For the first six years, the OHL Classic at Mayakoba was played in February as an opposite field event to the WGC Match Play before it switched to this slot in the schedule four years ago. With FedEx Cup points up for grabs, as well as a place in the US Masters and increased prize money, the fields are getting stronger each year and it's great to see the likes of Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed and Zach Johnson lining up for the first time.
El Camaleón Golf Club, Playa del Carmen, México
Par 70, 6,987 yards, stroke average in 2016 - 69.61
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 Sea Isle Paspalum greens that usually only run at around 11 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 four years almost exactly averaging it's par, with the four winners all reaching at least 17-under-par.
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Last Five Winners
2016 - Pat Perez -21
2015 - Graeme McDowell -18 (Playoff)
2014 - Charley Hoffman -17
2013 - Harris English -21
2012 - John Huh -13 (Playoff)
What Will it Take to Win the OHL Classic?
I haven't got any stats for the inaugural event but the nine winners since have an average Driving Distance ranking of 34.3 and an average Driving Accuracy ranking of 34.7 so what you do of the tee here isn't especially significant.
The last two winners typify that - Pat Perez was fairly long but not very accurate last year and 12 months earlier, Graeme McDowell was reasonably accurate but not very long. The driving stats can be largely ignored.
Perez ranked 11th for Greens In Regulation and that's usually a key stat. G-Mac only ranked 30th two years ago but runner-up, Russell Knox, ranked first and four of the ten winners to date have ranked inside the first four for GIR.
Every winner has ranked inside the top-seven for Par 4 Scoring and brilliant putting has been key too. Perez had a Putting Average ranking of fourth 12 months ago and it would have been nice to see some Strokes Gained Putting stats last year because the three winners before Perez all ranked number one for that stat.
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, and the form there couldn't have worked out any better with last year's OHL winner, Perez, winning in Malaysia last month.
Two other event/course correlations to explore 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 four 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 three years ago and he led the St Jude with a round to go four 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've also looked 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.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Experienced outsiders tend to do well here. 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 a shade under 35 at 34.7. Last year's winner, Perez, had just turned 40 so age is no barrier but fancied players don't have a great record...
The 2010 and 2011 winners, Cameron Beckman and Johnson Wagner, were treble-figure priced outsiders and Perez was a 150.0149/1 chance 12 months ago. And although priced in the double-figure bracket, the four winners that preceded Perez weren't especially well-fancied either.
Brian Gay and John Huh are the only two to break their PGA Tour ducks in the event so the vast majority of winners had already tasted victory.
Every winner has shot a round in the 60s to kick the event off and until last year, every winner had been inside the top-ten and no more than four adrift at halfway. Perez sat tied for 11th and five back so 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 five of the last six winners coming from outside of the lead through 54 holes.
The par five 13th is consistently the easiest hole on the course but the front-nine, which contains the other two par fives (holes five and seven) is much easier than the second nine and the three hardest holes on the course are all encountered late on. Holes 12, 16 and 14 were the three hardest ranked on the course 12 months ago and the par four 18th isn't straightforward. It only ranked as the seventh hardest last year (was the second toughest in 2015) but it always averages over par and with the title on the line, it isn't a simple finishing hole.
Rickie Fowler heads the market but given he's never played here before, he doesn't have a terrific strike rate, he hasn't played anywhere in seven weeks and that I'm not convinced this is his sort of ideal track, I'm more than happy to leave him out.
PGA Tour players are now contracted to add at least one event per year that they haven't previously played and that could be one of the major reasons he's here. He's one to swerve and so too is the defending champ...
Pat Perez backed up his win in Malaysia nicely with a fifth place finish in Korea but he couldn't break in to the top-20 in China the following week. He may bounce back to form after a fortnight off but defending is notoriously hard and he looks plenty short enough to me.
For Patrick Reed see Rickie Fowler. He also could be here to tick off his previously unchartered tournament and I'm not keen. Reed has been in fair form of late but he's gone from a stoic and reliable battler to a liability in-contention and I'm more than happy to leave him out.
Last year's 54 hole leader, Gary Woodland, putted well last week (for a change) but he was very disappointing in round four, soon relinquishing his chance with a bogey at the second and a double bogey at the third and I'm not sure he's especially reliable in-the-mix.
Chesson Hadley came up close for me last week in Vegas and he's worth chancing again at a venue that really should suit given his sole PGA Tour title to date came in Puerto Rico back in 2014. His recent form figures now read a ridiculously good 10-1-2-46-3-2-4 and he's the epitome of a no-brainer bet.
Zach Johnson has taken a big enough stroll in the market for me to throw a few pounds at. This looks right up his street and I can see him enjoying himself. He's no bigger than 28/1 on the High Street so 38.037/1 is massive.
Russell Knox has lost his way of late but given he was third (when favourite!) last year and second in 2015, I thought 80.079/1 was just too big and my last two are big outsiders that I backed last year - Brian Stuard and Fabián Gómez.
The latter is little more than a hopeful punt on someone who should like the course but I really like Stuard. He was in-contention for much of last week and he was second here in both 2010 and 2012 and he also has a great record at the aforementioned Sony Open.
Chesson Hadley @ 28.027/1
Zach Johnson @ 38.037/1
Russel Knox @ 80.079/1
Brian Stuard @ 150.0149/1
Fabián Gómez @ 500.0499/1
I'll be back on Thursday or Friday with the In-Play Blog.
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