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From one coastal course to another, the PGA TOUR heads to Playa del Carmen this week for the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba.
It may be a new sponsor this season, but the host course and tournament format will be the same as usual.
That format is a 132-man field with a 36-hole cutline of top 65 and ties.
Let's jump right in and talk about the host venue.
This week's host venue is El Camaleon Golf Course.
Laid out by Greg Norman, this coastal course plays as a par 71 during tournament time, playing to just 7,017 yards on the card.
As a short, resort course you probably think this would be a cakewalk for PGA TOUR pros. You would kind of be correct in that assessment. Over the last five years, the field average has sat around 69.9 strokes (-1.1 RTP).
While the course is on the easy spectrum overall, there is still plenty of trouble to get into, especially off the tee and with some of the long approach shots. With the course winding through jungle, mangroves, and canals, there are some big numbers lurking if you aren't controlling your ball. El Camaleon surrenders 1.41 double bogeys or worse per 72 holes which is slightly higher than the 1.38 TOUR average amongst courses they play regularly each year.
This course would yield even more big numbers if the field tried to bomb-and-gouge their way through it. Instead, golfers take less-than-driver on plenty of the par 4s when making their way around this Norman design.
So, with that being said is distance a requirement here? Viktor Hovland can poke it out there and he is the defending champ. However, the five winners before that were short knockers (Brendon Todd, Matt Kuchar, Patton Kizzire, Pat Perez, and Graeme McDowell). Power is definitely not required.
On approach they will see fairly large targets (7,000 average square feet green complexes).
For green speeds they will be on the slow side, as we often see when playing seaside golf. That is to prevent coastal winds from roaring through to make the greens unplayable. As for grass type, golfers will see seashore paspalum this week which is seen at the Corales and Puerto Rico Open in addition to the fairways at Sea Island Resort.
Quotes on the Course
Vaughn Taylor: "The grass is different. It’s Paspalum, it’s grainy. If you haven’t been on it before, you might be a little confused."
Tom Hoge: "This is my sixth or seventh year down here now playing and every year seems like the same sort of challenge with rain and wind. Not too many days are calm here on the beach. You kind of know what you're in for. Like I said, I have the more so the approach that it's kind of shot by shot here because you never know when the rain's going to come up and be called off the course, so just try to make the most out of each shot."
Russell Knox: "Historically, my driving accuracy and iron play's been my strength, so that's kind of the key things that this course brings out in you. Yeah, I mean, if I can keep doing that, we should be all right."
Cameron Champ: "This course, it’s not a very bomber’s course. Like I said, you have to place it off the tee, and some holes the rough is very thick and you’ve just got to whack it out. This course I feel like is very suitable for everyone. So like I said, just to be able to place my ball right in the fairways and on the greens and make the putts when I needed to."
Matt Kuchar: "If you’re missing fairways, it means you’re in the mangroves, you’re in the hazard, you’re taking penalty drops, you’re really in trouble. If you’re driving it well, you have a chance to perform well from there, but the wind typically will pick up in the afternoons and when the wind picks up, you had better be hitting the ball solid, you had better be in control. Even if you do find the fairways, the approach shots are awfully challenging as well. "
It's more guesswork than usual this week since we have just one year of data.
Sea Island Resort
PGA WEST rota
I don't really understand the link to Quail Hollow Club so that would be the first course I'd remove if I had to. However, it pops up when I run through the process of looking at correlated results and the other four do pass the eye test with short, less-than-driver, coastal themes.
Thursday: Partly Cloudy with a high of 85 degrees. Winds at 4 to 8 MPH.
Friday: Partly Cloudy with a high of 85 degrees. Winds at 5 to 8 MPH.
This looks like a major relief in terms of wind, compared to last week at the Bermuda. There isn't much precipitation in the forecast either, so this is shaping up to be ideal scoring conditions if the forecast doesn't shift over the next few days.
Golfers to Watch
The Texan was looking lost in recent months but rebounded with a runner-up finish last week at Port Royal. Now he'll head to another coastal course that doesn't require a lot of driver usage, perhaps putting him in a good spot to build on that momentum.
He missed the cut in his first two visits to El Camaleon but last year he gained at least four shots over the field in three of his rounds en route to winning the event. Add that to his 2020 Puerto Rico Open title and we can say he's becoming a name to circle whenever heading to a coastal course with paspalum greens.
He arrives fresh off a T12 finish last week at the Bermuda with Willy Wilcox by his side. That was his best finish since a T7 at the 2021 Pebble Beach-Pro-Am (24 starts ago). On top of that he posted a runner-up finish at El Camaleon in 2015, snagged a T3 the following year, a T9 in 2017, and held the first-round lead in last year's edition.
Precision is the name of the game if you want to avoid big numbers at Camaleon. For Ancer, he has piped more fairways than the field in 18-of-22 rounds at this course. That should give him a relatively high floor this week but Ancer has also converted that accuracy into top-12 finishes in three of his last four visits to the Mayakoba.
The fan-favorite didn't crack my top 20 this week but he is a name that is going to be worth a look if you value recent results or course history. He posted a T3 finish just two starts ago, at THE CJ CUP @ SUMMIT. As for his record at the course, Fowler is 2-for-3 here with a runner-up finish at the 2018 edition, a solo 16th the next year before missing the cut last season.
Ranking the Field
1. Viktor Hovland
2. Justin Thomas
3. Abraham Ancer
4. Tyrrell Hatton
5. Tony Finau
6. Scottie Scheffler
7. Billy Horschel
8. Shane Lowry
9. Brooks Koepka
10. Aaron Wise
11. Matthew Fitzpatrick
12. Christiaan Bezuidenhout
13. Sergio Garcia
14. Cameron Tringale
15. Will Zalatoris
16. Talor Gooch
17. Mito Pereira
18. Joaquin Niemann
19. Keegan Bradley
20. Patrick Reed