no-cut events over in Asia recently.
El Camaleon Golf Club returns for another year to play the role of host course for the 13th straight year.
Part jungle, part swampland, and part coastal layout, this Greg Norman design is one of the more unique courses on TOUR.
Played under 7,000 yards, there is no need for massive drives but many of the holes still put a scare in you, whether you have a driver in hand or decide to club down. Perhaps just a handful of holes fit that bill but golfers will be facing double or worse if they spray their tee ball on those holes.
Luckily, that's the only real trouble on the course and the rest of the course plays as you'd expect from a resort layout. Easy. The winning score typically sits in the 17-to-22 under range. Winds can always make things tougher but through the years this course plays to a field average of roughly 70.2 (-0.8 RTP) on the par-71 layout.
For turf talk, the golfers will see paspalum from wall-to-wall with greens typically prepped to run on the slow side, around 10.5 feet on the stimp.
Sifting through some past quotes, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play.
Jon Rahm: "Well, technically it doesn’t suit my game. I mean, it’s really a course for shorter hitters, it’s not really long off the tee. There’s a lot of emphasis and importance on keeping the ball in play off the tee, so that means I’m not able to use my driver as much as I would like to, which is one of my main tools."
Danny Lee: "Off the tee it's very critical here because it's pretty generous fairway, but if you miss it, it looks like you're going to be in the water, so tee shot is very important. Other than that, it's almost a good short iron shots and putting contest."
Kevin Streelman: "I consider my driver one of my best assets of my game and you’ve got to drive it straight out here. But if you do drive it straight out here, you have number of wedges and a number of other clubs you can attack with. "
Cameron Champ: "Obviously it’s very demanding off the tee, but if you hit fairways here, the course is very scorable depending on the weather conditions. Obviously the wind can pick up some. I hit a lot of 2-irons here, I think half the holes I’ll probably hit 2-iron on the majority of the holes. Par 5s obviously I’ll hit drivers. I just kind of feel comfortable. Even though it’s narrow, it’s just the way it suits my eye, for some reason I just feel comfortable."
Rickie Fowler: "I like the golf course. It’s a fun layout. I enjoy playing in windy conditions, so I know it can get fairly windy down here. Like I said, it seems like a fun layout. I’ve only been around it once now, but very much demanding of the tee ball. You have to hit the ball pretty straight to stay out of the native area, whatever you want to call it, don’t go into it. You have to hit the ball straight off the tee to have a chance this week."
Overview: Fairways, fairways, and fairways. Everyone seems to be in agreement that you better keep it straight off the tee at El Camaleon.
Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week:
Sea Island (RSM Classic)
Port Royal (Bermuda Championship)
Waialae CC (Sony Open)
Pebble Beach Rota (AT&T Pro-Am)
Coco Beach (Puerto Rico Open)
We're primarily looking for short, coastal tracks that give you plenty of scoring chances.
Thursday: Morning showers with a high of 85 degrees. Winds at 6 to 9 MPH with gusts around 15 MPH.
Friday: Patches of light rain with a high of 84 degrees. Winds at 6 to 8 MPH with some gusts around 13 MPH.
Rains may try to spoil the mood but that's pretty common for this event. They have used preferred lies in 25 percent of the rounds at this event over the last six years. The weekend weather looks perfect right now so conditions should still be ripe for scoring this week.
Golfers to Watch
Straight out of the No Press if Bad Press playbook, Kuchar returns to Mayakoba this week with a much different public perception compared to last year. There is frugal and then there is disrespectful and most would say Kuchar crossed that line last year when he originally paid his fill-in caddie, El Tucan, less than 1% of his winnings. On paper, Kuchar has to be one of the favorites this week but then we add in this added media attention combined with the fact that he's making his season debut. He did show up in Germany and miss the cut at the Porsche Euro Open since the TOUR Championship but overall, he doesn't have many competitive reps to lean on. He'd probably be perfectly happy if he could just use this week as a tune-up for next week's RSM Classic back home at Sea Island.
Charles Howell III
There are a lot of good options at the top but none of them really separate themselves as a clear-cut favorite in my eyes. CH3 ended up as my top man this week but that doesn't mean he's a big favorite. Howell missed the cut here last year but he'd finished top 20 in seven of his eight visits before that. He won at Sea Island last year and also crushes it at Wailalae. Both venues that ended up on my correlated courses list. Should be a strong bet to land inside the top 20 this week.
Still looking for his first win, this young stud has plenty of tools that are attractive to fantasy gamers. He's a ball-striking machine. One of the best in the world, not just this field. The downside? Power is part of that equation and this week's course brings more of the shorter hitters into the picture. Should get in the mix on talent alone but I can't say it'd an ideal course fit for him, being a sub-7000 yard track that will force him to use less than driver more than he'd like to.
Was the 36-hole co-leader and 54-hole leader at the Bermuda Championship and now he heads to another short, coastal track with easy scoring conditions. Worth a look if you want to ride the hot hand on a similar course setup.
If someone tells you that course history or fondness of a course doesn't exist than point them to Garnett at El Camaleon. Three of his six career-best stroke-play finishes have come at this Greg Norman design. A trio of top-7 finishes in his last four trips to Mayakoba. Pretty shocking for someone who has just seven career top 10s in stroke-play events.
A favorite for many DFS gamers, this elite ball-striker will try to keep up his good play at the course. He arrives with finishes of T10, T9, and solo 15th in three tries at El Camaleon.
The Prince of Paspalum? In addition to winning at TPC Kuala Lumpur (when it was paspalum), he also won the 2017 edition of this event and boasts three other top 20s at El Camaleon (in seven total starts). Perez popped recently with a solo third at the Shriners but that remains his only top 30 over his last 12 starts.
The young Scot was nearly the crowned the King of the Challenge Tour hill recently as he finished 2nd in the Road to Mallorca standings. The 25-year-old has racked up three wins on that circuit in 29 starts, two coming this season. His game translated well to the Euro Tour also, collecting top 30s in each of his last three starts on the bigger tour. Probably not ready to win in a field like this week's but Hill could certainly throw his name into the mix.
Ranking the Field
1. Charles Howell III
2. Viktor Hovland
3. Tony Finau
4. Jason Day
5. Billy Horschel
6. Russell Knox
7. Scottie Scheffler
8. Kevin Kisner
9. Denny McCarthy
10. Matt Kuchar
11. Keegan Bradley
12. Chez Reavie
13. Joaquin Niemann
14. J.T. Poston
15. Emiliano Grillo
16. Kevin Streelman
17. Dylan Frittelli
18. Harold Varner III
19. Doc Redman
20. Abraham Ancer
Check back on Tuesday afternoon for our DFS Dish and Wednesday morning for the Expert Picks.