OHL Classic: Past winners to thrive at unique venue

Fabian Gomez with the Sony Open trophy in January
Fabian Gomez with the Sony Open trophy in January

We're off to Mexico on the PGA Tour this week for the OHL Classic so read The Punter's comprehensive preview ahead of Thursday's start here...

“Fabian Gomez has form at all the right tracks. He was second in Puerto Rico in 2013 and he won the FedEx St Jude Classic last year. This place should really suit him and I can see him improving on his two previous starts here. He was 50th on debut in 2011 and 25th in 2014 when he hit 67 in rounds two and four. He did me a huge favour when he won the Sony Open in January at a juicy 110.0109/1 so I couldn’t leave him out at a triple figure price at a venue that looks ideal.”

Tournament History

With America gripped by election fever, the PGA Tour moves south to Mexico for the tenth edition of the OHL Classic this week.

For the first six years, the event was played in February as an opposite field event to the WGC Match Play before switching to this slot three years ago. With FedEx Cup points up for grabs, as well as a place in the US Masters, as well as increased prize money, the fields are getting stronger and stronger each year and we look set fare for another competitive and enjoyable renewal.


Venue

El Camaleón Golf Club, Playa del Carmen, México


Course Details

Par 70, 6,987 yards, stroke average in 2015 - 70.02

Designed by Greg Norman and opened in 2004, El Camaleón is described as a 'unique track' that takes in three differing landscapes - tropical jungle, dense mangroves, and oceanfront. There's even a 'cenote', which is an underground cavern common to the area, in the middle of the first fairway.

It's a wind-affected, coastal track with smaller than average sized Sea Isle Paspalum greens that usually only run at around 10 on the stimpmeter.

It was the toughest of the eight tracks used on the PGA Tour that measured less than 7,000 yards in 2012, with 11 holes averaging over-par, but having switched to November and having been played in benign conditions, it's played much easier over the last three years almost exactly averaging its par and with three winners reaching at least 17-under-par.

There's been wet weather in the lead up to the event to soften the course and only light winds are forecast so scoring should again be low but rain over the first two days could see delays. Last year's tournament went to a Monday finish.


Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting on Thursday.


Last Five Winners

2015 - Graeme McDowell -18 (Playoff)
2014 - Charley Hoffman -17
2013 - Harris English -21
2012 - John Huh -13 (Playoff)
2011 - Johnson Wagner -17 (Playoff)


What Will it Take to Win The OHL Classic?

You certainly don't need to be long to win here. The first four home last year ranked 56th, 45th, 59th and 47th for Driving Distance and here's the inaugural winner, Fred Funk, wearing a skirt in a skins match after being out-driven by Anika Sorenstam!

Accuracy off the tee isn't absolutely essential either with the first nine winners having an average Driving Accuracy ranking of 33.2 but you do need to hit plenty of greens. G-Mac only ranked 30th for Greens In Regulation 12 months ago but runner-up, Russell Knox, ranked first and four of the nine winners to date have ranked inside the first four for GIR.


Is There an Angle In?

The only other courses encountered every year on the PGA Tour that have Paspalum grass are the Trump International Golf Club, host of the Puerto Rico Open, and the Kuala Lumpur Country Club, which recently hosted the CIMB Classic, so form at those events might be worth looking at but the two events that correlate best with this one are the Sony Open and, in particular, the St Jude Classic.

Both Mark Wilson and Johnson Wagner have won this event and the Sony, Robert Allenby has finished second in both tournaments and a number of others have played well at both venues so form there is well worth checking out but form at TPC Southwind, home of the FedEx St Jude is probably the most valuable...

I backed Robert Karlsson at 90.089/1 in this event two years ago on the strength of his form at TPC Southwind and it very nearly worked out. The Swede was matched at just 1.654/6 before he completely imploded on the back-nine on Sunday and the winner, Harris English, was able to coast home quite comfortably. That was English's second PGA Tour win and his first had come five months earlier in the St Jude Classic at TPC Southwind. Shawn Stefani finished runner-up here two years ago and he led the St Jude with a round to go three years ago, Robert Allenby has been beaten in a playoff at both events and Brian Gay has won both this event and the FedEx St Jude.

I'm also going to look favourably on anyone with form at Colonial Country Club - home of the Dean & Deluca Invitational - as form there and at the two aforementioned tracks, correlate well also. English finished runner-up there this year and Jason Bohn finished second at this event and the Dean & Deluca Invitational last year.


Is There an Identikit Winner?

Fred Funk set the tone when he won the inaugural event at the age of 50 and the average age of the winners is just shy of 35. G-Mac was 36 last year and he was the first non-American to win.

Brian Gay and John Huh are the only two winners that broke their duck here and the last four winners have been priced in the double-figure bracket but they weren't especially well-fancied.


In-Play Tactics

Every winner has shot a round in the 60s to kick the event off and every winner has been inside the top-ten and no more than four adrift at halfway. You clearly need to be up with the pace but in front with a round to go hasn't been the ideal spot of late with four of the last five winners coming from outside of the lead through 54 holes.

The par five 13th is consistently the easiest hole on the course but once through there, it's a tough finish as the players encounter three of the four hardest holes coming in.


Market Leaders

Russell Knox has both course and current form but he's been disappointing in-the-mix of late - drifting out of contention at both the CIMB Classic and the WGC- HSBC Champions event - and I'm more than happy to look elsewhere.

Emiliano Grillo should have won at Puerto Rico a couple of years ago so although he's playing here for the first time, the venue should suit him and he comes here after a decent enough 11th place in China at the WGC-HSBC but he's short enough for my liking.

I fancy Jim Furyk will take to the gaff as well but his debut here this week will be his first start in a couple of months and he looks best watched from the get-go and I'm also happy to leave out last week's pick, Jon Rahm.

The impressive young Spaniard has course form in the book having finished 10th here last year after missing the cut on debut 12 months prior and he's in fair for after back-to-back top-15s, but he made a number of errors last week when I felt the venue was much more suitable.


Selections

This strikes me as something of a unique venue so I'm a bit surprised that past champs don't seem to fare especially well but unperturbed by that fact, I'm backing three former winners and someone who's finished runner-up twice previously...

I'm in complete agreement with Dave Tindall regarding the chances of the 2013 winner, Harris English, and after his fourth place at the Shriners last week, were he posted four rounds of 67, I thought he might be a bit shorter than the industry-wide best price of 35/1 with the Sportsbook.

Fabian Gomez has form at all the right tracks. He was second in Puerto Rico in 2013 and he won the FedEx St Jude Classic last year. This place should really suit him and I can see him improving on his two previous starts here. He was 50th on debut in 2011 and 25th in 2014 when he hit 67 in rounds two and four. He did me a huge favour when he won the Sony Open in January at a juicy 110.0109/1 so I couldn't leave him out at a triple figure price at a venue that looks ideal.

The 2014 winner, Charley Hoffman, isn't in particularly great from at present but he looked big to me at a triple-figure price and another player to have done me a favour, Brian Stuard, who I backed to win the Zurich Classic at 110.0109/1 in May, looks worth siding with at in excess of 200.0199/1 given he finished runner-up here in both 2010 and 2013.


Selections:
Harris English @ 35/1 (Sportsbook)
Fabian Gomez @ 100.099/1
Charley Hoffman @ 120.0119/1
Brian Stuard @ 210.0209/1


I'll be back on Friday with the In-Play Blog.

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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