Just when we got all excited to have ShotTracker back in our lives, the PGA TOUR takes another vacation as they head to Playa del Carmen this week.
Other than the WGC-Mexico Championship, when heading out of the country, the TOUR doesn’t make the effort to travel with their ShotLink tools. Don’t worry, we will survive.
The event we’re prepping for is the OHL Classic which takes place on El Camaleon Golf Club. It’s played the role of host since the inaugural 2007 edition. Originally this event was held in February when the winds typically played a factor but since the move to November in 2013, the conditions have been rather calm. That looks to be the case again this week with the early forecast calling for winds under 10 mph and gusts are not forecasted to exceed 15 mph.
You will also notice the move to the fall meant a big uptick in the tournament purse. The winner now gets a big chunk of change. The winners since this change have been Harris English, Charley Hoffman, Graeme McDowell, and Pat Perez. All four have reached the top 40 in the world rankings at some point in their career. Not exactly shock winners. The three winners before them (Huh, Wagner, Beckman) have never cracked the top 60 in the OWGR.
The course itself is a sub-7,000 yard, par 71 track with seashore paspalum throughout the property. The grasses aren’t the main attraction, though. It’s the HAZARDs that draw all the attention. This coastal course features jungles, mangroves, canals, sand dunes, and even a giant sink hole. The sink hole doesn’t come into play but the golfers will definitely do their best to avoid the mangroves which can lead to big numbers.
Because of all these hazards, golfers will often club down off the tee at El Camaleon. At just 7,000 yards there is no need to rock the driver very often. It’s very cliché, but this is a second-shot course where approach and short-game skills will trump off-the-tee talent.
These golfers will back that up:
“I don’t hit it very far, but I feel comfortable out here. You don’t have to bomb it out here, you’ve just got to place it.” – Abraham Ancer
“I mean, this is a very tight golf course. You know, after maybe 10 to 15 yards of rough on each side, it’s just jungle, right?” -Ben Crane
“the hardest part for me is keeping my driver and my 3-wood in play on this golf course.” -Aaron Wise
“Well, technically it doesn’t suit my game. I mean, it’s really a course for shorter hitters, it’s not really long off the tee. You need to — there’s a lot of emphasis and importance on keeping the ball in play off the tee, so that means I’m not able to use my driver as much as I would like to” -Jon Rahm
“I’m still able to use my length by hitting 3-woods and 2-irons and moving it up the fairway still where most guys would have to hit driver and things. I hit one driver today” -Tony Finau
“I think I hit maybe two drivers all day. It’s just kind of one of those courses where you’ve got to hit the fairway.” -Daniel Berger
From a stat perspective, that would lead me to something like Distance from Edge of Fairway as a key stat this week. Missed fairways are fine, as long as you’re keeping it close and not spraying it all over.
Courses that graded out as potentially correlated include: Harbour Town, Sedgefield CC, TPC Kuala Lumpur, TPC Summerlin, and Waialae CC.
Check out the Fantasy Golfanac for more tournament history and golfer quotes.
Players to Watch
Gary Woodland… Woodland tossed his name into contention last week but faded outside the top 15 by the end of Sunday. Still, posting up inside the top 5 thru 54 holes last week is a good sign that his game is close. Finished runner-up here last year which gives him THREE runner-up finishes on paspalum greens (2 at the CIMB). Despite being long off the tee, he’s not afraid to pluck 2-irons out there and then pick his spots to capitalize with his distance.
Rickie Fowler… From a talent perspective, he is the class of the field. However he is making his course debut and really doesn’t seem like an ideal fit. Perhaps he let his new lady friend pick a new event to add to his schedule. Fowler surprisingly skipped the HSBC Champions after a four-year run at the event. With no PGA TOUR form since the TOUR Championship and Presidents Cup, Fowler becomes a big question mark this week. If he gets off to a good start on Thursday, I’d expect him to contend. If he stumbles out of the gate, he may just go through the motions and enjoy a nice vacation in Playa del Carmen.
Ollie Schniederjans… With fan favorite Cantlay hitting the winner’s circle last week, that puts Ollie next in line for fan favorites to win. Last week I cited Cantlay’s near-win at the Valspar as a good sign, being that Innisbrook graded out as a correlated course for me last week. This week I can say the same about Ollie. His two best finishes on TOUR? Runner-up at Wyndham and T3 at the Heritage. BOTH coming on courses that I highlighted as potential pointers this week.
Charles Howell III … Speaking of correlated courses, looking at data since 2014, nobody in the field has gained more strokes on the five correlated courses I mentioned than Charles Howell III. He’s also 7-for-8 here with six of them doubling as top 20s so we know that correlation translates to results. A very strong One-and-Done option if you want to sneak in a potential podium finisher and not wait until the Sony Open to burn him.
Anirban Lahiri… In his transition to the States, one of the biggest hurdles for Lahiri has been adjusting to grass types. This week we have paspalum greens which shouldn’t trick Lahiri too often. He’s a course horse at TPC Kuala Lumpur, and he arrives with some solid form this fall. A nice boom-or-bust option who finished T28 in his debut here last year.
Graeme McDowell… A short coastal course which means G-Mac is in play. He won here two years ago when he made his first return visit since the 2007 edition. Coming off a T10 last week, it wouldn’t be shocking to see him find a second straight top 10.
Abraham Ancer… Nothing in his PGA TOUR stats is going to lead you to picking him this week, but I do think he’s worth a flyer. He’s positioned himself inside the top 10 just twice after ANY ROUND on the PGA TOUR. Both of them came at this event last year, T5 after day one and T4 at the midpoint. He faded to T55 by week’s end but still pretty promising for this dual citizen of US and Mexico. If you read my Rotoworld article on Web.com Tour grads, then you’ll know I think Ancer could be ready to breakout this year. I’m not making Ancer a part of my core plays or anything extreme, but this is my gut play and I will take a few long shot stabs.
My Top 25 for the 2018 OHL Classic
1. Gary Woodland
2. Charles Howell III
Ollie Schniederjans Pre-tourney WD, bump everyone up and add J.J. Spaun as #25.
4. Ryan Moore
5. Rickie Fowler
6. Luke List
7. Byeong Hun An
8. Zach Johnson
9. Anirban Lahiri
10. Graeme Mcdowell
11. Kevin Streelman
12. Pat Perez
13. Patrick Reed
14. Bryson DeChambeau
15. Patrick Rodgers
16. Patton Kizzire
17. Aaron Baddeley
18. Chez Reavie
19. Shawn Stefani
20. Scott Brown
21. Kevin Chappell
22. Jason Kokrak
23. Charley Hoffman
24. Stewart Cink
25. Abraham Ancer