This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
CORALES PUNTACANA RESORT & CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP
Winner's Share: $720,000
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Course: Puntacana Resort & Club (Corales course)
2019 champion: Graeme McDowell
Welcome to the tournament with the longest name in golf. It has taken a winding road to get where it is today. It began five years ago on the Korn Ferry Tour. Three years ago, it was elevated to the PGA Tour, albeit as an alternate-field event. And now this year, it has been elevated yet again, to full-points status. Puntacana – and is it okay if we call you just "Puntacana" for short? – is normally played in March opposite the WGC-Match Play. But then golf got shut down. Fast forward six months and this was supposed to be Ryder Cup week but, with the competition postponed till next year, a week on the calendar opened up. Hence, here we are in the Dominican Republic in September. Next year – in just six months, in fact – the 2021 Puntacana will be played, once again opposite the Match Play and once again a lower-tiered event. But for one year, it's in the big time.
Of course, "the big time" is all relative. This is not a big-time field. After a whirlwind stretch of big event after big event culminating with last week's U.S. Open, all the top players have started their vacations. We now must get used to fall-season fields.
So who is here? For one, Graeme McDowell is back to defend his title – and he's bypassing the Irish Open, his national championship, for the first time in two decades. The biggest name and highest-ranked player in the field is Henrik Stenson, like McDowell a real live major champion. But who is the top player in the eyes of DraftKings? Well – this will sound odd – it's not even a PGA Tour golfer. It's Korn Ferry Tour member Will Zalatoris. Zalatoris, the top KF player last season who is coming off an impressive tie for sixth at Winged Foot, is priced at $10,900. At No. 76 in the world rankings, he's one of nine players in the field of 144 inside the top 100. Some other names of note are No. 54 Mackenzie Hughes and a pair of 18-year-olds, Akshay Bhatia of California and Joohyung Kim of South Korea. Kim is the more accomplished teenager, having at one point cracked the top 100 based on his play in Asia. Most of the 144 have not played this course before, while about a quarter have played it twice. About half the field is made up of golfers on medical extensions, those on sponsor invites, Korn Ferry Tour grads and those outside the top 150 in the FedExCup Standings, so this week will really challenge all your DFS skills.
Now, for the course. The Tom Fazio design is way long, second on Tour behind only Torrey Pines, though without the teeth of the South Course. It's a resort-style track featuring extremely wide fairways and large paspalum greens. The course has drawn comparisons to others in the general region: El Camaleon, home of the Mayakoba Classic in Mexico, and Coco Beach (formerly in the Puerto Rico Open). TPC Kuala Lumpur at the defunct CIMB Classics in Malaysia also had paspalum greens. On an island, wind is usually a factor, especially on the six oceanfront holes. Three of them are Nos. 16-18, known as Devil's Elbow because, well, we don't know why. But 17 was the hardest hole on the course last year, so there is that. The winning score across the first four editions has ranged from 24-under by Dominic Bozzelli is the 2016 debut to 18-under by Brice Garnett and McDowell the past two years. Yes, despite two holes way over 600 yards and all four par-3s exceeding 200 – including one behemoth at 265 – this is one big fat birdie-fest. If it weren't for the wind, who knows where the scores would go.
Weather-wise, it'll be wet. Heavy thunderstorms are coming Tuesday and Wednesday and more rain is expected all four days of the tournament. The only day with less than a 50 percent chance is Thursday. It could be optimal to set your lineup based on tee times, so check back closer to lock. Otherwise, it'll be hot, with highs around 90, and the wind can always blow on the island.
Key Stats to Winning at Corales Golf Club
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Putting Average/Strokes Gained: Putting
• Birdie Average
• Greens in Regulation/Strokes Gained: Approach
• Scrambling/Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green
What do Bozzelli, Lashley, Garnett and McDowell have in common besides winning this tournament? They all are shorter hitters. You don't have to be long to succeed this week. Four of the top six finishers last year were outside the top-40 in driving distance. None of them were in the top-20 in driving accuracy. It was pretty similar in 2018. What the golfers on the first page of the leaderboard did do well was either get the ball on the green in regulation or putt, or both. One way or another, they made birdies. That's not to say that length is a detriment; it's just not required. On paspalum greens, the ball tends to stick upon landing, so golfers dialed in with their irons will have many birdie opportunities. The winning score the past two years when the event was under the domain of the PGA Tour was 18-under. In the two Korn Ferry years, 24-under for Bozzelli and 20-under for Lashley. Playing the course once or twice before of course should help, but we won't be limiting ourselves to those guys.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Will Zalatoris - $10,900 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 12-1)
Two years ago, Scottie Scheffler was the best guy on the Korn Ferry Tour, so it's entirely possible that Zalatoris could succeed from the get-go. He showed his stuff last week at mighty Winged Foot, tying for sixth. He was ranked first on the KF Tour last year in ball striking and greens in regulation, he was fourth in birdie average and third in eagles. The one caution – and it's not a small caution – is fatigue. The four days at Winged Foot were grueling, maybe mentally more than physically. Zalatoris is only 24, but still.
Mackenzie Hughes - $10,300 (14-1)
Hughes was also at Winged Foot, though only for two days. Having also played the TOUR Championship, it's a little surprising he's in the field. Still, he's the second-highest-ranked player entered, and he almost won at Puntacana a year ago, finishing a shot behind Graeme McDowell in a tie for second.
Sam Burns - $10,100 (18-1)
Burns has played well of late, tying for seventh two weeks ago at the Safeway Open and for 13th at the Wyndham just before the playoffs. He even did well here a year ago with a tie for 12th. Burns hits the ball a ton but he's also a good putter, ranking 30th on Tour in SG: Putting last season.
Denny McCarthy - $9,600 (35-1)
McCarthy is coming off his best season on Tour, just missing the second playoff event. He led the Tour in SG: Putting and ranked 13th in birdie average. He's played this tournament twice, tying for fourth two years ago.
Tier 2 Values
Sepp Straka - $9,300 (35-1)
Straka has strung together four top-20s since the restart, and that includes a tie for 14th at the Safeway. He's among the longest hitters, but what caught our eye was his ranking of 10th in birdie average last season. He also was second in eagles. Straka played Puntacana last year and tied for 26th.
Kristoffer Ventura - 9,200 (35-1)
Ventura is another one of the Oklahoma State Cowboys on Tour. He played with Matthew Wolff and Viktor Hovland but is a bit older. He was an elite putter last season, ranking fourth on Tour in SG: Putting while finishing 11th in birdie average. He's coming off his first top-10 n 21 career starts, a tie for seventh at the Safeway.
Xinjun Zhang - $8,400 (40-1)
Zhang played this tournament two years ago but not last year. He tied for fifth. More importantly, he has three top-15s in his past six starts, including two weeks ago at the Safeway. He's a better-than-average putter and ranked 24th in birdie average last season.
Joohyung Kim - $8,200 (60-1)
The teenager zoomed up the world rankings playing the Asian and Korean Tours. He left Asia for the first time last month and missed the cut at the PGA. He then tied for 67th at the Safeway. It wasn't a good finish, but he did have 19 birdies, among the most in the field. The 11 bogeys and two doubles offset most of them, however. Inconsistency is to be expected from an 18-year-old still getting acclimated to traveling for a living. But Kim's upside is large.
Tier 3 Values
Seamus Power - $7,500 (80-1)
Power had a weird season (not good, weird). He was in only 11 tournaments. He made seven cuts with four top-25s. He also played three Korn Ferry events and missed every cut. His past four PGA events included a T12 at the Rocket Mortgage, a T9 at the Barracuda and a T27 at the Wyndham. In that limited action, he ranked fifth in birdie average. Power has played Puntacana the past two years, with a T5 in 2018 and a T44 last year. He missed the cut at the Safeway.
Chris Baker - $7,500 (100-1)
He was a rookie at 34 years old this past season. It couldn't have begun much worse, with seven missed cuts in his first nine starts. But Baker reversed course and made seven of his final eight, including a tie for 20th at the Wyndham. He quietly ranked 24th in greens in regulation.
Doug Ghim - $7,300 (80-1)
Ghim tied for 14th at the Safeway, tied for 48th at the Barracuda and for 18th at the 3M Open. In other words, he sticks around in lesser fields. There's not a lot to get excited about with his stats, other than a ranking of 32nd in green sin regulation last season.
Beau Hossler - $7,200 (80-1)
Hossler has shown the ability to play well ... in bad fields. He had top-25s at the Safeway and the Barracuda. He also made the cut at the Northern Trust. His biggest weapon is his putter. He was ranked in the top-25 in SG: Putting last season, always giving him a puncher's chance.
Kurt Kitayama - $7,100 (80-1)
The Californian has been trying to get to the PGA Tour via Asia and now Europe, along the way getting his world ranking as high as 66th. He's made cuts in some tough fields this year – he tied for 47th at the Honda and for 53rd at the PGA, which in this field would qualify him for the Hall of Fame. That doesn't guarantee anything this week, but Kitayama is a higher-class player who's been in majors and WGCs priced like a long shot. His odds are more in line with a player maybe $1,000 more. He's coming off a missed cut at the U.S. Open.
Akshay Bhatia - $6,900 (150-1)
As like with fellow teenager Kim, the upside is significant. Bhatia agonizingly missed cut after cut on sponsor invites last season, even in Saudi Arabia on the European Tour. But then earlier this month he tied for 13th in something called the Invitational at Auburn University Club, a tournament tri-sponsored by the Mackenzie and Latinoamerica Tours and the PGA Tour-Series China. He followed that up with a tie for ninth at the Safeway, birdieing his last hole on Friday to make the cut. The Safeway cut basically cut his world ranking in half, from around 2,000 to just outside 1,000.
Peter Malnati - $6,800 (150-1)
Malnati has made four of eight cuts since the restart, with a best of T20 at the Wyndham. He's known for his putting Last season he ranked 40th in SG: Putting. Still pretty good, but his worst on Tour. He missed the cut at the Safeway but had two great rounds on the greens.
Julio Santos - $6,100 (1,000-1)
Santos is a 47-year-old Dominican who has played in this event the past two years, making the cut both times. This pick is strictly if you're looking for a sixth, low-priced guy with a chance to make the cut. You have to figure he's more familiar with the course than anyone else, knows the wind, etc. There are 26 guys priced $6100 or $6000 – some will make the cut, right? Right?