The jet lagged and the weary make their way to El Camaleón Golf Club at Mayakoba Resort for the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. Russell Knox is slated to make his first start as a PGA TOUR winner after winning the WGC-HSBC Champions on Sunday, as is Peter Malnati following his triumph in Mississippi on Monday afternoon.
El Camaleón Golf Club is a par-71 layout of 6.987 yards designed by Greg Norman. As one would expect, it features three par 5s, four par 3s and 11 par 4s. It is known by many as a ball-striker’s paradise even though recent statistical metrics don’t necessarily substantiate that claim. Still, the nod goes to the accurate when in doubt.
This will be the ninth time this tournament has been contested, with the schedule skipping from February and March over the first six tries to November for the last two. With that quirk, it has not missed a calendar year since the inception in 2007 but did miss the 2013 season due to the new schedule style being introduced beginning in 2013-14.
The previous eight champions were Fred Funk (2007), Brian Gay (2008), Mark Wilson (2009), Cameron Beckman (2010), Johnson Wagner (2011), John Huh (2012), Harris English (2013-14) and Charley Hoffman (2014-15).
The first six champions are all cut from a similar cloth. They are not known for length, rather a combination of finding fairways and solid putting. The last two are a bit different. Both English and Hoffman are much longer than the first six. They also represent stronger fields. Just like this week, the OHL Classic at Mayakoba was not played opposite a more prominent event.
For course history buffs, that can send a mixed message. It would not be wise to throw out the player types that one the first six events, but it would be wise to acknowledge some better talent throughout the field and proportion some weight to classy players.
Confused? Hope not!
Here we go!
Keep it Classy
Keegan Bradley: The Stink Eye has no history in this event. Quite frankly, he has the feel of a player that’s struggling to find himself since shifting away from the anchored putter. He would be considered a terrible course fit in comparison to the early winners, but not all that different than a Charley Hoffman.
Jason Dufner: Sort of a carbon copy of Bradley, in that he was truly elite a couple of years ago but has seen some luster drop off his star. The accuracy part of the equation fits, but his putter is a known issue. He’s made each of his two cuts here, but neither went for top 25s. He also hasn’t played here since 2009, so his past resume on this layout is barely relevant.
Harris English: Could fall into several categories, but he isn’t truly a course horse since he backed up his win in 2013-14 with a T37 last season. This will be just his third trip, so we will likely know far more about his long-term value in this event in six days. What is not open for debate is his ability to work the golf ball from tee to green.
Matt Kuchar: As his status was elevated on the PGA TOUR over the years, his interest in Mayakoba fizzled. His early returns were good, as he finished T18 and T3 in 2007 and 2008. There is absolutely no reason to think he won’t pick up where he left off.
Graeme McDowell: Makes his first start on the 2015-16 PGA TOUR after a horrid 2014-15 performance. With the Ryder Cup looming, this is a pivotal season in the Ulsterman’s career. He tied for 63rd here in 2007 in his only action at El Camaleón.
Roberto Castro: Opened with a 62 in Mississippi before the rain became a big problem. Ultimately tied for fourth after blowing the 36-hole lead.
Smylie Kaufman: Winner in Vegas fell back to earth with a T54 in Mississippi.
Patton Kizzire: In a season full of first-time winners, he may be the best bet to break through next. Finished one off the winning number in Las Vegas and two back in Mississippi. It’s a matter of when, not if.
Russell Knox: Thanks to Scott Brown tweeting about Knox while the two were on a plane to Mexico, we have confirmation that Knox is planning to play this week following his WGC win in China on Sunday. For what it’s worth, he’s made all three cuts here, but has done no better than a T30.
Peter Malnati: Finished 15th in 2013-14. Oh, and he won the Sanderson Farms Championship on Monday.
Bryce Molder: Terrible course history in this event, but can’t ignore his T4 earlier this week.
Cameron Beckman: It’s rare that Beckman earns his way into a preview these days, so let’s celebrate! The past champion has made seven of eight cuts and boasts perfect attendance. Could be a nice find in a DFS game at the right price.
Jason Bohn: While more was expected of him in the Sanderson Farms Championship last week, history suggests he shouldn’t be put out to pasture for this event. Went T3-T7 the last two seasons after a respectable T19 in his only other trip back in 2011.
Brendon de Jonge: He’s made each of his three cuts, including two top 15s, but hasn’t played here since 2010.
David Hearn: There aren’t many opportunities left for one of the few remaining players still using the anchored putter. He’s made all three cuts here including a T16 last year.
Charley Hoffman: Talk about a trend. Improved from T69 to T31 to winner in his three trips. Hopefully he hangs around close to the top and doesn’t drop off the map just as fast.
Charles Howell III: Typical of Chucky, he’s made five of six cuts with four top 20s and one top 10. In other words, he’s a great pick to make the cut and fail to find his way on your television screen but will likely turn a nice profit for himself.
John Huh: After winning his only PGA TOUR event here as a rookie in 2012, he backed it up with a couple of top 30s.
Jerry Kelly: He’s only missed the cut once in seven tries, while bagging a pair of top 10s. He is absolutely the type of player that rose to the top of this event during the first six contests.
Will MacKenzie: Made each of his four cuts here including a T12 and T9 in his last two.
Steve Marino: Don’t sleep on this sleeper. Cashed in three of his four tries and all went for top 20s including two top 10s and a runner-up.
Pat Perez: Quietly posted two top 20s while making each of his three cuts.
Rory Sabbatini: One can’t ignore a player with two top-five finishes in four trips.
Brendan Steele: A player who is growing in class, Steele is perfect in terms of making the cut in his two attempts and tied for 16th in 2014.
Shawn Stefani: Not exactly on fire of late, but he did earn runner-up honors in this event last season.
Kevin Streelman: Definitely a noted ball-striker, he went T28 and T3 (2009) before taking an extended sabbatical from the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.
Chris Stroud: Expect him to be a darling in the one-and-done game, going 4-T5-T3-T23 in his last four visists to Mexico.
Johnson Wagner: Already noted as a past winner, he’s made three of his four cuts overall with a T16 last year.
Boo Weekley: Ball-striker finished sixth in 2007 and has made each of his four cuts.
Worth a Mention
Tyler Aldridge: Haven’t heard of him? Most people haven’t. He missed the cut here in 2009 as a rookie and finally made it back on TOUR. After a few nice rounds in Vegas, he put together a T12 in Mississippi.
Oscar Fraustro: Fan favorite tied for ninth last year and has made two of three cuts.
Jason Kokrak: After a really poor few months, he tied for 12th in Mississippi and offers a T16 in Mexico last year. Could be a flop, but converging trends are strong.
Patrick Rodgers: Overdue for a win considering he’s a member of the high school class of 2011. Flirting with some big finishes but only scored a T37 in this event last year.
We will return next week to preview the RSM Classic. Until then, best of luck to all!