By Tyler Duke
Each week, we will highlight our top players on the PGA Tour in order of likeliness to win the tournament.
Factors coming into play on the rankings are (in no order):
- Recent form: How the player has performed in various aspects of his game in recent weeks.
- Course history: How the player has performed at the host course if he has played there in the past.
- Course fit: Used as a secondary or backup to course history, fit looks at certain skills that translate to success on the host course.
- Strokes gained: Strokes gained will come into play in all of the factors above. Unless otherwise noted, strokes gained stats are taken from the player’s last 50 rounds.
Using the guidelines above, value can be found in the betting market by highlighting players whose outlook for the tournament may be flying under the radar to the general public.
The weighted model for this week is:
- 25% Fairways Gained
- 25% SG: Approach
- 15% Opportunities Gained
- 10% SG: Around the Green
- 10% SG: Par 5
- 10% Par 4: 400-450 Yards
- 5% SG: Putting
This week: Mayakoba Golf Classic
- Date: December 3-6, 2020
- Location: Playa del Carmen, Mexico
- Course: El Camaleon Golf Club
- How to watch: Golf Channel, NBC
- Purse: $7,200,000
- Defending champion: Brendon Todd
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Course preview: El Camaleon Golf Club
The PGA Tour will finally cap of its eventful 2020 with the Mayakoba Golf Classic this week. After the only non-December off-week of the year last week for Thanksgiving, a surprisingly strong field will head down to Mexico to try to secure some FedExCup points before the new year and the competitive West Coast Swing.
2020 should be viewed as quite the success for the PGA Tour. After the COVID-19 break, the Tour was able to come back earlier than other major sports leagues and ran things much more smoothly overall. Outside of a few top names getting it, the sport mostly was able to keep the headlines positive thanks to the nature of the sport and a nice job managing protocols.
The Mayakoba Golf Classic has been running strong since 2007 and is now a standalone event with regular FedExCup points. And with Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge being canceled this year, it’s the only major draw for the week. El Camaleon Golf Club is a unique course on the PGA Tour and runs under 7,000 yards as a Par 71. Winding through jungles and along the ocean, Camaleon truly puts a premium on accuracy and is a joy to watch the players attempt to navigate the track.
Greg Norman designed the course in 2006 and like many oceanside courses, the difficulty is often determined by the wind strength. The course has ranked as hard as 17th on Tour and as easy as 41st. The last two years have seen Matt Kuchar and Brendon Todd take advantage of lower winds and surpass the 20 under mark.
El Camaleon is perhaps the most accuracy-driven course on the PGA Tour. Hitting fairways is incredibly important because of the trouble surrounding them. Contrasting that, distance is as meaningless as it’ll ever be for a PGA Tour event. That makes it a unique week since many of the world’s best players are long but a bit wild off the tee.
Along with hitting fairways, approach play will be nearly as important … just like most weeks. Players who find the short grass will have the ability to fire at flags and create plenty of birdie opportunities. We’ll combine SG: Approach and Opportunities Gained to see who will create birdie looks more than others.
Putting on Paspalum greens can be a bit fluky, so while we’ll very lightly look at putting in the model, it’s not much of a predictive factor. We’ll instead look at SG: Around the Green a bit more to see who can get out of trouble by scrambling once they miss fairways.
The Par 5s at Camaleon are extremely scoreable with all three being reachable and allowing a substantial number of eagles. We’ll check who has been scoring well on Par 5s and take advantage of the holes you need to gain strokes on. Finally, nine of the 11 Par 4s on the course run very close to the 400-450-yard range. Looking at who has been playing holes around that yardage well should provide insight into who will be dialed in on most of the Par 4s this week.
The field this week will easily be the strongest in the history of the Mayakoba Golf Classic. Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Brooke Koepka, Rickie Fowler and Viktor Hovland will highlight some of the big names making the trip to Mexico. Brendon Todd is in the field as the defending champion ranked 47th in the world.
Mayakoba Golf Classic Power Rankings
20. Brian Harman: Always a popular choice when looking for accurate players. Been in solid form with 6 Top 30s in his last 9 starts. Also playing the Par 5s extremely well for someone without much power. Ranks 3rd in SG: Par 5 and 7th in SG: P.
19. Brian Stuard: Been a rough stretch for him of late but flashed potential with a 63 at RSM and finished 3rd at Safeway to start the season. Finished 2nd here in 2010 and 2013. Ranks 2nd in Par 4: 400-450 and 7th in Fairways Gained.
18. Abraham Ancer: His approach play has been extremely inconsistent as of late but he contended at the Masters by figuring it out a bit. Extremely accurate off the tee and has 2 Top 10s here in his last 3 starts. Ranks 6th in Par 4: 400-450 and 10th in Fairways Gained.
17. Viktor Hovland: Things cooled off a bit for the OSU product after a hot start to the restart. But he’s snuck in 3 Top 15s in his last 4 starts and seems to be getting the ball striking back. Ranks 19th in SG: Par 5.
16. Sebastian Munoz: Finally missed a cut at Sea Island to end a heater that dated back to the FedExCup Playoffs. Generally has a solid all-around game and catches fire fairly often with birdies. Ranks 14th in SG: ARG and 18th in Opportunities Gained.
15. Tony Finau: He does have a 7th here back in 2014, but the issue for him will be hitting fairways. Ranks 119th in Fairways Gained but is otherwise one of the top few players in the field. Ranks 6th in SG: APP and 1st in SG: Par 5.
14. Will Zalatoris: Comes into this week with full status and a little less hype for the first time, which could benefit him. Extremely solid in ball striking and plays a smart game that should help on a course with plenty of trouble. Ranks 10th in SG: APP and 14th in SG: Par 5.
13. Emiliano Grillo: Has 3 Top 10s in his last 4 starts here and has really been playing some great golf in the last 4 months. He’s gained on approach in 13 of his last 14 tournaments, and the putting hasn’t been as bad recently. Ranks 8th in SG: APP and 4th in Opportunities Gained.
12. Kyle Stanley: Gained 8 strokes on approach at the RSM in his last start and finished 6th with a commonly negative week on the greens. If he can ever figure the flat stick out, he might win some tournaments. Ranks 2nd in Opportunities Gained and 8th in Fairways Gained.
11. Rickie Fowler: In the midst of what must be his most disappointing stretch as a professional. Doesn’t have a Top 10 since January and can’t find any consistency in any part of his game. But he showed some signs at Augusta and a shorter course that focuses on his ball striking where he finished 2nd in 2017 could help him out. Ranks 17th in SG: ARG.
10. Brooks Koepka: It didn’t take long for him to get back in form with a 5th in Houston and 7th at the Masters. Camaleon takes away his biggest strength, but he’s still a top player regardless. Ranks 14th in Opportunities Gained.
9. Harold Varner III: He’s popped into contention quite a few times since the restart, but the putter has continually ruined his chances. These greens are the type that could neutralize that weakness, and he has a 5th and 6th here in the past. Ranks 4th in Opportunities Gained and 3rd in SG: ARG.
8. Doug Ghim: He’s playing some consistent golf with 5 Top 25s in his last 7 starts to show some of the potential people have been excited about. The approach play has been really strong with it. Ranks 12th in SG: APP and 22nd in SG: ARG.
7. Keegan Bradley: Finishes of 4th at Sanderson and 15th at the RSM with exceptional ball striking have shown he’s regained some form. The putter has been horrific all year. If it’s even average, he could win again. Ranks 2nd in SG: APP and 7th in Opportunities Gained.
6. Chez Reavie: The ultimate accuracy player comes in with a lot of up and down form since the restart. The putter has been surprisingly bad, but his ball striking bas been as solid as ever. Great course history here. Ranks 1st in Fairways Gained, 5th in SG: APP and 9th in Opportunities Gained.
5. Daniel Berger: Even though he’s cooled off a bit from being one of the top players in the world early in the restart, he’s still been solid as of late. Combines power with accuracy off the tee and can get hot with the putter. Ranks 10th in SG: APP, 8th in SG: P and 3rd in SG: Par 5.
4. Corey Conners: Disappointing for much of the last 6 months, he’s turned it on lately with an 8th at Zozo, 10th at the Masters and 10th at the RSM. Plays coastal courses well and his weak putter could benefit from the flukier greens. Ranks 10th in Opportunities Gained and 5th in Fairways Gained.
3. Harris English: Mr. Consistent has continued to keep it up with a strong 6th place finish at Sea Island. He simply has no weaknesses in his game and gains in every category nearly every week, making him a fit for any course. He won here in 2013 and finished 5th last year. Ranks 1st in SG: ARG and 7th in SG: Par 5.
2. Justin Thomas: An overwhelming favorite at 5/1, he’ll need to focus on accuracy off the tee instead of distance to improve his 68th ranking in Fairways Gained. Otherwise, he’s clearly 1 of the 3 best players in the world and could easily coast to a win with his wedge play. Ranks 1st in Opportunities Gained and 2nd in SG: ARG.
1. Russell Henley: He’s coming in as perhaps the hottest ball striker in the world with 12 straight tournaments gained on approach. He’s also extremely accurate off the tee. What’s changed his results the most is the putter cooperating more as of late. Ranks 1st in SG: APP, 1st in Par 4: 400-450 and 6th in Opportunities Gained.
*All stats are from tournaments since the restart on June 11
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Up next on the PGA Tour
The PGA Tour will host a team event next week in Naples, FL but is otherwise off for regulated FedExCup events until the Sentry Tournament of Champions on Jan 7.