While the stars are lining up at Austin Country Club, a second-tier field is pegging it this week in the Dominican Republic.
It's our first run-it-back event of the season, with the first Corales Championship already taking place last September. It was the third event of the new season. We will see another repeat event in two weeks when the TOUR heads back to Augusta National.
But for now, let's jump back to the Corales and break down the course, weather, and field.
This week's field will be set to 132 golfers. That is 12 fewer than the September edition. The first running was not an alternate-field event which explains the difference.
The tournament did a good job (again) of attracting some strong sponsor invites. That list includes Thomas Detry, Thomas Pieters, Lucas Herbert, Andy Ogletree, Justin Suh, Fabrizio Zanotti, and Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Corales Golf Club is a young course that was designed by Tom Fazio in 2010. It was used twice on the Korn Ferry Tour before getting the bump up to the big leagues.
This coastal layout features extremely wide landing areas off the tee. Golfers averaged more than 70 percent fairways hit in the first two TOUR events played here. It was more of the same in September with the field averaging 70.75 percent of fairways hit.
The penalty for missing a fairway is relatively small, so that gives you plenty of options in terms of strategy off the tee. This par 72 can stretch out to 7,670 yards but a big chunk of that comes at the par-5 12th and pat-5 14th which are both over 620 yards. Overall, you don't need to pound a lot of drivers here but it is an option for those who want to play more aggressively.
In a way that lowers the importance of driver here because there is no requirement to be lenghty off the tee and big misses aren't heavily punished. It turns into a second-shot course where great iron play can lead you to the top of the board. Of course, weather can determine just how dialed in you can get those irons.
There are six oceanside holes on the course and wind can become a factor.
If the wind starts to whip, then give a long look to the short-game wizards.
For grass, golfers will see paspalum turf which is common in these tropical environments. The greens usually run on the slow side compared to most TOUR events, around 10.5 feet on the stimp.
Sifting through some past quotes, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play.
Jhonattan Vegas: "When you go to grasses like this, like Paspalum that it’s slower and you have the wind, it’s hard to commit mentally to make sure that you hit it hard enough to get it to the hole. So it takes some adjustment. That’s kind of why you tend to see a lot of guys this week on the putting greens kind of getting adjusted to that speed"
Scott Harrington: "off the tee it's not super demanding, the fairways are pretty generous. I feel as kind of a longer player I can kind of let it rip a little bit. Greens you can be really aggressive on. I mean, they're sloped, but like where all the pins are, if you get it kind of inside 15 feet, really the putts don't have a lot of movement so you can be really aggressive with your putter."
Matt Jones: "The fairways are pretty wide here so you should have a lot of iron shots out of fairways, and if you can control your irons"
Paul Dunne: "It’s one of the widest courses I think we’ll ever play, so a couple loose drives that would normally cost me I can get away with here. And it’s tricky around the greens, which plays into my strengths."
Dominic Bozzelli: "On this type of grass, the ball kind of sticks where it lands. I found it a little easier to dial-in your irons when it does that."
Justin Hueber: "Honestly, you can hit it wherever you want off the tee. I’m swinging hard, trying to hit it as far down there as I can. Try to get as many shorter irons."
Overview: Golfers talk about wide fairways and slow greens.
Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week:
El Camaleon (Mayakoba)
Grand Reserve CC (Puerto Rico Open)
Pebble Beach Pro-Am Rota
The main theme this week is coastal courses with an emphasis on approach play or short game.
Thursday: Sunny with a high of 84 degrees. Winds at 15 to 20 MPH.
Friday: Partly Cloudy with a high of 83 degrees. Winds at 15 to 20 MPH.
It looks like winds are going to be a serious factor this week with the forecast showing 15+ MPH on all four days.