This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
WORLD WIDE TECHNOLOGY CHAMPIONSHIP AT MAYAKOBA
Winner's Share: $1.296M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the winner
Location: Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Course: El Camaleon Golf Club
2020 champion: Viktor Hovland
The calendar has flipped to November and we are closer to the end of the fall season than the start. This will be the seventh of nine events before the PGA Tour takes its annual six-week winter break. After Mayakoba comes the Houston Open and RSM Classic and then that's it till the Tournament of Champions kicks off the new year. The European Tour also winds down this month, leaving the Hero World Challenge as the only tournament of consequence in December.
With the long break ahead, many top golfers have flocked to Mexico to create the strongest field in the 15-year history of the Mayakoba tournament, certainly good news after last week's debacle in Bermuda. While there's only one top-10 golfer, 10 top-25s and 18 top-50s populate the 132-man contingent. There's No. 7 Justin Thomas at the top, followed by No. 11 Tony Finau, No. 13 Brooks Koepka, No. 14 and local favorite Abraham Ancer, and No. 17 Viktor Hovland, the defending champion. Others who move the needle and therefore are craved by tournament organizers are Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Sergio Garcia and another local favorite, Carlos Ortiz.
El Camaleon was designed in 2006 by Greg Norman, who surely won't be receiving a holiday card from the PGA Tour this year. The course was an instant hit and only a year later, Mayakoba became the first Tour event ever contested outside the United States or Canada (non British Open). The course is perched on the easternmost point of Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula. It is described on the tournament website as bending "through three distinct landscapes - tropical jungle, dense mangroves, and oceanfront stretches of sand with holes bisected by massive limestone canals." For those wondering what, exactly, a mangrove is, it's a tree or shrub that features many tangled roots. In other words, they're big trouble if your ball finds one.
Last year, a then-23-year-old Hovland interrupted a very strong trend that had developed through the tournament's first 13 editions – 11 times the winner was at least 30 years old (heck, 2007 inaugural winner Fred Funk was 50!). It speaks to the shorter, old-school look and feel of El Camaleon, an anachronistic 7,000ish yards. Maybe that's why older guys usually win this tournament. You just can't bomb it here. You don't necessarily have to keep it in the fairway, just don't stray too far. Hovland won at 20-under, and the winning score usually falls within a few shots either way. In other words, birdie-fest.
There are only three par-5s and all are under 560 yards. The par-3s are also collectively short, one of them a mere 116. Similarly, eight of the par-4s are 450ish or less. So this is surely a second-shot golf course, one where they will be firing at the larger-than-average paspalum grass greens that are about 7,000 square feet and running only 11 on the Stimpmeter. Paspalum is uncommon on Tour but not unheard of, featured on tracks in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic and formerly Malaysia. There's water all over El Camaleon, with a series of canals snaking through the course. Based on where it's situated, where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Caribbean, wind is a primary defense.
Weather-wise, there will be a gazillion percent improvement over last week's terrible conditions in Bermuda. Mid- to-uppers 80s every day, with very little chance of rain and barely any wind (that could change!). If it stays like that, the tournament record of 22-under would definitely be in play.
Key Stats to Winning at El Camaleon
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in order of importance.
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Putting
• Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green/Scrambling
• Birdie Average/Birdie-or-Better Percentage
2020 - Viktor Hovland
2019 - Brendon Todd
2018 - Matt Kuchar
2017 - Patton Kizzire
2016 - Pat Perez
2015 - Graeme McDowell
2014 - Charley Hoffman
2013 - Harris English
2012 - John Huh
2011 - Johnson Wagner
As we mentioned above, there is quite a theme here, as increased age and decreased distance dovetail. Todd, Kuchar, Kizzire, Perez, McDowell, Hoffman, Wagner, Cameron Beckman (2010), Mark Wilson (2009), Brian Gay (2008) and Fred Funk (2007) wre all older guys and none of them would be considered a big hitters (Heck, Funk was the poster boy for short hitters even in his prime, not to mention after turning 50.) That's because the key to El Camaleon is positioning. Being in the fairway isn't imperative, just don't stray too far. Among the last eight winners, only Hovland and Kuchar were among the top-15 in driving accuracy. But seven of the eight were top-11 in greens in regulation, and Hovland ranked first. Only McDowell was not, and he putted out of his mind. The winning score the past five years has been perched between 19- and 22-under, with Kuchar setting the tournament record. Hovland's 20-under last year nipped Aaron Wise by a stroke. Putting usually has been important on these unfamiliar paspalum greens at Mayakoba, but Hovland was able to win despite ranking only 45th in putts per round (there is not ShotLink data this week). Wise was seventh. Harris English ranked first in the field in putting and finished fifth. The greens run pretty slow, which also tends to benefit the older guys. The over/under on the winning score as determined by golfodds.com was set at 262.5 – 21.5 under par.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Abraham Ancer - $10,700 (Winning odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook: +1600)
We recently saw Hideki Matsuyama win in Japan. It would be really something special to see Ancer win this week. Like Matsuyama, Ancer has been able to withstand the immense pressure of playing at home. He's finished top-25 four years running with two top-10s and last year's tie for 12th. Only now, Ancer is a far better golfer and is even expected to be there late on Sunday.
Billy Horschel - $10,100 (+3000)
The week after the TOUR Championship, while others were readying for the Ryder Cup in the States, Horschel headed to Europe to compete in the European Tour's flagship BMW PGA championship – and he won it. He's been a mainstay at Mayakoba the past few years and has finished top-8 two years running. The shorter track definitely levels the playing field for Horschel.
Aaron Wise - $9,600 (+3000)
Wise was runner-up here last year to Viktor Hovland and 10th in 2018. One reason might be that the unfamiliar paspalum greens could neutralize the better putters, clearing the way for the poorer putters, such as Wise and Hovland. Wise even has been putting better of late, coming off a pair of top-10s in his last two times out. Wise ranked 25th on Tour last season in birdie or better percentage, which tells you how good his game is tee to green.
Patrick Reed - $9,500 (+3500)
We can't lose sight that last week's runner-up came in a very weak field, and the prices/odds reflect that. But Reed was sinking putts like he hadn't in months, and that has nothing to do with the strength of the field. A short course where Reed can display his elite short game makes him an attractive and perhaps even undervalued pick this week.
Tier 2 Values
Shane Lowry - $9,300 (+3000)
Lowry will be making his debut at Mayakoba, but first-timers have won here. He's had a quietly good year, one in which he hasn't missed a cut since March. He had top-25s in more than half his cashes, and his skill set – good greens-in-regulation guy, good wedge player – should showcase well at El Camaleon.
Talor Gooch - $9,000 (+3500)
After a good 2020-21 season, Gooch has roared out of the gate this season. In three starts, he has a pair of top-5s and a T11. His iron and wedge play have been vastly sharper, though be mindful of the small sample size. Gooch has played Mayakoba twice before in 2017 and '19, though neither resulted in so much as a top-40. He's a far better golfer now than two years ago.
Sergio Garcia - $8,700 (+5000)
This will be Garcia's first foray to Mayakoba. He's an elite ball-striker – perfect for El Camaleon – and a terrible putter – which might not kill him this week. Garcia had top-10s in the last two playoff events (going by Tour Championship 72-hole scoring) and turned in a top-25 at the CJ Cup last time out.
Russell Henley - $8,200 (+4500)
Henley tied for 29th in his first go-round at Mayakoba in 2018, then curiously missed the cut the past two years. This track should be a green-light special with his laser-like accuracy. In the early going, Henley leads the Tour in driving accuracy, Strokes Gained: Approach and greens in regulation. He has amassed top-25s in six of his past nine starts and, with a world ranking of 56th, is desperately trying to crack the top-50 before the start of the winter break.
Tier 3 Values
Christiaan Bezuidenhout - $8,000 (+6500)
Bezuidenhout had a real clunker (T57) last week in Bermuda as the third-highest-ranked guy in the weak field. Who knows, maybe it was akin to taking an NFL trap game too lightly? He remarkably has not missed a cut in 21 starts in 2021 and is normally an accurate iron player.
Carlos Ortiz - $7,600 (+8000)
The No. 2 crowd favorite after Ancer, the Guadalajara native is back for his eighth straight Mayakoba start. Ortiz was eighth last year and runner-up two years ago so, like Ancer, has shown he can handle the pressure of a home game. Unlike Ancer, Ortiz has not had a great year. But we think this being one of his most important tournaments all year supersedes recent form.
Emiliano Grillo - $7,500 (+6500)
Grillo is another outstanding ball striker who likely has this week circled on his calendar every year. He's made five starts at Mayakoba with three top-10s, including last year, and another top-15. Grillo doesn't have many top-10s this year, and none in months, but his past three all came at short tracks: Colonial, Harbour Town and Puntacana. Grillo ranked 28th on Tour last season in birdie or better percentage.
C.T. Pan - $7,300 (+9000)
Things didn't go well for the DFS community when it was C.T. Pan chalk week at the ZOZO Championship (T57). Pan is more favorably priced this week (by an enormous $1,500) and has better course history at Mayakoba. He's made four straight cuts, including a pair of top-16s in his most recent visits in 2018 and '19.
Brendon Todd - $7,100 (+8000)
There are a few guys, horses for the course, who are right around $7,000 – Todd, Adam Long, Joel Dahmen. In a way, we like them all. But we like Todd best. He won here in 2019, came back last year and tied for eighth. Todd has fallen out of the top 100, but he can still deliver on shorter tracks – he was top-10 at both Colonial and Sedgefield Country Club.
Charles Howell III - $6,900 (+10000)
Howell is now ranked 200th in the world, his lowest standing in more than two decades. Now 42, he used to play 30ish times a year – he was Sungjae Im before there was a Sungjae Im – but has been in the teens the past two years. Howell can still compete on certain tracks – he was top-10 at THE PLAYERS, top-20 at Harbour Town. He's been top-25 at Mayakoba five of the past six years.
Rory Sabbatini - $6,700 (+15000)
Sabbatini is now 45, still in the top 100 of the OWGR and your reigning Olympic silver medalist. He's also coming off a top-5 at the Shriners. It appears Slovakian citizenship has given him a second act in golf. Sabbatini did not have a great 2020-21 season on Tour, but he did rank top-50 in birdie average. Like many guys, he can still deliver at certain tracks. He's made the cut seven of the past eight years at Mayakoba.
Brice Garnett - $6,500 (+14000)
We conclude with more long-shot chalk. Garnett has made six straight cuts here, five of them top-25s and three of them top-10s – though the worst of the bunch was last year's T32. The thing that Garnett does best comes in very handy this week: He keeps the ball in the fairway. And he can also putt pretty well. He has three top-10s this season, the best of them being a T5 at the Travelers.