This week the PGA Tour leaves North America again and ventures to Mexico, for the Mayakoba Classic. Originally an alternate event, played in February opposite the WGC Match Play, this event finally got its own November slot in the PGA Tour schedule four years ago.
Since moving to the November slot, the fields have naturally got stronger here, given the lack of any other event being played on the same week and this has raised the profile here. Looking at the winners’ list, there are still some surprise names etched on the trophy, but better players are in the field each year now.
Rickie Fowler was runner-up last year and returns this week to give the field additional star power. Joining Fowler are Ryder Cup teammates, Tony Finau and Jordan Spieth, as well as Gary Woodland, Kevin Kisner, Matt Kuchar and Billy Horschel.
With Patton Kizzire, Pat Perez, Graeme McDowell, Charley Hoffman, Harris English and John Huh in the field this week, each of the last six winners of this event are playing again and aiming to become the first two-time winner here at the Mayakoba.
The Course and what it will take to win
El Camaleon Golf Club at Mayakoba, 6,987 Yards, Par 71
Given its length, this course needs to find its line of defence from elsewhere and the weather is one of the ways this course can be protected.
Almost a links style course, El Camaleon becomes a much tougher affair when strong winds are in play, given its coastal location. Without strong winds this course is pretty easy to score on. Of the 11 winners of this event, 7 have eclipsed a 17-under-par winning score and all have gone deeper than 13-under-par so low scoring is expected here.
Good scoring on the Par-4’s is essential here, as is expected on a course of this length and accuracy when going for the green is also a huge plus. Of the last six winners, all six ranked inside the top-8 for Par 4 Performance the week they won, with Kizzire, Hoffman and English all ranking 1st. Four of the six also ranked in the top-10 for Greens in Regulation the week they won, with five ranking inside the top-11. The only exception was McDowell who won despite ranking just T30 in Greens in Regulation.
Whilst there are no Strokes-Gained numbers available for this event, of the last six winners, four have ranked inside the top-4 for Putting Average, with Hoffman (12th) and Huh (28th) the two exceptions. Clearly putting is a big part of winning here, as it is most weeks and the Seashore Paspalum Greens will provide a fairly unique challenge.
Only two other regular events on the PGA Tour use Paspalum grass and they are the, Puerto Rico Open and CIMB Classic. Pat Perez won the CIMB Classic a year after winning this event in 2016, whilst Tony Finau won the Puerto Rico Open in 2016, two years after finishing T7 here on debut, so this grass may well suit some more than others.
The Sony Open, which is held at another short, coastal track (Waialae Country Club) has been a good indicator of who may be successful here as well. Mark Wilson (2009) and Johnson Wagner (2011) have won both events and many others have form across the two events.
Brian Gay and Harris English have also won both here and at TPC Southwind, host of the FedEX St.Jude, which is also a worthy correlation given it is a par-70 that requires good Par-4 play and can also be affected by wind.
Abraham Ancer 45/1 (SkyBet 7 places 1/5 odds) 1pt e/w:
It may appear a predictable or lazy pick, considering he’s playing at home this week but Abraham Ancer’s career has been on an upward trajectory for much of 2018, especially in recent weeks and he looks ready to win.
In his last three starts, Ancer has top-5’s at both the CIMB Classic (T5) and the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open (T4) and he can go better here. These finishes were his fourth and fifth top-7 finishes since July and its this level of consistency that suggests he’s ready to breakthrough in the 2018/19 season.
Ancer has played here three times in the past, missing the cut on his first start, before finishing 55th a year later. Last year though, Ancer found himself in the top-10 (T9) at the end of the week, shooting a 65 in the third round, the same score he shot in the opening round a year before.
There may be too much pressure on him to win in Mexico, but I think that has been factored into the price and then some, so he still strikes me as value at 45/1.
Scott Piercy 50/1 (Betway 5 places 1/4) 45/1 (Betfred 7 places 1/5) 1pt e/w:
I picked Scott Piercy last week in his home event, but this time the Vegas resident makes another trip to Mexico as he hopes to get his 5th PGA Tour victory, in the same week he celebrates his 40th birthday.
Top-10’s in each of his last two starts, Piercy returns to a course where he has endured a mixed bag of form. In his first few attempts here, he simply made no inroads, but in his last two starts at El Camaleon, he has shown a liking to the layout.
He finished 4th here in 2016, two years after finishing 16th, and that 16th could and should have been much better as well.
In 2014 he shot three rounds in the 60s, including a final-round 65. His third-round 73 meant he faced an uphill battle to finish in the top-10.
When 4th on his last visit though, Piercy started like a train, shooting 65-66-66 but a final-round 70 meant he fell four shots short of winner, Pat Perez.
Given his current form and last effort here, Piercy looks good value at 50/1.
J.J Spaun 66/1 (General) 1pt e/w:
J.J Spaun has impressed since making his way onto the PGA Tour in 2017, coming close to victory on more than one occasion.
In 2017 Spaun was 2nd behind Austin Cook at the RSM Classic, but it was comfortable for Cook in the end, as he secured a three-shot victory.
Again in 2017, at the Waste Management Phoenix Open Spaun was just two shots shy of Hideki Matsuyama and Webb Simpson, who had to go to a play-off to decide the winner.
These two week’s particularly gave him some experience of contending and he can take that into this week, as he looks to capitalise on some good form.
At the CJ Cup he improved as the week went on, in the end finishing in a tie for 10th and last week he almost made it back-to-back top-10’s.
Spaun fell just one shot shy of the tie for 10th place in Vegas last week, but this was his second-straight top-15 in this event. Repeat performances at the same course prove a liking for the layout and its the same story this week.
In two appearances at El Camaleon, Spaun finished T28 on debut, before improving 14 places last year, to finish in a tie for 14th.
Spaun can continue to improve on this course, and contend for a third time on the PGA Tour, as he looks to get the win his potential suggests may be on the horizon.
Harold Varner III 90/1 (Bet365 5 place 1/4 or Betfred 7 places 1/5) 0.5pt e/w:
Harold Varner III is a player who keeps popping up on leaderboards, most notably this year when T7 at TPC Sawgrass.
A double-bogey on his 72nd hole last week robbed him of a top-10 finish, instead settling for T15 but it was another good effort nonetheless.
Varner has now finished T17 or better in 5 of his last 8 events and there’s every chance he can post a career-best PGA Tour finish for the second time in his career at this course.
In 2015, Varner finished T5 here which still remains his joint-best finish on the PGA Tour. This finish was largely thanks to a second-round 62, showing what he can do on this layout should he get on a roll.
There is of course reason for concern, as we wonder whether he just got hot for one round, but he backed it up with a third-round 68 and never shot over-par that week, so clearly feels comfortable here.
Whilst Varner hasn’t yet won on the PGA Tour he has won in Australia and he can perhaps get another win outside of North America this week.
Given his improved level of consistency in recent months and his effort on debut here three years ago, I think there’s some value in HV3 at 90/1, even if he did miss the cut here in 2016.
Keith Mitchell 100/1 0.5pt e/w:
In 2018, Mitchell finished inside the top-7 on four occasions, peaking with a 2nd place finish at the Corales Puntacana Championship.
A third-round 75 in Puntacana derailed Mitchell’s chances but he still only finished 4 shots short of the mark. That week would have stung, but also proved what Mitchell can do and he really was one steady round away from victory. A learning curve if ever there was one, Mitchell should look at that week and build on it in the future.
In more recent weeks, whilst his results haven’t jumped off the page, Mitchell has still shown plenty of form and he can carry that on this week.
At the CIMB Classic two starts ago, Mitchell shot rounds of 65 and 66, helping him finish T22 despite two lacklustre rounds.
If was just the one round that let Mitchell down last time, as he opened the week with a 75 at the CJ Cup, but went on to shoot three sub-70 rounds to end up one shot shy of another top-10.
A fine putter, Mitchell will use that to his advantage on a course he should enjoy this week. Despite finishing 68th on his only appearance here, 12 months ago, Mitchell shot rounds of 65 and 66 and if he can cut out the poor middle rounds (75-78) he can go well.
Inconsistency thoughout any given week is hurting Mitchell right now, but if he can piece it all together for four rounds, he has a serious chance of getting his first victory. At 100/1 it’s worth chancing that it happens this week.
Robert Streb 150/1 (UniBet 6 places 1/5 odds) 0.5pt e/w:
After a tough couple of seasons, Robert Streb has shown signs of returning to his former best, winning on the Web.com last season before finishing T4 in Vegas last week.
Prior to his strong effort last week, Streb had already played solidly at the Sanderson Farms Championship, finishing in a tie for 26th
He finished 37th on his only start here, which came shortly after his RSM Classic win in 2014.
Given his recent form, as well as his win on the Web.com Tour which secured his PGA Tour card, Streb to me looks good value to improve on his sole start at this course.
At 150/1 he looks the value play of the week even if only focusinh on his effort in the desert last week, which saw him shoot four rounds of 68 or better.
Total points staked this week: 9
Profit/Loss for 2018: -88.95