Oh, to be a PGA Tour pro. Traveling the world playing perfeclty manicured golf courses for millions of dollars, having your work trips be to places like Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
The picturesque beach resort is the host of this week’s Mayakoba Golf Classic, and some high-profile players are making the trip south of the border (more on the field in just a minute) to tee it up this week.
Here’s everything you need to know.
El Camaleon Golf Club is the host venue this week, located on the southeast portion of Mexico, almost directly south of Atlanta. It’s a Greg Normal-designed course that meanders through jungle but also has multiple holes with sweeping ocean views. It’ll play as a par-71 this week and measure around 7,000 yards. Distance won’t be the issue this week, as the relatively short layout will give players multiple scoring opportunities with short irons and wedges into greens…if they can plot their way around the expansive and dramatic hazards lurking on nearly every hole.
By all accounts, it’s a pretty typical resort course—wide fairways, dramatic views, manageable rough, well-manicured green complexes, slower-than-average putting surfaces and not overly difficult. The average winning score over the past five Mayakoba Golf Classics is 19.2-under par
Three American Ryder Cuppers are in the field this week—world No. 9 Rickie Fowler, world no. 14 (!) Jordan Spieth and world No. 14 Tony Finau. Aaron Wise will be there, as will big-hitting phenom Cameron Champ, who already has a win and three top-28 finishes in his rookie season. Four Mexicans will be teeing it up on home soil this week: Abraham Ancer, Jose de Jesus Rodriguez, Carlos Ortiz and Roberto Diaz. Gary Woodland, who have five straight top-12 finishes and shot 63 last Sunday, is playing. Defending champion Patton Kizzire will be on hand to defend his title. Other notables in the field: Matt Kuchar, Billy Horschel, Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson and Emiliano Grillo.
Here are some tee times for marquee groupings.
Rickie Fowler, Emiliano Grillo, Aaron Wise – 7:30 a.m. Thursday*/12:00 p.m. Friday
Billy Horschel, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar – 7:40 a.m.*/12:10 p.m.
Jordan Spieth, Patton Kizzire, Pat Perez – 12:00 p.m./7:30 a.m.*
Cameron Champ, Jhonattan Vegas, Tony Finau – 12:10 p.m./7:40 a.m.*
* denotes 10th-tee start.
THE PAST CHAMPIONS
2017- Patton Kizzire (-19)
2016- Pat Perez (-21)
2015- Graeme McDowell (-18)
2014- Charley Hoffman (-17)
2013- Harris English (-21)
72-hole scoring record is 263, set by Harris English and equaled by Pat Perez. The course record is 61, set by Roland Thatcher.
HOW TO WATCH
Golf Channel has the coverage from 1-4 p.m. EST on Thursday-Sunday. Simulcast will be available through NBC Sports Live.
No surprise too see the highest ranked players in the field have the best odds, and Vegas stays really high on Emiliano Grillo. The players too targer this week are those who find find fairways and put it close with their scoring clubs—the last four winners of this event aren’t particularly long hitters, but all four were precise with their wedges. Abraham Ancer, who quietly has one of the best short games on tour, is a sneaky good pick to win on home soil (and what a story that would be). Nor would it be shocking to see Jordan Spieth, who is at his lowest world ranking since the end of 2014, get the W. He finished third in proximity to hole forom 125-150 yards last year, a yardage that should come into play often this week.
Instead, I’m going with a guy who hasn’t played this event before and whose wedge statistics we don’t know because they don’t keep those on the Web.com Tour: Sungjae Im, who led the Web moneylist wire-to-wire. Im, who doesn’t turn 21 until March, won twice last year including once in the Bahamas, at another resort course that placed a premium on short iron play. He’s had a solid start to his rookie season, making three of four cuts with a T-4 in Napa and a T-15 last week in Vegas. I fully expect Im to make this year’s President’s Cup team—he is the real deal—and he’ll get his first win on the big boy tour this week.