The WGC - Dell Technologies Match Play is by some distance the main attraction this week but there's a new PGA Tour event in the Dominican Republic playing alongside the main event so our man's taken a detailed look ahead of Thursday's start here...
“A number of events are staged at courses similar to this. The Sony Open, the RBC Heritage and the RSM Classic are all held on coastal, wind-affected tracks but the tournament that needs to be considered as the one most likely to correlate is the OHL Classic.”
The star names are battling it out in Austin Texas at the WGC - Dell Technologies Match Play Championship, which I've previewed here, but for the PGA Tour's rising and fading stars, there's a two year PGA Tour exemption, 300 FedEx Cup points and a $3 million purse up for grabs at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, as the PGA Tour takes in the Dominican Republic for the very first time.
This is the third edition of the Corales Puntacana Championship but it's the first time the tournament has featured on the PGA Tour. The first two editions, won by Dominic Bozzelli and Nate Lashley, were held on the Web.com Tour.
The PGA Tour and Grupo Puntacana, which owns the resort, have agreed to a four-year partnership so the event will run for six years in total at least.
The Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, Corales Golf Club, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
Par 72, 7,670 yards
The 2010 Tom Fazio designed Corales course is set among natural cliffs, coralina quarries and ocean coves, adjacent to the Caribbean Sea.
Six holes play alongside the Caribbean, culminating in the three-hole "Devil's Elbow" finishing stretch that showcases a dramatic forced carry over the Bay of Corales at No.18.
The Corales Course is a very long course and Torrey Pines South, used for three rounds at the Farmers Insurance Open, is the only course that will measure longer on the PGA Tour this season.
The course is entirely laid to Paspalum, with wide, flat, generous fairways and despite its length, it's an easy course for touring professionals. The greens will be slow (no more than 11 on stimpmeter) because of the course's proximity to the coast and its only real defence is the wind. Three players shot ten-under-par 62s in the inaugural event so we can expect some low scores.
No live coverage on Sky Sports - covered by the Golf Channel.
First Two Tournament Winners
2017 - Nate Lashley -20
2016 - Dominic Bozzelli -24
What Will it Take to Win the Corales Puntacana Championship?
Given the course's length, the PGA Tour's Driving Distance stats (here) should be a good place to start and given the course is so easy and that I expect we'll see another winner getting to double-digits under-par, a perusal of the Birdie Average stats (here) may also make sense.
Is There an Angle In?
A number of events are staged at courses similar to this. The Sony Open, the RBC Heritage and the RSM Classic are all held on coastal, wind-affected tracks but the tournament that needs to be considered as the one most likely to correlate is the OHL Classic.
El Camaleon, home of the OHL Classic in Mexico, like this venue, is a wind-affected Paspalum grass track whereas the other three tournament venues, Waialae Country Club, Harbour Town Golf Links and Sea Island Resort are all Bermuda.
Looking back at the two renewals on the Web.com Tour, the front-nine played much easier than the back - nine and a fairly slow start was overcome in each edition.
Bozzelli sat tied for 45th after round one and Lashley was tied 53rd so I wouldn't get too alarmed if your picks aren't right up with the pace straight away, although it's worth pointing out the fields must have been condensed as Bozzelli only trailed by four and Lashley by five.
Bozzelli was still four back at halfway but he'd moved up to fifth and Lashley was eight and still five adrift through 36 holes last year. Bozzelli was tied for the lead through 54 holes, before going on to win by four, and Lashley won by a solitary stroke having trailed by two with a round to go.
The finishing three holes are no pushover. They averaged level par exactly in 2016 and 0.24 over-par last year so if someone posts a score to lead on Sunday afternoon the leading groups might not be able to get to them with three to play. The market always favours those on the course over those in the house so that might be an angle-in for those wanting to bet in-play.
Emiliano Grillo heads the market, telling us all we need to know about the strength of the field. He does have one PGA Tour victory to his name and he's in decent form but anyone that witnessed his collapse in India a fortnight won't want to play the Argentine and I'm certainly swerving him.
Scott Piercy is my idea of the most likely candidate this week and I'm surprised he doesn't head the market, despite last week's missed cut at Bay Hill. Aside fom that little hiccup, he's been in fair form this year and I expect him to contend.
These opposite field events are tricky to evaluate, and outsiders do more than OK. Many PGA Tour regulars enjoy a fabulous living without threatening the judge and when represented with a chance to prevail, when dropped in grade like this, they just don't have the minerals to do so, but Piercy has won three times on the PGA Tour and two of those three victories have been in opposite field events. When he's taken a noticeable step down in grade, Piercy, who was right in the thick of it at the 2016 US Open, has produced the goods and I was really taken by the way he won the Barbasol Championship at a similar price three years ago. He'll also love the course given he has form at the Sony Open and the OHL Classic.
Patrick Rodgers finished 10th in the OHL Classic in 2015 and he led at halfway in the event back in November, before dropping down to 14th, so this is a venue that should really suit him. He was seventh at the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week, with weekend rounds of 68 and 69, so he's bang-in-form and his chance is rock-solid. He has arguably more scope than Piercy but that poor weekend in Mexico was off-putting. He's my idea of the second most likely to win and I certainly wouldn't want to put anyone off him.
Jim Furyk's record around Harbour Town and his seventh in the Valspar Championship last time out put him in the picture but the course looks plenty long enough for the veteran and I prefer the chances of fellow US Open winner, and Harbour Town winner, Graeme McDowell.
The Irishman has found a bit of form of late and the last of his three PGA Tour wins came in the OHL Classic three years ago. The length of the track is a small concern and he's a fraction short at less than 30.029/1 but I can see him contending too.
I hoovered-up some nice prices about half a dozen players (listed below) that I thought were over-priced yesterday but only to very small stakes and I've backed the 2016 Sony Open winner, Fabian Gomez, each-way at 150/1. I'll check back again tomorrow to see if there have been any juicy customary Wednesday drifts but I think that's going to be my lot before the off.
Scott Piercy @ 34.033/1
Trey Mullinax @ 48.047/1
Harris English @ 50.049/1
David Lingmerth @ an average of 64.0
Robert Streb @ an average of 122.0
Johnson Wagner @ 150.0149/1
Fabian Gomez - each-way @ 150/1
I'll be back tomorrow or Thursday with the In-Play Blog.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter