Viva la Viktor!
The Prince of Paspalum is back to try and win the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba for the third consecutive year. Since Viktor repeated last year, defending your title has been a trend on the PGA Tour. Just two weeks ago, Rory McIlroy successfully defended his CJ Cup championship. Before that, Max Homa won in Napa again and Patrick Cantlay won his second BMW in as many years. Did Viktor start a trend? Let's see if he can start another as he looks to take three in a row!
I mentioned Paspalum in the opening line. Paspalum is a type of grass that works well in warm coastal climates. We see it in Puerto Rico and Punta Cana as well. Much will be made of this green fur, and it does favor certain players based on successful experience. These little differentiators are so important when selecting winners. Take Viktor for example, he has three career wins on this type of grass. That means something and so does the rest of our breakdown in the outrights section.
If we're going to talk about the grass, let's get into the course conditions. El Camaleón golf course will play soft this week. They have had rain leading up to the tournament and more is predicted for Thursday (60%) and Friday (25%). The wind won't break 15 mph so at least the players won't feel like they did last week in Bermuda. Temperatures will be warm as they are in Mexico. The morning lows will be in the low 70s topping out in the high 80s in the early afternoons.
El Camaleón possesses the easiest set of Par 3's on the PGA Tour. A stark contrast to what challenged the players last week at Port Royal. These holes set the tone for this resort walk.
- The course is a Par 71 - 6,982 yard layout.
- In the last 5 editions, the average winning score is 20.8 under par, last 10 the average is 19.4 under par.
- Viktor Hovland set the tournament record with 23 under in 2022.
You better bring your birdie bag through customs when entering the country. Players will need twenty-five birdies on their card over 72-holes to contend. How they earn those birdies will be discussed more in a little while. Mayakoba made a move to the fall of 2013 on the PGA Tour schedule. Since that time, they have hosted a reasonable fall field.
- Five of the Top 25 OWGR are playing and thirty-two of the Top 100.
- Scottie Scheffler is the #2 ranked player in the OWGR.
- The field consists of 132 players, and the Top 65 and ties will survive the 36-hole cut.
- The men are competing for a $7.2 million purse and a $1.476 million first-place check.
- Sixty-four players in this field competed in Bermuda. Nine of them finished in the Top 10 last week!
Even though birdies are common on this course, the historic cutline has always been around two under par. That means competitors can find trouble at El Camaleón.
- Eight of the holes have very strategically placed water penalty areas.
- We expect an east wind this week. Therefore, seven holes will play into the wind, six with the wind, and five will play across.
- Hitting fairways is below the PGA Tour average and a primary concern.
Another week where accuracy is favored over length makes life interesting. El Camaleón is a tough course to make a comeback on. Four of the last five winners have held or co-held the 54-hole lead. The group that plans to contend has to get it going early and often to compete. Overall, we have some really great storylines to watch as the week plays out.
- Will one of these KFT rookies win for the first time? (Montgomery, Gordon, Yu)
- Do we see a comeback story start to emerge? (Kuchar, Rose, Day)
- Can Scottie break out of his "slump?"
- Does Viktor continue to dominate?
It's November and the PGA Tour is still supplying super storylines in 2022. Enjoy it for a couple more weeks and keep reading to see who I think will win in Mexico.
When to watch on television:
All on the Golf Channel (all times EDT).
- Thursday 2:00 - 5:00 pm
- Friday 2:00 - 5:00 pm
- Saturday 2:00 - 5:00 pm
- Sunday 2:00 - 5:00 pm
Two to go
The LPGA has two tournaments left before the CME Group Tour Championship. Only the Top 60 qualify for the final shoot out for the biggest purse of the year. For the 42 LPGA players in the field at the TOTO Japan Classic this is an important trip over to Japan.
- The 78 woman field will be filled out with 36 players from the Japan LPGA.
- Everyone will play 72-holes, this is a no cut event.
- The $2 million dollar purse is up $500,000 from the last edition in 2019. First place will take home $300,000.
- Four of the Top 10 and eight of the Top 30 in the Rolex World Rankings are here.
This is the 45th edition of the Classic and the thirteenth time it has been hosted by the Seta Golf Club. This 54-hole facility has most recently hosted the 2018 and 2019 events. The tournament hasn't been played since 2019 due to Covid-19 challenges. Those ladies who played two weeks ago in South Korea should be ready for similar weather this week. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-40s to start the day and mid 60's for the high. Thursday afternoon into early Friday morning we expect some rain, but not enough to change the course conditions.
The wind looks calm for the week staying under 10 mph. If that holds true, the ladies will need to make a bunch of birdies. This has historically been a 54-hole event, but starting this year it is 72 holes. The average winning score over those three rounds the last two times at Seta was sixteen under par. How do they go so low in this course? They start with the Par 5's. All four of them are reachable at an average length of 503 yards.
Only five holes on the course have a penalty area, so these ladies will be swinging for the fences. The Par 3's present the toughest test relative to par as three of them are over 175 yards. Six of the Par 4's are under 400 yards making the length a great advantage here.
- Seta Golf Club is a Par 72 layout with a scorecard measuring 6,616 yards.
If you are familiar with the layout, the LPGA has changed the routing this time. Here are the new hole assignments.
- Current hole (2019 hole) - 1(1), 2(8), 3(9), 4(4), 5(3), 6(10), 7(11), 8(12), 9(13)
- Back nine - 10(14), 11(15), 12(16), 13(17), 14(2), 15(5), 16(6), 17(7), 18(18)
Much like Oak Valley CC two weeks ago at the BMW, this course is hilly. Plenty of elevation changes again give the advantage to more powerful players. I also believe there's a slight edge to the top-tier JLPGA players. They are at home and playing on grasses, conditions, and courses they are more familiar with. Almost 50% of the field is from their tour and they haven't traveled halfway around the world and adjusted to being thirteen hours ahead. You'll see it in our outright card, but a healthy mix of both sides of the field provides us with the best opportunity to win #13.
Six of the seven ladies competing around that 60th qualifying spot for the CME Group Tour Championship are playing this week as well. Will they have enough incentive over the next two weeks to play hard and cement a spot? Here's a link to those names in case you are curious (CME Points). I don't have any on my final betting card, but it is fun to keep track of who will make it in.
Just like the BMW two weeks ago, the LPGA starts their tournament on Wednesday night! Make sure you get all of your bets in before 7:00 pm EDT on Wednesday.
Caffeine to the rescue:
All on the Golf Channel (all times EDT).
- Wednesday (into Thursday) 11:00 pm - 2:00 am
- Thursday (into Friday) 11:00 pm - 2:00 am
- Friday (into Saturday) 11:30pm - 2:30 am
- Saturday (into Sunday) 11:00 pm - 2:00 am
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Make it happen at Mayakoba
If this truly is Hovland's happy place, then he should provide us with some insight as to what matters when it comes to winning at Mayakoba.
- Viktor is a very solid driver of the golf ball. He's long and accurate, so much so that he set the tournament record with Danny Lee's driver. Check that story: Hovland's new driver.
- Better than Hovland's tee ball is his long iron game. He's truly elite when it comes to approaches over 200 yards. It has a lot to do with his shut-club face style of play. Most of the approaches at El Camaleón are short. Pay attention to Par 5 scoring. He's hitting long irons in and getting it done.
- We all know Viktor struggles around the green. The average square footage of these putting surfaces is approximately 7000 square feet. To contend this week, your approach game will need to be on point.
- Inside the approach numbers, wedge play is important. More than 50% of the approaches this week are under 150 yards.
- Putt the lights out on Paspalum. Most players either don't have the experience or cannot adjust to spongy slow greens. Hovland lights it up on these surfaces. To beat him you better believe Paspalum grass is your go-to turf.
- He set the tournament record at twenty-three under par last year. The year before he was twenty under. To keep up, guys need to take advantage of the easy Par 3's and 5's. Viktor is six under par on the Par 3's over his last two wins.
With the humidity levels around 90% and the soft conditions, fairways will get wider and the greens will be dartboards. Take Hovland's history and project it forward. Here are the WWTCaM outrights...
- Yes, I'm going with the three-peat. Viktor Hovland will win again in Mexico for all the reasons outlined above and more. Don't complicate life, just bet him this week.
- He was our OAD pick in Bermuda and finished runner-up. Thomas Detry is making a name for himself on the PGA Tour. His fall finishes rival Hoge's. Detry has three Top 12's this fall and gained almost six shots against the field in his last five starts. His wedge game was on point in the breezy Bermuda conditions. This week, I expect more under-par scores as he is ranked eighth in the field for BoB% and Opportunities Gained. Last week's second place was simply foreshadowing for one better in Mayakoba.
Outright winners - World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba
Viktor Hovland (+1100)
Pick 2* (+3500)
Thomas Detry (+5000)
Pick 4* (+10000)
*- member content
Over the hills and far away
There are a couple of trends I noticed while breaking down the North Course at Seta Golf Club.
- The first impression you get is there are no flat lies. The course is hilly and rolls from hole one through eighteen.
- The second trait I already touched upon is the length of Seta. Two of the Par 5's are under 500 yards and the overall length even with the elevation changes will not slow down these ladies.
- If you can move the ball from left to right off the tee, you'll love this course. nine of the fourteen tee shots meander that way. A right-handed power fader of the golf ball has a decided edge.
- A majority of the fairways are tree-lined. I took a long look at my charts for LPGA driving length versus accuracy.
- Par 5 scoring will be the path to victory this week. If you can get to double digits under par on the 5's, you will be contending come Sunday.
- If you take away the Par 5's, eight of the remaining holes have approach shots between 125 and 175 yards. Those mid-iron shots will be critical all week.
Add it all up and I come up with a very interesting list of familiar LPGA names and some stars from the JLPGA. It took a bunch of time, but I looked at an endless amount of their tournament results and analytics to make these selections. Thank goodness I brushed up on my Japanese over the summer.
Hye-Jin Choi is another great fit this week. At the BMW we tailed her and came in third. The impressive rookie is fifth in CME points this season and has not won. Hye-Jin is ranked 5th in Strokes Gained Off the Tee for the LPGA and seventh in scoring average. Picking winners is about making sure your selection contends. In twenty-five starts this season she has ten Top 10's! She's a rookie. On approach, she's equally impressive and scores well on Par 5's. She won't win rookie of the year since Atthaya Thitikul has two wins, but she can come awfully close by sealing the deal this week in Japan.
Our next player is first in scoring average on the JLPGA. Miyuu Yamashita is having an unbelievable season. In twenty-nine events, she has eighteen Top 10s and three wins. She contends every week because of a solid off-the-tee game and a knack for scoring. Her scrambling stats are wicked and those short Par 4's and 5's will require some nifty moves with a wedge. First on her tour in Par 4 scoring and Top 10 in Par 5 scoring. She averages 3.72 birdies per round and is ranked second on tour for rounds in the 60s. We need low rounds, efficient driving, and great recent form. She checks all three boxes. So don't be surprised on Sunday if she checks out with the trophy.
Outright winners - TOTO Japan Classic
Hye-Jin Choi (+1100)
Pick 2* (+2000)
Miyuu Yamashita (+3500)
Pick 4* (+3500)
*- member content
13 wins and counting...
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