The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course info, golfer history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.
This is the second-to-last tournament in the fall series before the PGA Tour goes on hiatus until January (although there is a little Tiger Invitational event to look forward to). The field this week is right around 130 golfers, as it’s being limited by the lack of daylight. While we once again don’t have a particularly strong field, there are some elite golfers making the trip down south, including Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed. Fowler hasn’t played competitively in almost two months, so it will be interesting to see how he performs. Other names teeing it up this week include defending champion Pat Perez, Kevin Chappell and Charley Hoffman. The cut will take place after Friday’s round as always, and the top-70 and ties will play the weekend. As with most of the fall series events, it will behoove you to get to know some of the new golfers on tour and figure out who has been in good form in the past few events.
El Camaleon, Riviera Maya, Mexico
Par 71, 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 February to November back in 2013. This change is significant, as the tournament has seen much lower scores since the move because the winds at this time of year are usually much milder than they are in February. The winning scores the past three years have been 21-under, 18-under and 17-under, respectively, so obviously this course is quite gettable, although, like last week, if the wind picks up, conditions will toughen.
As a shorter course with a lot of hazards, Driving Distance almost always takes a back seat here as golfers will often “club down” to find fairways and avoid trouble. This is very much a second-shot course, so there should be a big emphasis on iron play and good putting this week. One other thing to note is that the course uses Paspalum-style greens, which will be average or slower than normal on the stimpmeter. These are similar greens to what we saw last month when the golfers were in Malaysia, and it should be noted that last year’s winner, Pat Perez, has now won both this week’s event and the one in Malaysia (CIMB Classic).
The setup here is fairly standard, as El Camaleon plays as a par 71 with three par 5s and four par 3s. As previously mentioned, the course definitely plays short for tour standards at right under 7,000 yards, emphasizing wedge and short-game play. In terms of the hole setups, three of the four par 3s measure in at 155 yards or less and none of the par 5s come in at longer than 554 yards. There are five par 4s that measure in over 450 yards, however, so the key for most will be to limit the damage on these tougher/longer holes while taking advantage of the easier/shorter scoring ones.
2017 Update: Considering this is somewhat of a coastal course and is fairly wide open in spots, there will be at least some wind this week, and forecasts have winds in the 10 mph range for most of the four days. It’s possible that Thursday might see lighter winds in the morning, and if so, it might make sense to stack that end of the draw (Thursday a.m./Friday p.m.), as the entire Friday forecast looks pretty benign. Keep in mind these things change fast, so check the forecast Wednesday before deciding.
Last Six winners
- 2016 — Pat Perez -21 (over Gary Woodland -19)
- 2015 — Graeme McDowell -18 (in playoff over Jason Bohn and Russell Knox)
- 2014 — Charley Hoffman -17 (over Shawn Stefani -16)
- 2013 — Harris English -21 (over Brian Stuard -17)
- 2012 — John Huh -13 (in playoff over Robert Allenby)
- 2011 — Johnson Wagner -17 (in playoff Spencer Levin)
- Four of the past five winners have ranked inside the top-50 in Birdie Average in the year of their respective victory.
- Four of the past six winners were playing this event for the first time in their career.
Strokes Gained: Approach
Birdie or Better Percentage
Par 4 Scoring
As mentioned previously, I’m not super concerned with stats off the tee this week, but I do want golfers who can hit it close and make a ton of birdies. While it seems obvious, this is definitely a style of course you want to emphasize Birdie or Better Percentage on. The past three winners have all ranked T6 or better in this stat for the week, and in 2015, the three playoff golfers all ranked inside the top-four of this stat.
Additionally, with off-the-tee stats not being a huge concern, taking a more specific look at golfers’ Strokes Gained: Approach stats makes a ton of sense as well. In 2015, two of the three men from the playoff ranked inside the top-20 on tour in Strokes Gained: Approach for the season coming into the event, while the winner, Graeme McDowell, had been ranked as high as 12th in that category.
Finally, I’d also consider Par 4 Scoring. There has been a fairly strong trend of golfers ranking well in this category on tour and their finishing position here, and with most of the tough holes being par 4s, there’s good reason why. Last year’s winner, Pat Perez, ranked second in this category for the week, while 2015 winner Charley Hoffman led the field in Par 4 Scoring in the year of his win.
- Chris Stroud has played this event every year since 2008 and only missed the cut once (last year). He has three top-five finishes in that span and seemingly loves this event. His recent form isn’t great, so he does carry some risk.
- Charles Howell III missed the cut here in 2014 but overall has made 7/8 cuts here and finished inside the top-20 six times. He’s definitely taken to the course and is usually trustworthy on his favorite tracks.
- Johnson Wagner has now ventured south to Mexico for this event six times and made the cut in four of those starts. Even better is the fact he’s finished 16th or better three times, including a win here in 2012.
- Russell Knox has now played in this event five times and made the cut here every year. On top of that, he’s finished T3 and T2 here the past two seasons and has never finished outside the top-40. He should be considered a lead horse at this venue.
1. Chesson Hadley gets the top spot here after another top-five finish last week. He now has five top-five finishes over his last six starts, including a win on the Web.com Tour.
2. Pat Perez comes in hot. He followed up his win in Malaysia with T5 and T24 finishes.
3. Whee Kim has two top-five finishes over his last two starts. He finished T4 in Korea and T2 last week after losing out in a playoff.
MY PICK: Kevin Chappell ($9,000)
Chappell played his first PGA event since the Tour Championship last week and had a solid fall season debut, finishing T20 and ending with a nice 68 in tough conditions on Sunday. What’s interesting to note about Chappell’s week in Vegas was the fact he actually ranked second in the field in tee-to-green stats, gaining an incredible 12 strokes on the field in that category. While he did lose over seven strokes with the putter last week, the greens this week are Paspalum and generally slower and easier to read than most PGA setups, so a better week with the flatstick easily could be produced here. The fact the designer of El Camaleon is the same (Greg Norman) as the one who designed TPC San Antonio, site of Chappell’s only PGA win, could mean good things in that regard, too. Either way, “Chappie” looks like good value here at only $9,000 in this field, as he enters the week in solid form and should be eager for a second win in 2017 to maintain a good spot in the FedEx and Ryder Cup standings.
MY SLEEPER: Derek Fathauer ($6,800)
Fathauer seems like a nice fit for this event. He enters off the back of two made cuts (T10 at Sanderson Farms) and actually ranked second in Strokes Gained: Approach last week. Fathauer was brutal off the tee in Vegas (-7.7 strokes for the week), but with the driver being needed far less at this week’s venue, he could easily pop here if his iron play remains elite (he gained over six strokes on approaches last week). Fathauer traditionally has played and putted well on these green surfaces, too, as he’s netted top-five finishes at both this week’s venue (2015) and at TPC Malaysia in 2016, which also uses Paspalum on the greens. He’s risky but has landed four top-five finishes on the PGA over the past two years, making him a nice upside target for the week.
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