The Punter

Corales Puntacana Championship: Course specialist and debutant backed in the Dominican Republic

Golfer Ben Martin
Ben Martin - fancied to go well again in the Dominican Republic

The RBC Heritage is the main attraction on the PGA Tour this week but the competitive Corales Puntacana Championship kicks off on Thursday too so read Steve's comprehensive preview here...

  • Hot putting essential

  • Outsiders worth chancing

  • Read my RBC Heritage Preview here


Tournament History

This will be the ninth edition of the Corales Puntacana Championship but it's only the seventh time it will feature on the PGA Tour. The first two editions, won by Dominic Bozzelli and Nate Lashley, were held on the Korn Ferry Tour.

The Corales Puntacana Championship is an opposite field event and it's the first event on the PGA Tour to be staged in the Dominican Republic.

It was held opposite the now defunct WGC Match Play tournament at the end of March but this year it's played in the same week as the RBC Heritage.

Venue

The Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, Corales Golf Club, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.

Course Details

Par 72, 7,670 yards

Stroke Average in 2023 - 71.32

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 the par four 18th. Each of the three holes averaged over par again last year so it's a tough finish.

CORALES 2021 3.jpg

The Corales Course is a very long Paspalum course with wide, flat, generous fairways and despite its length, it's an easy course for touring professionals.

The greens are always set up to be slow (usually 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 edition and the winner, Brice Garnett, opened-up with a nine-under-par 63 in 2018. The 2019 victor, Graeme McDowell, fired back-to-back 64s in rounds two and three so low scores are out there if the wind doesn't blow too hard.


Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

No coverage in the UK.

First Eight Winners with Pre-event Prices

2023- Matt Wallace -19 48.047/1
2022 - Chad Ramey -17 85.084/1
2021 - Joel Dahmen -12 50.049/1
2020 - Hudson Swafford -18 300.0299/1
2019 - Graeme McDowell -18 80.079/1
2018 - Brice Garnett -18 80.079/1
2017 - Nate Lashley -20
2016 - Dominic Bozzelli -24

What Will it Take to Win?

We don't have any Strokes Gained data for this event so looking at the more traditional stats is all we can do, and we don't have any stats at all for the first two editions when it was a Korn Ferry Tour event.

The last six winners have ranked 51st, 12th, 17th, 53rd, 51st and 15th for Driving Distance and 14th, 14th, 40th, 31st, 20th and 31st for Driving Accuracy so, neither driving metric looks especially relevant.

The last two winners have ranked 21st and 12th for Greens In Regulation and the three winners between 2018 and 2020 only ranked 24th, 16th and 25th so that hasn't been a hugely important stat, although the first 12 home in 2021 all ranked inside the top-12 for GIR.

Wallace only ranked 12th for Putting Average last year but that was the worst any of the top-seven ranked and that's been far and away the most important stat to date.

The two winners before Wallace, Chad Ramey and Joel Dahmen, both ranked second for Putting Average, the 2020 winner, Hudson Swafford, only ranked fifth for PA, despite not making a single three-putt all week long, and the two winners before him both ranked first so it's basically just a putting contest.


Is There an Angle In?

A number of PGA Tour events are staged at courses similar to this. The Sony Open, the RBC Heritage (this week's other event) and the RSM Classic are all held on coastal, wind-affected tracks but the tournaments that correlate the best are the World Wide Technology Championship (when staged at Mayakoba) and the Puerto Rico Open.

El Camaleon, the home of the WWT Championship until it switched to the Tiger Woods-designed El Cardonal golf course last year, and the Coco Beach Golf Course, the host course in Puerto Rico, like this venue, are both wind-affected Paspalum grass track whereas the other three tournament venues, Waialae Country Club (Sony Open), Harbour Town Golf Links (RBC Heritage) and Sea Island Resort (RSM Classic) are all Bermuda.

Graeme McDowell at Corales.jpg

The 2019 winner, McDowell, in addition to his US Open win in 2010, at another coastal course, Pebble Beach, has only won two other PGA Tour events - the RBC Heritage and the WWT Championship at Mayakoba and the 2018 winner of this event, Brice Garnett, has only won one other event on the PGA Tour - this year's Puerto Rico Open.

Tyler Duncan was matched at a low of 1.774/5 last year before he finished third and his only PGA Tour success to date was at the 2019 RSM Classic.

And the 2020 winner, Hudson Swafford gives the Sony link a big boost given he's finished inside the top-ten at Waialae three times.

If you fancy digging even deeper, Garnett's two Web.com Tour wins came at the Utah Championship and the Portland Open and looking at the top-tens at those two events, plenty of the same names keep appearing, so they look like worth checking out too.


Is There an Identikit Winner?

The inaugural winner, Dominic Bozzelli, was in his mid-20s and the 2022 winner, Ramey, was 29 when he won here but the five winners in-between were all in their 30s, Wallace was 31 last year and the last six winners, since the tournament was elevated to a PGA Tour event, have all been outsiders.

Having been matched at a high of 110.0109/1, Ramey went off at 85.084/1 two years ago, G-Mac and Garnett were 80.079/1 chances before the off, and Swafford was matched at a high of 370.0369/1 before going off at around 300.0299/1.

Wallace, who was a 48.047/1 chance last year, is the shortest priced winner since the event was elevated to the PGA Tour.


Winner's Position and Price Pre-Round Four

2023 - Matt Wallace - tied third, trailing by one 9.417/2
2022 - Chad Ramey - solo second, trailing by two 5.85/1
2021 - Joel Dahmen - tied for the lead 4.77/2
2020 - Hudson Swafford - solo second, trailing by two 6.411/2
2019 - Graeme McDowell - led by one 3.1511/5
2018 - Brice Garnett - led by two 1.9310/11
2017 - Nate Lashley - trailed by two
2016 - Dominic Bozzelli - tied for the lead

In-Play Tactics

It's a bit of a mixed bag of results but it's certainly possible to win after a slow start.

Wallace was never outside the top-three places or more than a stroke behind after any round and having sat tied for 15th and four adrift, Ramey sat third at halfway and second with a round to go in 2022.

Wallace wins the Corales.jpg

Dahmen was never outside the top-four or more than a stroke off the lead in 2021, Swafford led after rounds one and two before being headed after round three but he sat solo second through 54 holes, trailing by just two in 2020, and Garnett shot the lowest round of the week on Thursday and was never headed after that in 2018, but a slow start was overcome in three of the first four editions.

Dominic Bozzelli sat tied for 45th after the opening round, Nate Lashley was tied 53rd, and G-Mac was matched at a high of 230.0229/1 after his first round 73 had seen him trailing by seven in a tie for 81st! A slow start is clearly not the end of the world, and I wouldn't get too alarmed if your picks aren't right up with the pace straight away.

Bozzelli was still four back at halfway but he'd moved up to fifth and Lashley was eighth and still five adrift through 36 holes in 2017 but G-Mac moved all the way up to seventh and only three off the lead after the first of two back-to-back 64s in round two.

A slow start can clearly be overcome but all eight winners have been up with the pace with a round to go and two strokes is the furthest any winner has trailed by after 54 holes. And four of the eight winners were leading or tied for the lead with a round to go.


Market Leaders

We're yet to see someone well-fancied before the off winning here and none of the market leaders make much appeal this time around.

Alex Noren is making his debut this week, but he arrives with very respectable current form figures on the PGA Tour reading 9-19-11-14.

The 41-year-old Swede contended strongly at the Bermuda Championship at the end of last year on another coastal wind-affected track, but he's never won on the PGA Tour and it's now six years since he won on the DP World Tour.

Last year's runner-up, Nicolai Hojgaard, missed the cut on his only previous visit in 2022 and he'll have plenty of supporters after last week's performance at Augusta, but he'll do very well to bounce back straight away after such a mentally demanding week.

The young Dane was matched at just 7.06/1 when he hit the front in the US Masters on Saturday when he birdied three holes in-a-row from the seventh hole, but he followed the run of consecutive birdies with five straight bogeys and eventually finished tied for 16th.


Selections

I'll be back later with three selections for the Find Me a 100 Winner column and I've got two picks at double-figure prices before the off, starting with the very obvious, Ben Martin.

The 36-year-old Californian, who won his only PGA Tour title to date almost ten years ago at the Shriners, has course form figures here reading 52-9-2-8 and he arrives in the Dominican Republic on the back of a seventh-place finish at the Texas Open two weeks ago.

I wouldn't like to argue fervently that he's a terrific price at less than 40/141.00 but he clearly loves the venue and his seventh in Texas is his best performance on Tour since he finished eighth here last year so he could just be hitting form at the right time.

Back Ben Martin @ 38.037/1

Bet Here

Given the market is dominated by former DP World Tour players, it's perhaps slightly surprising to see Thriston Lawrence trading at such an attractive price.

The prolific South African has been a little in-and-out so far in 2024 but he was runner-up to Tommy Fleetwood in Dubai in January and second again in his homeland at the Jonsson Workwear Open last month.

He's never played here before so that's a bit of a negative but when he won the second of his four DP World Tour titles, at the European Masters two years ago, he beat last year's winner here, Wallace, in a playoff, so that may be a pointer of sorts.

That might be a bit of tenuis link but he should enjoy the putting surfaces and he's ranked third or better for Putting Average on three occasions already this year so I thought he was worth chancing.

Back Thriston Lawrence @ 75.074/1

Bet Here

Read my RBC Heritage preview here


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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