The field this week is right around 130 golfers and isn’t particularly strong. There are several web.com graduates in the field and knowing which ones are playing well or showing potential will be crucial for recognizing good value plays this week. The cut will take place after Friday as always and the top 70 and ties will play the weekend. While the field isn’t super strong Matt Kuchar, Harris English and last year’s winner Charley Hoffman are all playing.
El Camaleon, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Par 70, 6,987 yards
This is a Greg Norman designed course set on the coast of the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico. This course has hosted the event since 2007 although the dates changed from Feb to Nov back in 2013. This is significant as the tournament has seen much lower scores since the move since the winds at this time of year are much milder than they are in February. The winning scores the past two years have been -17 and -21 respectively so obviously this course is quite gettable for the players. As a short and a fairly wide open track driving accuracy usually isn’t a huge issue here although players with great wedge games like John Huh and Jason Bohn have had a lot of success. In a lot of ways this is very much a second shot course and there will be a big emphasis on iron play and good putting
One thing to note is that the course uses Paspalum style greens which will be average or slow on the stimpmeter. These are similar greens to two weeks ago when the players were in Malaysia. Something to keep in mind.
Last 3 Winners
– The past three winners have all ranked inside the top 50 for birdie average in the year of their respective victory.
– 3 of the last 4 winners had a top 5 in their past four events before winning here.
– Strokes gained-putting
– Birdie average
– Par 4 scoring
As mentioned I’m not super concerned with stats off the tee this week but I do want players who can hit it close and make a ton of birdies. Players who have finished in the top 5 here the past couple go arounds have all been within the 50 or so in birdie average in the year of their victory making it a viable statistic for the week. With the greens being a bit slower and the course being a bit easier this tournament also turns into a bit of putting contest at times and looking to see who is stroking it well on the greens lately isn’t a bad idea. All of the past three winners had good strokes gained-putting stats when they won here. Finally I’d also consider par 4 scoring. With a shorter course a lot of the big hitters length advantage will be neutralized this week and so taking advantage of the par 4’s will be more crucial. Look for players who rank highly in this category as well.
Who’s had success at El Camaleon?
– Chris Stroud has played this event every year since 2008 and never missed the cut. He has three top 5 finishes in that span and seemingly loves this event.
– Charles Howell III missed the cut last year but before that he had a string of 4 top finishes at this event. He’s definitely taken to the course.
– Colt Knost has made the cut in all 5 appearances at this event and was 3rd here back in 2012. He’s also performed well on other courses with some correlation to this week.
– Jason Bohn has three appearances here over the past 5 years and has yet to finish worse than 20th. He was 7th here last year.
Who’s struggled at El Camaleon?
– Brian Harman has missed two of three cuts at this event. He’s a streaky player though so I expect him have a better showing this week.
– Scott Stallings has played here twice and also never made the cut. Another streaky player who could overcome past bad performances this week.
– Russell Knox is coming off a huge win but has never placed better than 30th at this event. That could change with his newfound confidence.
– Boo Weekly has played here 3 times in the past 5 years and never been better than 35th. He certainly has the ability to play well in a weaker field like this but doesn’t have great results on the course to fall back on.
There’s extremely well-priced value plays in the mid to upper-mid tiers this week. As we’ve seen thus far the wrap-around season can be a little unpredictable in terms of who is playing well. Lots of first time winners have collected huge checks the past few weeks. I’d definitely be OK relying a little more on course history this week and would probably recommend a more balanced approach when creating lineups. There’s just as much upside in some of the less experienced mid-tier players as there is in the upper-tiers ones and getting in 4-5 solid plays should mean lineups with more upside and higher scoring potential.
My Winner: Chris Stroud
Stroud meets a lot of my criteria for the week. He has great course history and is currently ranked in the top 20 for strokes gained putting and inside the top 50 for birdie average on the very short season thus far. He’s been trending very strongly of late and I like his chances to pick up his first win here
My Sleeper: Ben Crane
Crane has started the year very well and is currently inside the top 20 in both birdie average and SG putting. A strong putter, Crane has had success at TPC Southwind, a course that translates very well to this week and where past winners of the OHL Classic Harris English and Brian Gay have also won. I think he’s in for a big week.