2020 Mayakoba Classic
This week’s preview is being sent out a bit earlier than will be the case, due to me being unavoidably detained for the rest of the day. And the problem that I will allude to now, is why I generally wait until later on a Tuesday afternoon. There are only a couple of firms priced up on the alternative markets which I am advising on, but I have little doubt that if everyone held off for an hour or so, that others will join them at top price, or maybe even better it.
I’ve had a couple of weeks off since an intense, but ultimately nicely profitable Masters. We had scant joy in the outright market, with only Rory McIlroy producing a dividend there, having seemed the least likely to do so after Day One. It was a carbon copy of most of his attempts there since 2011, playing his way out of it early on, before producing his best when it doesn’t matter. His Augusta Timeform squiggle remains firmly in place. I have to say I was very disappointed with Patrick Cantlay over the weekend. Fair enough, there was nobody beating DJ the form he was in, but Cantlay was positioned perfectly to mount a stern challenge at the least. Coming in off a confidence boosting win, I didn’t expect such a weak final 36 holes.
Our two most confident Alternative Market bets did us proud. Both Cameron Smith and Patrick Reed gave little or no worry over the weekend, both obliging with plenty to spare. They ensured a decent profit for the week, and hopefully an indicator of a good end to an excellent year.
The two weeks since The Masters have seen Robert Streb claim another RSM Classic, ahead of what was a blank week in the PGA calendar the week just gone.
With the cancellation of the Hero World Challenge this week, I turn my main attention to the Mayakoba Golf Classic, which comes to us from El Camaleon Golf Club in Mexico. A very short layout in today’s terms, being a Par 71 at just under 7000 yards, it will be there for the taking if there are no winds to keep players honest. Early indicators are of very little in the of meaningful breeze, and with a wet lead into the 4 days, we could see 30 under par potentially being threatened here.
It may be short, but the fairways are quite narrow, and the recent roll of honour has seen a mix of longer hitters and plotters prove successful. What this week’s layout certainly does reward though, is aggressive play. You will need to make plenty of birdies here to be in the mix come Sunday, and only those who attack the course with gusto will be in line for the winners prize. Greens in regulations and a hot putter will serve you well every week, but even more than most here, and I will be concentrating on consistent tee to green merchants who can prove streaky on the dancefloor.
Players of Interest:
Only one place to start here. JUSTIN THOMAS is by far and away the most likely winner. And in my opinion the market is underplaying just how likely that is. Bar a handful of players, he is different gravy to this field, and I believe this week’s test will see him produce his best. JT is lethal when it comes to attacking, birdie making golf. 5th for birdie average so far this term, he was 2nd in that stat in the season not long finished, and topped it in 2018-19. Where I sometimes have a slight reservation with him, is on tougher layouts where his shot selection can on occasion be too aggressive for the situation. El Camaleon demands that aggressiveness, and I can see him making hay here.
I also have no doubts about his commitment to the cause here. Thomas plays to win, he is one of the most competitive players on Tour, and will not be lining up here to go through the motions. He has proven in the past that he takes these ‘Fall’ events very seriously indeed. Winner of the CIMB Classic in November of 2015, he repeated the dose a year later. A year on and he was winning the CJ Cup in the last week of October, a feat he repeated 12 months ago. It’s clear to see that JT downs tools only when the job is complete, and I expect him to be gunning for another victory here. He looked very very close to his imperious best at Augusta, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he ran out quite a comfortable victor come Sunday evening. 13/2 won’t be for everybody, nor will the prospect of backing it each way, but I don’t envisage many circumstances where he isn’t right in the heel of the hunt come payday.
Brooks Koepka is hard to weigh up at the moment. The fact he is playing here, when he could easily have drawn stumps for the year suggests he will take it more seriously than he may have in the past. It doesn’t scream of a layout that will reward his length off the tee, but at his best he has no peers at making birdies on Par 4s, and that will be a crucial factor this week. He has certainly looked closer to that best of late, and is making all the right noises re his latest surgery. At 11/1 he is closer to JT in the market than I would make him though.
Daniel Berger will have been annoyed to have missed the Masters, but the fact is he didn’t qualify, and the change in date shouldn’t change the qualifying criteria. Though still playing some excellent golf, he hasn’t quite been in the same scintillating form as earlier in the year, and one wonders if missing Augusta may have taken the last of the air from his 2020 balloon.
Tony Finau will have been disappointed with his display there, but for the moment is probably still one to back at bigger prices in better events than take shorter odds about him getting over the line in fields of less depth.
He didn’t threaten the judge down Magnolia Lane way, but RICKIE FOWLER went another step towards suggesting he might be about to produce an upturn in form. There are no two ways about it, the crowd’s favourite has had a poor 2020. It had started out with much promise with back to back top 10’s at the Tournament of Champions and American Express, but since then and from the resumption in June in particular, he has been well below the level we would expect. Recent signs are that he may have found something. When you are as good as Rickie, and still at the tender age of just 31, it is very much a case of form being temporary and class permanent. A couple of 68’s at the CJ Cup and a Friday 67 at the Zozo gave him something to work on ahead of the year’s final Major. I have to say I was pretty impressed with him at Augusta. A very poor Saturday took the gloss off a good week, which had threatened to be derailed early on with a triple bogey 6 on the Par 3 12th on Thursday. But there was much to like, and this test may be exactly what the doctor ordered for a player potentially suffering slightly from a shortage of confidence.
Rickie is at his best when he is aggressive. He has thrown away leads, and winning opportunities when he has tried to protect, and not play his natural attacking game. Think of his win at Sawgrass. Back to the wall, when he had to deliver, he delivered it in spades. I see El Camaleon as the perfect venue for him this week. His runner up finish here in 2017 backs this up. Indeed, he is 32 under par for his 8 rounds here. Also the timing is right. Many will be beginning to wind down for the festive season, but Rickie will be very eager to get what he can out of this. Lying a dangerous 48th in the OWGR, he will be keen to stay inside the all important Top 50. At 30/1, he’s a big price here in a relatively weak field. It’s too simple an argument to say he would only be 12/1 at his best, and make your case built on that. I do however feel that given what he has shown in recent weeks, it’s more than worth risking at the price that his best is just around the corner.
Another who’s recent results suggest that he is also struggling badly, is BRANDT SNEDEKER. Akin to Fowler though, on closer inspection, he has been inconsistent rather than simply poor. There has been much to like of late. A closing 73 at the Sanderson took him out of contention, before a similar story with a 74 on Sunday at the Shriners a week later. An opening 65 at Houston showed further spark, and he continued the good work into Augusta. A horror show at the weekend, particularly Saturday, once again undone that good work but to my eye he is close. He has really been finding his range from the fairways, and around here I can see him peppering pins. An end of year, somewhat relaxed feeling shootout, could be just the catalyst to see this prolific putter back in the limelight. He also won’t mind if the wind does get up to make things trickier, and all told I really like his chances here. Snedeker has unfortunately pulled out since I wrote this.
I am very keen on the chances of JT striking gold here, and as such with Sned gone, one other outright selection is as much back up as I want for him.
Of the others there are a few that deserve a mention. Pat Perez would have been interesting around here had he been showing any signs of life of late. Four missed cuts and a withdrawal in his last 5 outings suggest all is not well with the 2016 champ, but the approx 200 available on the exchange does have a tempting look to it all the same. I wouldn’t put anyone off having a few quid on there with a view to trading it. Given his course form, his price will plummet quicker than most around that bracket in the market, if he happens to get off to a hot start.
I’m a massive Viktor Hovland fan, and hope he notches his next win soon. He’s all class, and I have no doubt he will be a top 10 player for years to come. This may not be his ideal layout, and at 20/1 I can leave him be this week.
Marc Leishman caught the eye at Augusta, not least as he was the only danger to Cam Smith from a long way out. It was a big step up on anything we have seen from the Australian in a long time. Like Fowler, he will be keen to build on that and have a good year, and it will be interesting to see if he can carry the improvement on.
Top 20 Finish:
I toyed with getting AARON WISE on side in the outright market, but feel this is the best to play this still exciting young talent. Now down at 232nd in the OWGR, this isn’t where one of the 24 year olds ability belongs. 2020 will be a year he will want to forget, but recent signs indicate that the new season may be more fruitful for the South African born star. A top 10 at the Barracuda at the tail end of the 2019-20 season has given him a confidence boost and his recent results read well. Certainly in comparison to the previous 10 months. A top 20 at the Sandersons, just outside that at the Bermuda and 11th in Houston, his stock is firmly on the rise again. Even a missed cut on his latest outing offered promise. After a shocker on Thursday, he really knuckled down and took just 68 strokes on Friday. He’s getting there, and returning to a venue where he notched a top 10 including a sizzling Saturday 63 in 2018, he will be confident of continuing his recent progress. That 68 two weeks ago at the RSM shows that his mind is right, he’s here to fight his way back up the rankings, and I have little doubt he will be all business this week. It’s not long since he was notching a Top 20 finish at the 2019 Masters, and I can see him being back there in the not too distant future. 9/2 on a Top 20 finish here, in a field lacking any strength in depth, is simply too big.
Top Continental Euro:
At 8/1 I really like the claims of RORY SABBATINI here. He was full of promise at the RSM 2 weeks ago, where but for a poor second round he could have been challenging for glory. He has done us proud this term landing the payout for us on a couple of occasions, and as was the case then I am keen to get him onside at one of ‘his’ venues. Regular readers will know how I feel Sabba is a player who will perform consistently well at layouts where he has previous. 5th here in 2011 and 3rd in 2013, he hasn’t troubled the judge since, but there is little doubt this is a venue made to measure for the now Slovakian. Far from the longest off the tee, he has no worries about length here. When you see Brian Gay, Mark Wilson, G Mac and Matt Kuchar on the roll of honour here, you know it’s the type of venue where the neat and tidy game of Sabbatini can prosper. Marry that with a putter which has been pretty hot of late, and I like his chances of going well this week. And this section might not take too much winning.
Viktor Hovland is obviously a deserving favourite in this section, but at 6/4 is mighty short considering he has missed his last two cuts around here. He is a very consistent operator, who I don’t expect to miss the weekend here, but equally I don’t see this week’s layout as his ideal. Alex Noren would be more interesting at the prices, but he does have the disadvantage of making his debut here. It may be negligible, but in any case I prefer the claims of Sabbatini.
Henrik Norlander has somewhat gone off the boil, and while Sep Straka holds claims, he shouldn’t be a shorter price than the selection. All told the 8/1 available on Sabbatini looks an excellent bet.
That is all for me this week, not a lot of bets, but 4 which I think will give us an interest right through Sunday evening. Recommendations:
4pts ew Justin Thomas 13/2 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH) *13/2 with different place terms fine with 365/VBet
1pt ew Rickie Fowler 30/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH) *If you can’t bet with WH, I would play him on the exchange where he is currently 40. Maybe split the place stake between Top 5 and Top 10 markets there.
Top 20 Finish:
5pts Aaron Wise 9/2 (PP/BFSB) *4/1 and upwards acceptable
Top Continental European:
2.5pts ew Rory Sabbatini 8/1 (⅕ odds 3 places, 365) *6/1 and upwards acceptable
Running Totals 2020:
Best of luck all, I will be back with my final preview of 2020 next week with the DP World Championship. A reminder to those who wish to continue with me into 2021, you can sign up for the year through my website, pgapreviews.com. Or alternatively, contact me on [email protected]. 2021 will again feature 35 events previewed, beginning with the Tournament of Champions in the first week of January. Thanks again for reading through the year, and I hope you made a few pound along the way.