This will be the seventh edition of the Corales Puntacana R & C Championship but it's only the fifth 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 R & C Championship is an opposite field event in the same week as the WGC Match Play - which I've previewed here.
The Corales Puntacana R & C Championship is the first event on the PGA Tour to be staged in the Dominican Republic.
The Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, Corales Golf Club, Punta Cana, Dominican Republic.
Par 72, 7,670 yards
Stroke Average in 2021 - 72.48
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 last year and the 18th, which averaged 4.37, was the hardest hole on the course.
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 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 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.
No coverage in the UK
First Six Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices
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 the Corales Puntacana R & C Championship?
Although the 2020 winner, Hudson Swafford, ranked 12th for Driving Distance and 14th for Driving Accuracy, neither driving metric looks especially relevant here. Graeme McDowell ranked 53rd for Driving Distance and 31st for Driving Accuracy in 2019 and it was a similar story in 2018 when the winner, Brice Garnett, ranked only 51st for DD and 20th for DA, but that isn't surprising. The fairways are very wide and the rough is far from penal so forget about trawling through the driving stats. For the record, the 2021 winner, Joel Dahmen, ranked 17th for DD and 40th for DA.
We don't have any Strokes Gained data for this event so looking at the more traditional stats is all we can do.
Greens In Regulation was a very important stat last year and the first 12 home all ranked inside the top-12 for GIR. The front five ranked 4th, 1st, 16th 7th and 51st for Scrambling and Dahman won the event with the flatstick, ranking second for Putting Average.
In 2020, Swafford ranked 25th for GIR and 21st for Scrambling and that was like the first two winners we have stats for. G-Mac ranked 16th for GIR and 47th for Scrambling and Garnett ranked 24th for GIR and 15th for Scrambling - but just like Dahmen, all three winners putted really well.
Swafford only ranked fifth for Putting Average whereas the other two both ranked first but Swafford didn't make a single three-putt all week long and the last four renewals have all boiled down to how many birdies and how many putts were made 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 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 at Mayakoba and the Puerto Rico Open...
El Camaleon, home of the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba in Mexico, 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.
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 World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba and Swafford gave the Sony link a boost last year. 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 but the last five have all been in their 30s and the last four winners, since the tournament was elevated to a PGA Tour event, have all been outsiders.
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. Dahmen, who was a 50.049/1 chance, is the shortest priced winner since the event was elevated to the PGA Tour.
Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four
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
Dahmen was never outside the top-four or more than a stroke off the lead last year, 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 has been overcome in all of the other three 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 six winners have been up with the pace with a round to go and two strokes (Lashley) is the furthest any winner has trailed by after 54 holes. And four of the six were leading or tied for the lead.
This is a wide-open event and at the time of writing, Jhonattan Vegas heads the market at 23.022/1, narrowly ahead of the defending champ, Joel Dahmen, with the highly promising Sahith Theegala, and the 2017 winner, Nate Lashley, the only other players trading at less than 40.039/1.
Given the tournament tends to go to an outsider, none of those four make any appeal at the odds on offer but I was mildly tempted by Lashley. He was an eye-catching 27th in the hotly contested Valspar last week, two weeks after finishing seventh in the Puerto Rico Open.
I'm happy to play two previous winners at odds in excess of 50/1 - Hudson Swafford and Bryce Garnett - given both have shown form this year.
Swafford was sixth when defending last year and he advertised in no uncertain terms that he can play well at a venue he's won at before when winning the Desert Classic for a second time at the end of January.
The 34-year-old Floridian has missed four of five cuts since then, but he was hardly setting the world alight before he won in California two months ago and he'd missed his previous five cuts before contending here 12 months ago. And his form figures before winning the title in 2020 read MC-MC-30-MC-MC-MC-56.
In comparison to Swafford, with current figures reading 7-50-27, the 2018 winner, Garnett, is in red-hot form.
His seventh in Puerto Rico is the highlight but he played OK at the Players (50th) and he putted nicely last week at the Valspar. He's in better form than he was in 12 months ago when he finished ninth, so this is clearly a track he enjoys, and I thought 55.054/1 was fair.
Hudson Swafford @ 55.054/1
Brice Garnett @ 55.054/1
I'll be back this evening with the Find Me a 100 Winner column.
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