This week, before the wall has been built to stop players visiting, the tour goes to Mexico. Played at El Camaleon, a 6,987 yard par 71, it tests different facets of the game to the normal grip it and wrip it we see. It suits a certain type of player that doesn’t often get the limelight. The accurate tee to green player. With players such as Brian Gay, Fred Funk, Graeme McDowell and Johnson Wagner here it’s clear what kind of player can thrive here and that’s what I’ll be focussing on this week.
Key stats include driving accuracy, greens in regulation and proximity to the hole. With small greens in play, accurate approach play is key. Additionally, as a coastal course, there is a chance that the wind will blow, so the ability to play in the wind – or even have a low apex height – may play to an advantage this week. Tournaments such as The Heritage, Fed Ex St Jude and the Sony Open have proved to be a fairly reliable guide for this tournament.
Looking at the top players in the $10,000+ range, I like the look of the stars and scrubs plays this week. With the low end plays who look to suit the course, this could be the way to go. There is however, a chance that all of the top end will be highly owned (Rahm was 40%+ last week in GPPs!) so the contrarian play might just be to fade the top level and using a balanced line up. I will do this in some, however, the quality at the top is quite difficult to get away from.
Russell Knox ($11,800) – It’s difficult to stomach the price, but Knox’s credentials are pretty impressive. He has played the course four times, with four made cuts culminating in a runner up last year. He can play the course. His recent form is great with consecutive top 10s, while both had disappointing Sundays. His accurate long game suits the course and having grown up in Scotland, I have no doubt he can play in the wind.
Emiliano Grillo ($11,200) – Another player who has the perfect game for this course. An accurate driver who hits fairways for fun, he also ranks highly in proximity from the key range of 150-175 yards. While he’s never played the course, being a Spanish speaker and having grown up in South America, I wouldn’t be surprised if he likes the surroundings. His recent form is very impressive with 16 consecutive made cuts. This includes ten top 20s. Not too bad! There is a potential for him to be lower owned given people might pivot down to Rahm.
Jon Rahm ($10,700) – I want to leave him out but it’s impossible. He is an absolute beast and just seems to churn out top results. I wouldn’t think the course would suit, but he actually finished 10th here as an amateur. Maybe there aren’t any courses that don’t suit his game?! The other element is that this is in a Spanish speaking country which may make him feel more at home. Who knows, but I’ll be on him again this week.
Jim Furyk ($10,200) – Having not played recently, Furyk looks to be at a great discount. He has the game to suit this course as a player known for his accuracy. He can play in the wind as shown by his win at The Heritage and his great Open record. There is also a chance that being a Ryder Cup VC will have motivated him in the same way it galvanised Harrington. The only downside is his lack of course experience; however, hopefully this will keep ownership down. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him challenging this week.
Si Woo Kim ($8,900) – I feel like I’m on Si Woo Kim every week but he’s a player I really like. His long game is great and he hits a lot of fairways. His recent form has been great including a top 10 at the Tour Championship and the CIMB. He played here last year finishing in the top 20 when he was new on tour. He comes back here a PGA winner and will expect to kick on from his exploits. At this price I expect him to be low owned, but I still think he’s a decent play.
Johnson Wagner ($8,400) – Last week I was all over Johnson Wagner and he missed the cut. I’m not going to move away from him now, as his ownership may be depressed coming back to a course he loves. He won here on debut in 2011, and has finished 16th and 8th here in the past two years showing his suitability. His recent form is still great despite the blip last week, with three top five finishes in his last six. At this price, I expect him to be under 10% owned, with great potential to differentiate.
Luke Donald ($7,500) – Not a player I’d usually take, but his game does suit certain courses. This could be one of those. He’s a short hitter with a magical short game. While it’s his first visit here, his form at the correlation course at The Heritage is outstanding. He also finished 2nd at the Wyndham off two missed cuts, so we know when he arrives at a suitable course he can score, no matter the form. I expect him to be low owned. A GPP play.
Ryo Ishikawa ($7,400) – Another player who let me down this week, but it’s too early to desert him. He missed the cut on the number, and with lower ownership this week I’ll back on. His recent form still stands, and with five top 10s prior to last week, I’m happy he’s playing well. It’s his first shot at the course, but I’m happy to throw him in a few line ups. Not a core play, but has the upside to make him a very good play.
Alex Cejka ($7,300) – Last week Cejka continued his solid run making it six top 30 finishes in a row. Despite this, he his price has been cut by $1k. I’m unsure why, but I like it! Has the game to suit the course as a great ball striker who hits a lot of fairways. He’s played the course twice, and while he missed the cut last year he finished T16 in 2014. He actually lay 3rd after 3 rounds before a disappointing final round, so we know the course does suit. In this field he looks like a great value play.
Kyle Stanley ($7,200) – A few years ago, Stanley was a hugely hyped youngster. After winning his first tournament, he looked destined for big things. While it hasn’t quite happened, Stanley has looked to be playing better over the past 12 months. This has culminated in five consecutive made cuts (with four top 25s) including his first top 10 of the year last week. So far this season he ranks top 15 in both driving accuracy and GIR, and 5th in proximity. Perfect for the course, and carrying on where he left off last year. He has finished top 20 here in the past, and with his game in prime condition, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him contend this week.
Ryan Blaum ($6,900) – Blaum still doesn’t have full status on tour, but he has taken to it incredibly well. Has finished T26-T11-T31 in his three starts. He’s an accurate driver who hits a lot of greens so has the right profile for the course. He actually played here last year recovering from an opening round 73 to finish 29th. I’ll keep riding on Blaum until he stops performing!
Michael Kim ($6,800) – As one of the shorter drivers on tour, Kim’s distance won’t penalise him this week. He did well to keep his card last year and has started the season very well. Finished T3 at the Safeway, and was set for a good finish last week before carding a final round 74. Making the cut here last year, but with the improved form – no doubt fuelled by a bit more freedom form keeping his card – I expect him to kick on at a course that suits.
Billy Hurley III ($6,800) – As one of the straightest drivers on tour, this course should suit Hurley well. He won on a similarly tight track – Congressional – last year showing that when conditions are right, it can work for him. His form is good with 11 of 12 cuts made, including a T15 last year. He’s played the OHL three times and has made the cut every time, including a top 25 on his last visit. A good price for a cut maker.
Fabian Gomez ($6,600) – This is a gamble, but has some big upside. If there’s one type of course that suits Gomez, it’s a tight tree-lined track near the coast. He won the Sony Open at the beginning of 2016 on a similar track, as well as the St Jude in 2015 – another short, tight course. His form has actually been surprisingly consistent having made six consecutive cuts. On his last visit in 2014, he finished in the top 25, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a repeat. A winner, we know he has the upside to get into the mix.
Chez Reavie ($6,400) – Another accuracy player, he ranks 1st in my model for his stats for the course. He played here last year making the cut and I’d hope he can build on that. His recent form has been solid with two top 25s in his past three tournaments. At this price, that kind of performance would do me just fine.
Vaughn Taylor ($6,300) – Expect this play to be hugely contrarian. Another player who relies on his ball striking which should suit the course. He also won at a short, coastal track last year so the course conditions may suit. The last time he played here – 2012 – he finished top 20 so hopefully he’ll have good memories. While his form since winning last year hasn’t been fantastic, he’s now made his last four cuts with two top 25s, a big improvement. A great GPP play.
Brian Gay ($5,700) – This is a true boom or bust play. Gay is hugely accurate and a fantastic putter, and at aged 44 could be inspired by last week’s winner Rod Pampling. He has actually won on the course back in 2008 when he eclipsed the field. Since then he has made all four cuts here including a top 5 in 2011. Last week Gay made the cut and topped the field in putting showing that his flat stick is hot, if he can keep his drives in the fairway as he usually does, he could surprise a few this week. Having finished 6th at a similar course layout which he’d previously won, just eight starts ago, there’s no reason why he can’t pop up again at a great price.
The World Ranking Play:
Charley Hoffman ($6,900) – A weak field and we have the 49th player in the world at $6,900. He also happens to be a former winner of the course so we know he can do well here. He isn’t in the greatest form, but we know he has the class. At this price he looks a great low ownership GPP play.
Scott Piercy ($9,800) – Piercy has played well recently, but having performed when almost 20% owned last week, I feel like he’s going to be heavily owned again. With this track more focused on accuracy, I’m not convinced he can perform as well this week. While he has a top 20 here, I’m happy to leave him this week.