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 in the Dominican Republic, as the PGA Tour returns to the island of Hispaniola for the fourth edition of the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship.
This may be the fourth renewal of the Corales Puntacana Championship but it's only the second 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 and last year's edition, the first on the PGA Tour, was won by Brice Garnett.
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
Stroke Average in 2018 - 71.5
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 hardest hole on the course 12 months ago). Each of the three holes averaged over par last year, but collectively they only totalled +0.37 strokes over-par.
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 and the winner, Brice Garnett, opened up with nine-under-par 63 last year, so we will see low scores with lighter than normal winds forecasted.
No live coverage on Sky Sports - covered by the Golf Channel.
First Three Tournament Winners
2016 - Dominic Bozzelli -24
2017 - Nate Lashley -20
2018 - Brice Garnett -18
What Will it Take to Win the Corales Puntacana Championship?
Neither driving metric looked especially relevant last year. The winner ranked only 51st for Driving Distance and 20th for Driving Accuracy, but that isn't a surprise. The fairways are very wide and the rough is far from penal so forget about trawling through the driving stats.
Garnet only ranked 24th for Greens In Regulation and 15th for Scrambling but he putted ridiculously well, averaging just 1.54 - ranking first for Putting Average, Putts per GIR and one-putt percentage - and that was the main reason for his success, but digging a little deeper, Scrambling could be the best stat to ponder given four of the five best scramblers for the week were all placed.
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 Mayakoba Golf Classic and the Puerto Rico Open...
El Camaleon, home of the Mayakoba Golf Classic 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.
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.
Garnet shot the lowest round of the week on Thursday and was never headed after that but a slow start was overcome in the first two editions.
Dominic 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 were condensed as Bozzelli only trailed by four and Nate Lashley by five.
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. 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.
Looking back at the first three renewals, the front-nine has played much easier than the back-nine and the finishing three holes (the "Devil's Elbow") are no pushover. They averaged level par exactly in 2016, 0.24 over-par in 2017 and 0.37 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.
It's rarely a good idea to side with the market leaders in these opposite field events and that's again the case this week as far as I'm concerned.
Jhonattan Vegas has been in fair form for a while, thanks to an improvement on the greens, and he narrowly missed out at the Players Championship last time when finished third behind Rory McIlroy but he's playing here for the first time and he hasn't got any form to write home about on any of the correlating tracks either.
Sungjae Im won the aforementioned Portland Open in August, a year after Garnett, so that's of note and he played well again last week at the Valspar Championship. He turns 21 on Saturday and victory on Sunday would be a great way to celebrate but like Vegas, he's too short for me.
In all likelihood, I'll add a few more picks tomorrow as liquidity improves and we experience the usual Wednesday drifts in the market, and if so I'll update Twitter and/or kick off the In-Play blog early but for now I'm playing just one - Brian Stuard.
Stuard is far from prolific, with his one and only title coming at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans almost three years ago but he's found a bit of form with the putter and his 18th place at the Valspar on Sunday was eye-catching enough.
He has lots of form at correlating courses so although this is his first appearance, I fancy he'll take to the place nicely and with seven places up for grabs, the industry wide best priced 60/1 with the Sportsbook looked fair enough.
Brian Stuard @ 60/1 (Sportsbook)
I'll be back later with my India Open preview.
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