The last PGA tournament on the calendar for 2020 is a full-field event that features a regular cut after Friday, which will allow only the top 65 and ties will play the weekend. The Mayakoba Classic (once named the OHL Classic) has been a fixture on the fall swing for a few years now and has been a vital stop for many veterans of late. The simple tropical design has let players like Graeme McDowell ($7,100), Pat Perez ($7,300) and Matt Kuchar all find late-career wins here. Perez and McDowell are in the field this week (Kuchar isn’t, you can probably guess why), and other recent champs like Patton Kizzire ($8,000) and 2019-winner Brendon Todd ($8,600) are also here.
Making things even more interesting this week is the inclusion of names like Justin Thomas ($11,400) and Brooks Koepka ($11,000) in the field. Koepka will be making his fourth start since an early fall injury layoff and likely wants as much competitive practice before beginning his 2021 season. Thomas is coming off his best finish ever at Augusta (T4) and will be looking for his third win of 2020 here. Other top-50 players in the world who will be joining them here include Tony Finau ($10,700), Harris English ($10,100), Daniel Berger ($10,400) and Abraham Ancer ($9,900).
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. El Camaleon has hosted the event since 2007, although the dates changed from February to November back in 2013. This change is significant because the tournament has seen much lower scores since the move — the winds at this time of year are usually much milder than they are in February.
Being a shorter course with a lot of hazards, driving distance almost always takes a backseat here as players will often “club down” to find fairways and avoid trouble. This is very much a second-shot course, where players will simply be looking to avoid trouble off the tee to then fire short-to-mid irons into most of the greens. One other thing to note is the course uses Paspalum style greens, which will be average or slower than normal on the stimpmeter. There is rain in the forecast this week, too, so wet, receptive greens could be in store.
The setup here is fairly standard as El Camaleon plays as a par 71 with three par 5’s and four par 3’s. As previously mentioned, the course 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 3’s measure in at 155 yards or less and none of the par 5’s come in at longer than 554 yards, making it essential for players to take advantage of scoring on these holes. However, there are five par 4’s that measure in over 450 yards; so the key for most will be to limit the damage on these tougher, longer holes while taking advantage on the easier, shorter scoring ones. For reference, the last five iterations of this event have seen the winner here finish outside the top five in par 4 scoring only once for the week of play.
2020 Weather Update: This week doesn’t have a ton of wind to worry about as gusts aren’t expected to get over 10 mph all week. The weather is also expected to be quite warm, with highs in the low 80’s all four days. The major thing to watch with the weather this week will be rain — the first three days of the event all have a 60% chance of precipitation attached to it. While a little rain won’t stop things, three days straight of it with some possible thunderstorm activity could. Things could clear up as the week progresses but a wet course could be in store here, making a traditionally soft course even easier for the players.
Last 5 winners
2019—Brendon Todd -20 (over three players at -19)
2018—Matt Kuchar -22 (over Danny Lee)
2017—Patton Kizzire -19 (over Rickie Fowler -18)
2016—Pat Perez -21 (over Gary Woodland -19)
2015—Graeme McDowell -18 (in playoff over Jason Bohn and Russell Knox)
- Four of the past nine winners were playing this event for the first time in their career — Patton Kizzire and Matt Kuchar had each played here just once before winning.
- Three of the last four winners had recorded a top-10 finish in one of their previous two starts before winning here.
Winners Stats and Course Highlights
Brendon Todd (2019 winner, 20-under par)
Previous last five starts coming into 2019 (win-T28-MC-MC -MC)
Greens in Regulation—3rd
Putts per GIR—T8
· Todd came in on a huge heater last season after capturing the Bermuda Championship in his previous start. It’s yet another example of a player using some fall momentum to capture a title in the swing season.
· Todd ranked well in approach stats like GIR where he was third, but also did well around the greens. El Camaleon definitely sets up as more of a second-shot course, so his stats aren’t that shocking — both Matt Kuchar (win-2018) and Patton Kizzire (win-2017) also ranked inside the top 10 in GIR and Scrambling for the week of their respective wins.
· Todd’s off-the-tee stats also tell a big story about what to expect at this course. While Accuracy is moderately important, being low on the totem pole in driving distance isn’t a big deal if you’re hitting your irons well.
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful to not put too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their odds of winning this week.
Corey Conners +3500 and $9,000
· Joaquin Neimann +3500 and $9,100
· Will Zalatoris +3500 and $9,200
Charles Howell III +4500 and $8,100
· Brian Harman +5000 and $8,400
· Emiliano Grillo +5000 and $8,300
· Sebastian Munoz +6600 and $8,500
HORSES FOR COURSES
1. Russell Knox (best finish: 2nd – 2015): Knox lost in a playoff here in 2015 and has finished inside the top 10 at this venue in three out of seven starts. He’s 7-for-7 in terms of cuts made here, but has been up and down during the fall and missed the cut his last time out at the RSM.
2. Emiliano Grillo (best finish: T9 – 2016): Grillo has played this event in each of the past four seasons and has posted results of T41-T9-T10-T15. The Argentine has one of the more consistent iron games on Tour and is coming off a T18 finish at the RSM Classic in his last start.
3. Pat Perez (best finish: Win – 2016): The winner here back in 2016, Perez has a load of experience at this week’s venue, playing here in each of the past six seasons. He added a T6 finish to his record in 2018 and was T8 here last season.
4. Scott Piercy (best finish: T4-2016): Piercy has played this event four times prior to this year. He’s made the cut on each occasion and finished T4 and T6 here in 2017 and 2018, respectively. His approach game has been trending well of late, so another solid start at this second-shot course could be on the table.
5. Charles Howell III (best finish: T4-2017): Howell has played this event seven times prior to this season. The last five years have been particularly fruitful as he’s landed top-20 finishes here in four of his last five starts, with only one missed cut (2018). The vet is playing more consistent of late and has now made the cut in six of his last seven starts.
Cash Games: Justin Thomas ($11,400) is sitting at +650 on the DraftKings Sportsbook, a significant favorite over Brooks Koepka ($11,000) at +1200. Thomas is priced up a bit but I wouldn’t feel great about fading him in cash games, given how big a favorite he is this week. The field isn’t super deep, but there is likely enough value to go around that you could even start with Thomas and Corey Conners ($9,000), who comes in off back-to-back top-10 finishes and playing well. Lower down, players like Patton Kizzire ($8,000) and Scott Piercy ($7,900) make for excellent targets in the high 7k range. Other players to consider for this format this week include the likes of Doug Ghim ($7,400), Kyle Stanley ($7,100) and Wes Bryan ($6,600).
Tournaments: A super-balanced approach may be an interesting GPP strategy this week since there are several top players in the field and most should garner heavier ownership. I like Abraham Ancer ($9,900 — see below) but players like Marc Leishman ($8,700) and Emiliano Grillo ($8,300) could really go overlooked in the 8k range this week if many DFS players choose to bypass the 8k-range to let them fit in more top studs. Leishman played well at Augusta, and any continuation would make him a great play here given his record — which includes a win at the CIMB Classic on Paspalum greens. Brian Harman ($8,400) is another similar type of player who could go overlooked after one bad start. Other GPP players here to consider include the likes of Chris Kirk ($7,500), Camilo Villegas ($7,000) and Hank Lebioda ($6,400)
1. Justin Thomas ($11,400, Recent results: 4th, T2): Thomas was one of the principle chasers of Dustin Johnson at the Masters. He ultimately fell back to fourth place but played well and put up his best finish at Augusta in his career. He’s won multiple events in the Fall, so he’s likely not coming here just for vacation.
2. Corey Conners ($9,000, Recent results: T10, T10): Conners is closing his 2020 in good fashion, recording a T10 at the Masters — his best finish in a major ever — and a T10 at the RSM Classic. He ranks sixth in this field in SG: TTG stats over the last 50 rounds and should be a player to contend with this week.
3. Harris English ($10,100, Recent results: T6, T28): Despite not owning a win in 2020, English just keeps churning out amazing results. He finished with a final round 62 at the RSM Classic to move into a T6 position and has top 10’s in three of his last five starts. A former winner at this week’s venue, he’ll be looking to cap his comeback season with a bang.
4. Brooks Koepka ($11,000, Recent results: T7, T5): Koepka has come back from his injury layoff strong, recording T7 and T5 finishes in his last two starts. Koepka has now made three starts since his injury layoff in the early fall. This will be just his second visit to Mexico (for this event), but you should expect a solid effort given he’s likely trying to make up for some lost time from this fall.
5. Patton Kizzire ($8,000, Recent results: T10, T11): Kizzire is a former winner of this event (2017) and comes into this year’s version with some solid form. The two-time PGA TOUR tournament winner has now finished inside the top 15 in his last two events, making it to the weekend in five straight starts. The setup here definitely grades out nicely for him, so another good week wouldn’t be shocking.
MY PICK: Abraham Ancer ($9,900)
Ancer has had a great 2020 season. He posted two solo runner-up finishes (RBC Heritage and the Amex) and is coming off a Masters which saw him sit within the top 5 going into Sunday, posting his best-ever finish in a major championship (T13). The only thing missing from Ancer’s season right now is a win. With him coming off a strong showing at Augusta, you have to think his confidence this week should be sky high.
Ancer has played at Mayakoba numerous times before. Being of Mexican descent, this tournament obviously has a little extra meaning to him. He’s made the cut here in four of his previous five starts at El Chameleon and has T8 and T9 finishes here in 2017 and 2019, respectively. Ancer ranked behind only Dustin Johnson in greens hit at Augusta and was hitting over 85% of his greens for the week before faltering in the final round. He’s shown better sharpness on and around the greens of late, too, and feels like a player ready to breakthrough here. He’s my pick to take down the last event of the season and cap off a great 2020.
MY SLEEPER: Alex Noren ($7,900)
Noren will be teeing it up at the Mayakoba for the first time in his career this week. While that may seem like a detriment, as I noted above, a lack of experience hasn’t halted other veteran players from performing well at this venue over the last couple seasons. The Swede has played some inspired golf at times in 2020, too, landing top-20 finishes at the year’s first two majors and he comes into this week having made the cut in eight of his last nine starts. While Noren has been relying on great putting and around-the-green play to carry him, that may not be such a bad thing at a course like El Chameleon where great-off-the-tee play is not necessarily needed.
The 38-year-old also looked better in the ball-striking department in his last start at the RSM, where he gained over +1-strokes both OTT and on APP for the week on his way to a T18 finish. A better start at that event may have catapulted Noren to a much higher finish there, but as it is, he still sits relatively cheap in price for the field at under 8k and should benefit from the course setup. He’s excelled in poor weather before, so rain shouldn’t matter much here either, especially to a player who would love to grab a win soon and re-establish himself as a top-50 player in the world.
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