Notables reviewed in Tuesday’s Fantasy Insider will include defending champion Brendon Todd, 2016 champion Pat Perez, Rickie Fowler, Gary Woodland and Joaquin Niemann.
The PGA TOUR hasn’t held a competition contributing to the FedExCup or with official earnings in December since 1973. In what was known as the Walt Disney World Golf Classic and in its third edition – all in December – it concluded on Dec. 1 just as the first two had, with Jack Nicklaus as champion. (The tournament then evolved into a perennial stop in October or November until its run ended in 2012 as the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic.)
While wholesale rescheduling and other adjustments guided the return of golf since June of this year, the Hero World Challenge wasn’t saved. Originally scheduled to be contested this week, it was officially canceled in October. The upside is that a few of the golfers who may have pegged it in the Bahamas were not forced into a choice. Additionally, the winner at Mayakoba will earn exemptions into THE PLAYERS Championship, the Masters and the PGA Championship in 2021 (and probably the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational once the Official World Golf Ranking’s strength-of-field rating is determined late this week). He’ll also be the last qualifier into the Sentry Tournament of Champions when that tournament reopens this season on Jan. 7-10.
El Camaleón consistently has favored the golfer who finds the fairway off the tee, not as a rule but by profile. It’s not a coincidence that needle-threaders like Fred Funk (2007), Brian Gay (2008), Mark Wilson (2009), John Huh (2012), Graeme McDowell (2015) and Matt Kuchar (2018) preceded Todd, a sharpshooter in his own right. In fact, it’s the entirety of the ball-striker’s toolbox that’s rewarded throughout the picturesque Greg Norman design on the Riviera Maya.
At just 7,017 yards, El Camaleón is a track for all. Consider that Todd ranked 79th of 82 in driving distance here last year. (Because ShotLink is not utilized, only the par-5 fifth and 13th holes measure drives for statistical purposes. No. 7 is the third of the three par 5s on the par 71.) However, he split one more fairway per round than the field average and ranked third in greens in regulation, T8 in putts per GIR and T4 in scrambling.
Todd also capitalized on what annually is a set of the easiest par 3s on any course that hosts the PGA TOUR. He played the quartet in bogey-free 7-under to rank T2. He also co-ed the field in par-4 scoring, thus softening the bite of where El Camaleón challenges. Meanwhile, with no changes to the layout since last year, those returning will be reacquainted with the consistency of paspalum greens running up to 11 feet on the Stimpmeter. Lush primary rough at two inches will factor into a few decisions on club selection, thus lifting course management as a quiet prerequisite.
Last year’s field averaged 70.087. That’s both in line with its history and a fair target this week. Just as severe weather banged Thursday’s scheduled first round before a single shot could be struck a year ago, similarly inclement conditions are all but guaranteed to impact play this Thursday. The threat extends in earnest through Saturday before it tapers. The energy is not associated with a tropical disturbance, so wind should not be an issue. Time will tell if the tournament will require a Monday finish like last year, but with nowhere to compete next week, there are worst things than spending another night in paradise during the holiday season, especially in 2020.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider
SUNDAY/MONDAY (post-Mayakoba): Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Medical Extensions, Rookie Watch
* – Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.
Source: PGA tour