Horses for Courses: Mayakoba Golf Classic 2019

This looks lovely.

Lovelier than the snow outside my window.

Let’s fantasy golf.

If the choices are windburn or sunburn, this is an easy one!

As most of the country is freezing early this week, the TOUR players will be scrambling for sunscreen and beach towels at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

Horses for Courses will ride again this week as the 13th edition will take place at the exact location of the first 12. Greg Norman’s El Camaleon track will host a field of 132 as this is the penultimate chance to move up the FedExCup standings in 2019.

El Camaleon, as the name would suggest, changes shape as it winds through jungle, beach and quarry, but is ultimately a resort track. Playing a par-71 just over 7,000 yards, the highest winning score since moving to the November date in 2013 is 17-under, plus the tournament record has been equaled or broken in half of the six outings since.

Only one of the last six winners have found the top 10 in driving accuracy, five of the last six have hit the top 11 in GIR. The large Sea Isle Paspalum greens provide an excellent attacking target from either the fairway or the light rough. The tiered layouts will keep the Stimpmeter at normal speeds, so expect to see plenty of aggressive approaches with both irons and putters.


 

This is a scoring track, as three of the last four champs have led the field in birdies, while rounds above par for the top finishers are the clear exception to any rules.

With four of the last five victors 36 or older, it’s obvious that a bit of strategy, patience and execution will come in handy this week. But, I’d remember there has never been a champ who defends or a multiple winner over the years, as is usually the case at a shootout. The winner takes home $1.296 million (500 FedExCup points) of the $7.2 million purse.

Recent Winners

2018: Matt Kuchar (-22, 262)

Set 36 and 54-hole scoring marks as the 40-year old went wire-to-wire after sharing the first round lead. … 26 birdies co-led the field. … Five of the last six winners T7 or better in bogey avoidance (T1).

Notables: Danny Lee (2nd) posted four rounds of 67 or better and was second by a shot. … J.J. Spaun and Richy Werenski shared third. … Cameron Champ and Scott Piercy joined Harold Varner III as the only three players to shoot 62 and not win the event. … Perfect weather saw the cut land on 4 under and the top 40 were 10-under or better. … There were THREE rounds above par in the top 37.

2017: Patton Kizzire (-19, 265)

Opened with 62 and led or co-led the rest of the way. … At 31, he’s the youngest of the last five winners. … Opened with 62 in his just his fifth round here (T58, 2016). … Entered the week on back-to-back top-10 paydays. … Co-led the field in birdies with 25. … Played in the final group with Rickie Fowler (DNS) and won for the first time on TOUR.

Notables: Si Woo Kim (3rd), Charles Howell III (T4) and Scott Brown (T6) are all in the field this week. … Kizzire’s 25 birdies were three more than Danny Lee and Russell Knox. … Final two rounds were lift, clean and replace after heavy weather.

2016: Pat Perez (-21, 263)

Perez closed 62-67 to win over 54-hole record setter Gary Woodland. … Another year of perfect weather and another 40-year old winner. … T1 bogey avoidance and T2 Par-4 scoring saw him tie the tournament scoring record.

Notables: The top 24 players all made 20 or more birdies, led by Scott Piercy and Kevin Streelman (26). … Chris Kirk led after 18 holes (63) and is back in action this week. … Chez Reavie posted 63 in Round 3. … John Huh (WD) and Harris English are the only two winners in their 20s. … Fred Funk won the inaugural event at 50 in 2007.

Key stat leaders

Top golfers in each statistic on the 2018-19 PGA TOUR are listed only if they are scheduled to compete this week. Mayakoba Golf Classic does NOT use laser measurements.

 * – previous top 10 finish here

Rounds in the 60s

2  *Charles Howell III

3  Vaughn Taylor

4  *Rory Sabbatini (T3, 2014)

7  *Chez Reavie (T4, 2017)

9  Wyndham Clark

9  J.T. Poston

11 Denny McCarthy

11 *Tony Finau (T7, 2015)

14 *Harris English (WIN, 2013)

14 *Abraham Ancer (T9, 2019)

14 Joaquin Niemann

14 *Scott Piercy

20 Sebastian Munoz

22 *Matt Kuchar

Greens in Regulation

5  Jason Dufner

7  *Charles Howell III

10 *Scott Piercy

12 Martin Laird

14 Cameron Tringale

15 Brendan Steele

16 Shawn Stefani (2, 2015)

17 Jason Day

17 *Kevin Streelman

19 *Brice Garnett

20 Sepp Straka

22 *Cameron Champ (T10, 2018)

26 Hank Lebioda

28 Nick Watney

28 Jhonattan Vegas

Scrambling

4  Aaron Baddeley

6  Matt Jones

9  Denny McCarthy

9  *Brian Stuard

17 *Scott Piercy

18 *Rory Sabbatini

19 Ryan Armour

20 C.T. Pan

22 *Si Woo Kim

26 *Matt Kuchar

All-Inclusive

Pat Perez: He’s won, cashed T34 and collected T6 last year in his last three. Of his last 11 rounds, nine are 67 or better, including all four last year.

Russell Knox: Of his 24 career rounds here, 21 are par or better and the last 16 are in the red. Another top-10 result this year will make it four consecutive visits to the big bucks. He lost in a playoff to Graeme McDowell in 2015, followed that up with solo third and was T9 in his return last year.

Charles Howell: I was physically ill when he MC last year and he did so on level par. T17 or better with three top-10 checks in six of his last eight. Automatic.

Scott Piercy: He’s 44-under in his last three trips and the last two have paid T4 (2016) and T6 (2018).

Upgraded

Danny Lee: Posted 21 under – this would have won or gotten into a playoff in all previous 11 events here – to finish second last year. T25 in 2017 and another podium, T3 in 2014 shows he’s more than comfortable here. He’s made 47 birdies over his last two trips.

Brice Garnett: He’s 51 under his last four times here with three top-10s and a T25 to show for his trouble. Also won on Paspalum at Punta Cana in the spring of 2018.

Emiliano Grillo: Let’s not over-think this one. He’s 40 under the last and only three years he’s played and has cashed T10, T9 and 15th over that span. Of his 12 rounds, 11 are in the 60s.

Harold Varner III: In three trips, he’s left with T5 and T6 money, but the meat in that sandwich is MC. One of the members of “Club 62”.

Wait, What?

J.J. Spaun: Gamers love a trend and Spaun qualifies here (T28-T14-T3) the last three years. He’s posted one top-25 result on TOUR since T3 in 2018.

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