After at tumultuous and uncertain year, the PGA Tour has reached the finale of the calendar year. The final official event of the 2020 year tees off at the Mayakoba Resort in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Here’s the Mayakoba Classic Preview with everything to know about the event before placing a single wager on it.
Mayakoba Classic Preview – The Field
Normally this event lacks star power, but there’s a few big names in the field this week. The highlight of the field is Justin Thomas, who looks to close 2020 with a bang. Justin Thomas last played here in 2014, where he finished T23 and gained over a shot on the field. Justin Thomas is a much better player than he was in 2014 and shines in these fall series events. He’s the heavy favorite to win this week.
Also headlining the field are players who are hanging around the Top 50 in the world. It’s important to be within the Top 50 in the world because it means they’ll be invited to the Masters next year if they remain there by December 31st. Players fighting for a Masters spot via the Top 50 exemption include Rickie Fowler, Kevin Streelman, Chez Reavie, Russell Henley and Will Zalatoris.
Other notables in the field this week include Abraham Ancer, Daniel Berger, Tony Finau, Viktor Hovland, Brooks Koepka, and Gary Woodland.
For the full field, click here.
The Golf Course
The El Camaleon Golf Course resides at the all-inclusive Mayakoba Resort in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The golf course was designed by Greg Norman and opened for play in 2006. The following year, the golf course played host to a PGA Tour stop for the first time as an opposite field event to the WGC Match Play in February. In 2013, the tournament was moved to mid-November as a standalone tournament on the schedule.
Greg Norman has designed over 100 golf courses, but only two of his designs are stops on the PGA Tour. The most notable of the two is TPC San Antonio, and is much maligned by both players and the media. TPC San Antonio is often rated as the worst golf course on the schedule because of it’s overbunkering and how unplayable it can be when the winds are up.
At least aesthetically, El Camaleon does a nice job fitting a golf course into the natural coastal Mexican landscape. The golf course weaves its way through mangrove forests towards the ocean. Meeting the players at the beach are a pair of short Par 3’s. While these holes aren’t long, they play into the prevailing wind off the Gulf of Mexico.
There’s even a cavernous sink hole in the middle of the 7th hole fairway that acts as a centerline hazard. The golf course was certified by the Audobon International Society due to the devotion to the natural Yucatan landscape. Most of the golf course is off limits to spectators as a protective site. That’s not a problem this year, however, due to COVID restrictions.
At the end of the day, however, this golf course is designed as one best suited to guests of the resort. While most errant shots are certainly a lost ball, professionals are good enough to keep the ball in play. If they do, the golf course is very gettable. The greens aren’t all that tricky and are receptive, which means lots of good looks for birdie. The winning score of the tournament typically is at or exceeds 20 under par, and the cut line is traditionally under par heading into the final 36 holes.
Mayakoba Classic Preview – Betting Strategies
As mentioned previously, there is no strokes gained data to rely on. Therefore, the name of the game this week is to match player attributes to El Camaleon.
Looking at the golf course from above, one immediately recognizes the value of driving accuracy. While the open areas of the hole are fairly generous, anyone who pumps a drive into the mangrove forests or into the canal is going to have to re-tee for their third shot right out of the gate. Driving accuracy is going to be paramount this weekend, and players who typically fair well on less-than-driver golf courses should have a bit of an advantage this weekend. The golf course is just over 7,000 yards, meaning longer hitters can get away with hitting a fairway metal off the tee to ensure they put themselves in Position A in the fairway.
The greens at El Camaleon, while largely flat and accessible for most pin locations, aren’t all that big. Many greens at El Camaleon aren’t much wider than 20 yards. Proper ball striking with a mid-iron or wedge is a must. Wind is also a big factor at the tournament, meaning players who have fantastic distance and trajectory control on their irons will have an advantage this week.
These two characteristics are largely borne out when looking at a relative skill sets plot chart of past leaderboards:
As shown above, this is a golf course that neutralizes distance and puts a premium on accurate ball striking off the tee and from the fairway. It’s no surprise the comparable golf courses on the PGA Tour include Sedgefield Country Club, Murifield Village, Sherwood Country Club, TPC Sawgrass, Innisbrook Resort and Harbour Town. There aren’t many places to miss off the tee at these venues, and requires pinpoint accuracy with ones irons.
Lastly, players in the field who have played at least 12 rounds at El Camaleon and gained more than a shot per round on the field are the following:
- Brice Garnett – +1.76 (22 rounds)
- Emiliano Grillo – +1.59 (16 rounds)
- Russell Knox – +1.56 (28 rounds)
- Joel Dahmen – +1.48 (12 rounds)
- Danny Lee – +1.47 (21 rounds)
- Pat Perez – +1.38 (30 rounds)
- Gary Woodland – +1.29 (16 rounds)
- Billy Horschel – +1.22 (18 rounds)
- Charles Howell III – +1.21 (40 rounds)
- Chris Kirk – +1.16 (12 rounds)
- Abraham Ancer – +1.11 (18 rounds)
- Brian Gay – +1.09 (40 rounds)
- Kevin Streelman – +1.01 (24 rounds)
With the exception of Gary Woodland, all these guys aren’t the flashiest ball strikers but are of more the blue collar variety. None of them are overly long off the tee, but they sacrifice distance with accuracy and solid iron play. As for Gary Woodland, at his best he’s a player who is very comfortable using less than driver off the tee. That would help explain why he’s successful at El Camaleon.
It’s not a requirement to load up on the players listed above. It does demonstrate, however, what types of golfers fare best at El Camaleon. Bettors should target golfers of this mold for their bets and DFS lineups.