World Wide Technologies Championship @ Mayakoba
It was one of those ‘nearly’ weeks for us in Bermuda as four of our five picks played solidly with one of them finishing in a five way tie for seventh and another a further shot back and one shy of the places. The men in question were 175/1 selection JJ Spaun and Graeme McDowell and allowing for Spaun’s odds even the five way tie meant we got a fair return. In the end then a very small loss on the week and a week, which could have been much, much better if JJ had managed to hole a great birdie opportunity on his final hole on Sunday.
The event in the end was won by Lucas Herbert. The Aussie has now posted three wins worldwide since the start of 2020 so he is very much a man on the up. He also showed again that he is a man to watch out for in windy conditions.
So we move on and move from Bermuda to Mexico for The Mayakoba Golf Classic.
The Mayakoba Classic first debuted on the PGA Tour in 2007.
For the first six editions the tournament was played in late February, however in 2013 the event moved to November to become one of the fall events and it has remained in this spot since then.
The event has been played at the El Cameleon Golf Club since its inception.
This year the event has a new sponsor technology solutions provider World Wide Technologies. They have signed on through to 2027 so the immediate future of the event looks rosy.
After a couple of weeks of weaker fields some of the games biggest names return to action this week with the market headed up by Justin Thomas, behind Thomas in the market we then have defending champion Viktor Hovland, local favourite Abraham Ancer and Tony Finau.
El Cameleon is a par 71 measuring just under 7000yds.
The greens are Paspulum.
The course was opened in 2006 and was designed by Greg Norman.
For reference the other Greg Norman design currently used regularly on tour is TPC San Antonio the home of the Valero Texas Open.
If the wind doesn’t blow then as a short par 71 El Cameleon is there for the taking and low scoring is the order of the day.
The key to success here, particularly since the move to November has been good solid ball striking and approach play.
So let’s take a look at the last eight winners of the event since the tournament moved to November.
2020 – V Hovland
2019 – B Todd
2018 – M Kuchar
2017 – P Kizzire
2016 – P Perez
2015 – G McDowell
2014 – C Hoffman
2013 – H English
Looking at this list of players it is pretty clear that this is indeed a course on which solid ball strikers with a really strong tee to green game flourish.
This is backed up by the fact that the likes of Russell Knox, Kevin Streelman and Ryan Moore have also played well here over the recent years.
Beyond this in an attempt to connect the dots between these winners I decided to take a look at the recent form of these winners when they arrived in Mexico.
With this in mind the table below shows the three previous starts of the last six players to lift the trophy here, with their most recent start noted first.
V Hovland 15 47 12
B Todd 1 28 MC
M Kuchar 57 43 60
P Kizzire 4 10 MC
P Perez 7 33 *
G McDowell 37 24 30
C Hoffman 35 MC MC
H English 27 7 40
*Denotes player had made only two starts recently as he had just returned from injury absence.
As we can see four of the last five winners had finished inside the top 15 in their previous start with Todd in 2019 going ‘back to back’ following his win in Bermuda, however prior to that only Harris English had finished in the top 10 in one of their previous three starts.
It’s worth noting though that from 2016 through to 2018 the Mayakoba followed directly on from the Shriners, which was not the case previously and with both courses being a strong fit for good solid ball strikers it allowed players to build a bit of momentum in Vegas before carrying that on the following week.
Similarly in 2019 as I noted in my preview we had a different equation in the mix as although [like this year] there had been a weeks break many of the players teeing it up in Mexico were in Bermuda for the event a fortnight previously and my exact words last year were “with that event being played on a very similar style shortish coastal course it is highly possible form could be carried over from there”….
Well little did I know that the answer to the puzzle that year would be as simple as that in that Todd would go back to back! Last year’s winner though Viktor Hovland triumphed having not teed it up on the PGA Tour in just under a month.
Moving on and looking at previous course form this does not appear to be too relevant.
This is borne out by the fact two of the last eight winners here were making their course debut whilst the other six had nothing better than a 16th place between them in a combined 11 previous starts. To rubber stamp this last years winner Viktor Hovland had missed the cut on his only two previous starts here.
From a correlating course point of view the obvious stand out venue is Waialae Country Club, the home of the Sony Open as the winners here in 2017 and 2018, Patton Kizzire and Kuch have gone on to lift the trophy in Hawaii the following January.
In addition as noted above other events played on coastal venues like The Bermuda Championship, The RSM Classic, The Corales Puntacana, the RBC Heritage and the Puerto Rico Open are all worth focusing on. The latter event, which is played on comparable paspalum greens is certainly one of interest and anyone focusing on this line of comparison last year would have been lead to Viktor Hovland who prior to winning here had landed his only previous PGA Tour title there.
The other regular tour event to feature paspalum greens is The Corales Puntacana while it is also worth noting that last seasons PGA Championship at Kiawah Island featured paspalum greens.
Finally, the winning score over the past seven editions has varied between -17 to -22 so as noted earlier birdies are the order of the day.
The weather leading in to the tournament looks pretty settled however for the opening day of the tournament there are at the time of writing the possibility of storms showing.
Friday and Saturday then look set fair however Sunday also shows the possibility of a storm.
Temperatures look set to stay in the mid 80s all week.
Wind could be a slight issue for the first three days with the possibility of 15mph gusts however Sunday if the forecast is correct shows the potential for stronger gusts in the region of 25mph+.
As I always say though…this could all change!
I have gone with five players this week as follows;
SHANE LOWRY – 35/1 – 1.5pts E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
First cab off the rank for us this week is Shane Lowry.
Lowry is making his debut in this event this week however there is plenty in his profile that leads me to think that he will be suited to the test offered up by El Cameleon.
Firstly as we know the Open Champion is a master of coastal golf and while this weeks venue is not a true links test anytime a course is set by water and has the wind in play he is a man to consider.
Looking at Shane’s body of work and it is no surprise that along side his Open success some of his best efforts on the PGA Tour in recent times have come on the type of track we see this week. Firstly over his last three visits to Hilton Head the Irishman has posted two top ten finishes, a ninth this year and a third in 2019 and this is an event that for obvious reasons links well here, something that is rubber stamped by Matt Kuchar, Graeme McDowell and Brian Gay who have won at both venues. Furthermore Shane’s best performance on the PGA Tour last season came at Kiawah Island in the PGA Championship where he finished fourth, with, in addition to the coastal element, the key there being that the track featured the same paspalum putting surfaces we have in play this week.
Looking at Shane’s 2021 on the PGA Tour in more detail and since finishing eighth at Sawgrass in March he has been incredibly consistent playing the weekend in all 15 starts and posting six top 12 finishes. In addition he has posted a couple of strong showings in Europe including a fourth place at the Dunhill Links only a month ago.
That fourth place came the week after the disappointment of the Ryder Cup, where it should be noted that Lowry was one of the few bright spots for the Europeans so it is perhaps understandable that on his next start and most recent outing he was somewhat lack lustre at the CJ Cup, no doubt rusty from having taken a breather after that gruelling fortnight. It is noticeable though that after a sluggish start in Las Vegas he improved every day before closing with a 64.
Now fully refreshed I expect to Lowry to be fully focussed on the one thing that is missing from his CV this year, a win, and on a course, which I expect to play to his strengths I envisage a big week from him ahead.
MAVERICK MCNEALY – 50/1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 11th
Next up for me is a player who is also clearly suited to this type of test, Maverick McNealy.
Like Lowry McNealy has been incredibly consistent on the PGA Tour this year posting seven top 30 finishes in eight starts since May to round off his 2020/21 season.
While that consistency is great even more significantly though in relation to this weeks test is that when out of form earlier this year McNealy popped up out of nowhere with a runner up finish at Pebble Beach and a fourth place at Hilton Head, which as we know links really well here. Furthermore if we roll the clock back to the previous season McNealy posted another top five at Pebble Beach. Clearly then he is really suited to shorter coastal tests.
To rubber stamp this, while with our previous pick Lowry we had to speculate that this track will suit him with McNealy we have the additional concrete evidence we need in his two previous visits here. Firstly in 2019 on his debut here he posted a solid 26th place finish and then last year on his return he improved on that to notch a 12th place finish. A performance which included a third round of 63. Interestingly as well on his debut here Maverick drove the ball really well, ranking fourth in accuracy, but putted poorly, whereas last year his flatstick performed really well while he struggled with the long game. If he can put those two components together he no doubt has the game to be really successful here.
While the 25yr old has missed a rare cut this season at the Shriners he has also posted another runner up finish at the Fortinet and a solid effort last time out of 25th the ZOZO so he is undoubtedly knocking at the door and this week on a course, which we know suits him well I can see him making a really bold push to land his maiden tour title.
JOAQUIN NIEMANN – 50/1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 5th
Another player who has done everything but win this year and will be desperate to sign off on 2021 with a victory is Joaquin Niemann.
Niemann who featured in our ‘six to follow’ piece for 2021 back at the start of the year has posted three runner up finishes this year including two play off defeats, surely then PGA Tour win number two can’t be far away.
One of those runner up finishes came back in January at the Sony Open in Hawaii and that performance gives us a clear correlating link to here courtesy of recent past Champions here Kizzire and Kuchar, who both went on to lift the trophy at Waialae the January following their triumphs in Mexico.
In addition if we look at some of Joaquin’s other best efforts on tour since he joined the big league and he has a fifth place finish at Hilton Head on his resume as well as of course a maiden tour win at the short par 70 Greenbrier track.
Looking at the young Chilean’s form here and there is nothing particularly in his three previous visits to El Cameleon that indicate this is a course he likes however as noted earlier on, previous course form here has not been something any of the recent winners have had. It is worth noting though that last years 23rd place finish was Niemann’s best effort here to date so maybe he is getting to grips with the track now.
Joaquin’s start to his 21/22 campaign has been solid if unspectacular with a 40th a 45th and a 28th last time out at the ZOZO however in amongst those three performances there have already been two rounds of 64, which tells me he is close to putting it all together.
Like our first two picks the 22yr old will be desperate to round off a strong year with a win so I expect his motivation to be really high, and on a course, which really should suit his game I expect a really strong showing this week.
RUSSELL KNOX – 80/1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
Next up this week I can’t ignore the credentials of Russell Knox at what looks to me more than generous odds.
The recent years have undoubtedly been something of a struggle for Knox however there has been light at the end of the tunnel for a while now and his performance in Bermuda last week showed once again that he is getting back on track.
In Bermuda Russell posted a 12th place finish coming from the wrong side of the draw, which was heavily biased against the players who tee’d off on Thursday morning in the worst of the weather. Despite that though not only did the Scotsman post a creditable finish but he lead the field in good old fashioned GIR for the week and ranked tenth in Driving Accuracy with only the putter letting him down somewhat.
While Knox’s finish in Bermuda marked his best finish on tour since his seventh at Pebble Beach back at the beginning of the year – another venue, which of course ties well here – his efforts last week didn’t come completely out of the blue, prior to missing the cut at the Shriners he had posted back to back 66s at the Sandersons while he had been up with the pace at halfway in the season opening Fortinet before fading over the weekend.
Clearly trending in the right direction then we then come on to the final piece of the jigsaw here, which is Knox’s form round El Cameleon. In eight previous visits here Russell is yet to finish worse than 37th and from 2015 to 2017 when at his peak he posted three consecutive top tens including a second and third. Even when struggling over the more recent years he has finished 33rd and 23rd.
Returning this week then to a venue he clearly loves, buoyed by last weeks finish and with his game trending nicely I am expecting the 36yr old to have a great week and be right in the hunt and I am more than happy to take the odds on offer.
JJ SPAUN – 175/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED 27th
Finally this week at odds comparable to those he rewarded at last week I feel compelled to stick with JJ Spaun.
My case for JJ last week was made up of two things with the main thread being that he had previously thrived on similar shorter coastal tracks.
Well, making his debut at Bermuda JJ showed once again that he is at home on this type of track and coming from the wrong side of the draw his seventh place was hugely impressive.
In Bermuda Spaun only dropped shots on four holes all week and he finished the week seventh for GIR. This performance really built then on the positive signs he had shown when he had finished 35th at the Shriners in his previous outing ranking fifth in putting and having one really strong day with his irons.
Coming back to Spaun’s form by the coast and one of his best efforts over the recent years was his third place here in 2018 and he also has a 14th place here the previous year. Furthermore he has a runner up finish at the RSM to his name and a sixth place finish at Hilton Head on his coastal CV so clearly he is in his element at this type of venue.
Granted this weeks field is far stronger than last weeks however allowing for his fondness of this type of test, his course history and of course his great play last week, I had expected JJ’s odds to shrink considerably from last time out, particularly as he has shown a propensity over the years to produce a couple of strong performances on the spin.
On that basis then, with the same odds on offer I am more than happy to go back in again this week on JJ.
UPDATED NOVEMBER 2nd
FANTASY DRAFT KINGS PICKS
PICK 1 - TOM HOGE - DK VALUE $6900 - FINISHED 56th - DK POINTS 72.5
First up for us in this section this week is Tom Hoge.
Since finishing fourth at the Northern Trust in last seasons Fedex Cup Play Offs Hoge has quietly been playing some really solid golf and his first five starts of the new season have seen him make four cuts and post two top twenty finishes.
Arriving here in good spirits you would think then Tom should also be reslishing the test in front of him this week as he tends to save his best stuff for short coastal tracks of the ilk we have this week.
Third here last year Tom also has a third and 12th to his name at the correlating Waialae CC and I expect him to produce another strong performance this week.
PICK 2 - GRAEME McDOWELL - DK VALUE $6600 - FINISHED MC - DK POINTS 36
Scrolling down this sub $7K options this week and Graeme McDowell's name sticks out like a sore thumb as a player who should absolutely relish the week ahead.
Granted Gmac hasn't produced his best stuff here since lifting the trophy in 2015 however we know that when on song he is an absolute master of this type of course, something proven by his wins at Hilton Head, The Corales Puntacana and of course at Pebble Beach in the US Open..
Arriving in Mexico then on the back of a really strong week in Bermuda where he finished 12th and went bogey free on Sunday I am more than happy to run with the former US Open Champion this week.