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World Wide Technology Championship Preview

Lynch: Woods' El Cardonal is a 'generous' course
Damon Hack and Eamon Lynch go over the specs for Tiger Woods' first golf course he designed, El Cardonal at Diamante, where the 2023 World Wide Technology Championship is being played.

The Tiger Woods era begins this week. No, he’s not playing in the World Wide Technology Championship but this week marks the first time one of his course designs will be used in a PGA Tour competition.

Situated on the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, El Cardonal at Diamante will be the host venue this week for a field of 132 golfers. The stakes remain elevated with just three events to go in the FedExCup Fall series.

The Course

As previously mentioned, it’s El Cardonal at Diamante that will host this week’s event.

This is the first course designed by Tiger Woods’ TGR Design and also the first of his courses to be used in a PGA Tour event. Around the time it opened (2014) he was on the record for wanting to ease into golf course architecture as he was still competitive on the PGA Tour. With his playing days mostly behind him now, it won’t be a surprise when his course portfolio really balloons quickly. We know that when he commits to something, he generally goes all-in.

El Cardonal is a resort course that is not expected to be overly challenging for the Tour pros. It’s a par 72 that plays to 7,452 yards on the scorecard.

There are six par 4s over 460 yards and three of the par 5s play over 580 yards. So, there is a bit of length here but much of that is negated by the width of these fairways. The landing areas average 60 yards wide here which makes it some of the most generous fairways these Tour pros will see all year.

In addition to wide fairways, the green sizes are also massive. The average square footage sits around 8,300 which is more than 25 percent larger than the Tour average. We should expect to see extremely high fairways-hit and GIR numbers this week.

Looking at the turf, they’ll see wall-to-wall Platinum paspalum which is becoming more and more common on the PGA Tour, especially when heading to coastal courses.

The coastal breeze is the great equalizer when it comes to the expected scoring conditions this week. As of Monday morning, the wind forecast looks relatively calm with sustained winds sitting under 10 MPH all week with gusts around 10 to 15 MPH. Unless that weather forecast changes drastically, we should expect to see some low scores with a winner that will very likely eclipse the 20-under mark.

We don’t have course history to lean on but we can find plenty of correlated courses thanks to the coastal, resort-style of golf on paspalum greens. Those courses that potentially stand out to me would be Corales GC, Vidanta Vallarta, Grand Reserve, and El Camaleon. Other coastal courses like Harbour Town, Sea Island, Pebble Beach, Albany, Kapalua, Port Royal and Torrey Pines could also prove relevant.

Golfers to Watch

Ludvig Åberg

Let’s rewind 12 months for a moment. Cameron Young just won Rookie of the Year honors, winning a tight race with Tom Kim and Sahith Theegala with Young and Theegala both playing their way to East Lake. The sky is the limit for these youngsters who proved they could contend in major championships, as well. Now let’s imagine that in 12 months’ time these two will be in the field for a fall event but neither will be the tournament betting favorite. We don’t have to pretend because we can return to the present time and see that scenario unfold this week. It’s Ludvig Åberg, a golfer who was still in college five months ago, who opens as the betting favorite in Mexico (+900). It’s been a lot of fun to watch the quick ascent of Åberg who arrives with top 15s in six straight worldwide events.

Cameron Young

I just mentioned him briefly but Young is also co-headlining the field this week. He didn’t make it to East Lake this year but did secure this spot in the coveted top 50 of the FedExCup standings. That has allowed him some time to rest with this being his first action in the FedExCup Fall series. The state of his game is a major wildcard, given the two-month absence, but he’s the class of this field from a long-term (two-year) view.

Maverick McNealy

He injured his shoulder in February and shut things down in June to rehab the injury. This will be his first action since then, so gamers should likely take the wait-and-see approach before potentially reinvesting over the next few weeks.

Akshay Bhatia

Sometimes as gamers we can get too deep in the split stats and find patterns where patterns don’t actually exist but other times those stats just leap off the page and make it hard to ignore. I believe the latter to be true with Bhatia who has proven to be a coastal course crusher over the last few years. He has three top 5s on the PGA Tour and two have come on coastal layouts. He also has a win and two other top 10s in his last four KFT events played on coastal tracks. The 21-year-old has posted boom-or-bust results for most of the year but with a visit to the coast this week, we should expect his chance of a boom to be a bit higher than usual.

Sahith Theegala

It would have been easy for him to skip the fall or play a light schedule. Then after he broke out with a win in Napa, he could have easily called it a year. Instead, he traveled to Japan to post a T-19 at the Zozo Championship and now he’s headed to Mexico for this week’s event at Tiger’s El Cardonal. The man either loves to travel or loves to golf, likely a bit of both. Theegala is opening as a +1400 outright option this week, third on the betting board behind only Aberg and Young.

Ranking the Field

1. Ludvig Åberg
2. Sahith Theegala
3. Cameron Young
4. Stephan Jaeger
5. Beau Hossler
6. J.J. Spaun
7. Emiliano Grillo
8. Thomas Detry
9. Lucas Glover
10. Chris Kirk
11. Adam Svensson
12. Keith Mitchell
13. Akshay Bhatia
14. Justin Suh
15. Mark Hubbard
16. Ben Griffin
17. Davis Thompson
18. Andrew Putnam
19. Doug Ghim
20. Matt Kuchar