This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
MAYAKOBA GOLF CLASSIC
Winner's Share: $1.296M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the winner
Location: Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Course: El Camaleon Golf Club
2019 champion: Brendon Todd
We have come to the 12th tournament of the longest fall season and the final event of most extraordinary year in PGA Tour history. With the unexpected in golf happening virtually every week throughout much of 2020, this week is no different. There is a surprisingly strong field at El Camaleon Golf Club, in fact the strongest in the tournament's 14-year history. World No. 1 Dustin Johnson pulled out after committing pre-Masters, but Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Daniel Berger, Tony Finau, Viktor Hovland and Rickie Fowler are all on hand to get in – they hope – four more rounds before the Tour takes its annual winter break.
For gamers not willing to wait five weeks until the Tournament of Champions christens the new year, golf continues unabated weekly throughout the world, most notably on the European Tour, where the Golf in Dubai Championship takes place this week and then the DP World Tour Championship next week concludes the Race to Dubai. That will be the final big tournament of 2020.
Last year at Mayakoba, Brendon Todd continued a notable trend. Eleven of the 13 previous champions have been at least 30 years old – and 2007 inaugural winner Fred Funk was 50! It speaks to the shorter, old-school look and feel of El Camaleon, an anachronistic 7,000ish yards. Maybe that's why older guys usually win this tournament. You just can't bomb it this week. You don't necessarily have to keep it in the fairway, but you can't stray too far. While this will be a birdie-fest, the Greg Norman design does have its defenses. The course is perched on the easternmost point of Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula. It features tropical jungles, dense mangrove forests and even some oceanfront beaches. For those wondering what, exactly, a mangrove is, it's a tree or shrub that features many tangled roots. In other words, they're big trouble if your ball finds one.
There are only three par-5s and none of them comes close to 600 yards. The par-3s are also short, with three of them at 155 yards or less. Similarly, the longest par-4 is 462 yards and most of them are under 450. So this is surely a second-shot golf course, where the golfers will be firing at average-size paspalum grass greens. Paspalum is uncommon on Tour but not unheard of, featured on tracks in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and formerly Malaysia.
As for the field, last year none of the top-10 in the world rankings and only eight of the top-50 were in the 132-man field. Now, 13 of the top-50 are entered, including No. 3 Thomas. Other names of note include Abraham Ancer, Joaquin Niemann, Marc Leishman, Gary Woodland, Billy Horschel, Harris English, Corey Conners, Sebastian Munoz, No. 54-ranked Chez Reavie, No. 56 Russell Henley and No. 60 Will Zalatoris, who was a sponsor invite. Those final three will be trying to get into the top-50 at year's end, which would secure them Masters berths. Meanwhile, Fowler is trying to hang on at No. 49, as he is not otherwise exempt into Augusta. One other name of note is Andy Ogletree, who will be making his pro debut after being the low amateur at last month's Masters.
Weather-wise, thunderstorms are moving into the area and could disrupt play into Saturday. That could help scores go even lower – when there isn't a delay. Otherwise it will be warm in the low 80s with moderate wind.
Key Stats to Winning at El Camaleon
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Putting
• Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green/Scrambling
• Birdie Average
2019 - Brendon Todd
2018 - Matt Kuchar
2017 - Patton Kizzire
2016 - Pat Perez
2015 - Graeme McDowell
2014 - Charley Hoffman
2013 - Harris English
2012 - John Huh
2011 - Johnson Wagner
2010 - Cameron Beckman
As we mentioned above, there is quite a theme here, as increased age and decreased distance dovetail. Todd, Kuchar, Kizzire, Perez, McDowell, Hoffman, Wagner, Beckman, Mark Wilson (2009), Brian Gay (2208) and Fred Funk (2007) are all older guys and none of them would be considered a big hitter. (Heck, Funk was the poster boy for short hitters even in his prime, not to mention after turning 50.) That's because the key to El Camaleon is positioning. Being in the fairway isn't imperative, just don't stray too far. Among the last seven winners, only Kuchar was among the top-15 in driving accuracy. But six of the seven were top-11 in greens in regulation. Only McDowell was not, and he putted out of his mind. The winning score since the tournament moved to the fall has been perched between 17- and 22-under, with Kuchar setting the tournament record. As mentioned, the greens are paspalum. They run pretty slow, which also tends to benefit the older guys.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Justin Thomas - $11,400 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 13-2)
Thomas has played Mayakoba only once before – way back in in his first full season on Tour in 2014 – and finished T23. He's no stranger to paspalum greens, however, having twice won the old CIMB Classic in Malaysia. That tournament was played on a similarly short track, so Thomas clearly has no issues dialing things down off the tee.
Brooks Koepka - $11,000 (10-1)
Like Thomas, Koepka has played El Camaleon only one time, and he missed the cut way back in 2013 at the onset of his first season on Tour. A two-month layoff over the summer to rehab his troublesome knee seems to have worked. Koepka finished top-10 in his past two starts, including a tie for seventh at the Masters. This presumably will be Koepka's final chance to win a tournament in 2020. He has won somewhere in the world on some kind of tour every year since 2012.
Harris English - $10,200 (16-1)
Interestingly, English is the No. 3 betting choice on golfodds.com but only fifth on the DraftKings board, behind Tony Finau and Daniel Berger. It's clear to see why. He was a Mayakoba winner back in 2013 and tied for fifth a year ago. He finished top-10 in three of his past five starts, continuing a career renaissance that began last fall.
Abraham Ancer - $9,900 (20-1)
The local favorite, Ancer is back for a sixth straight year. He has finished top-10 twice before, including T8 last year. There's always been a lot of pressure on him to win in Mexico, but with no fans in attendance that will be minimized, and this could be the spot where he breaks through for his first Tour win.
Tier 2 Values
Russell Henley - $9,300 (25-1)
Henley is winding down a brilliant year, one that began with him well outside the top-200 in the world rankings. He's now up to No. 56 and a good finish could move him inside the the top-50 and into the Masters. His iron play has been superior for months; it's all a question of how well he putts. Henley has played Mayakoba two other times, tying for 29th two years ago and missing the cut last fall.
Will Zalatoris - $9,200 (30-1)
Special temporary membership has its privileges, one of which is unlimited sponsor invites. Of course, if Zalatoris continues to play the way he has been – three top-10s and another top-20 in his past five PGA tour starts – he will be coveted by sponsors.
Marc Leishman - $8,700 (50-1)
A year that began with such promise – a win at Torrey Pines, a runner-up at Bay Hill – disintegrated rapidly following the shutdown. But Leishman finally showed signs of his former self at the Masters, where he tied for 13th. He tied for 24th at El Camaleon in 2016, his lone appearance in the past decade. He's shown he can thrive on paspalum greens, having won in Malaysia two years ago.
Sebastian Munoz - $8,500 (50-1)
Munoz has gone T64 and MC in his two trips to Mexico, but he's been playing so well for more than a year now he can't be ignored. Before missing the cut his last time out at the RSM Classic, he had had made 10 straight cuts with three top-10s and four other top-25s.
Tier 3 Values
Alex Noren - $7,900 (80-1)
A surge in the second half of 2020 has moved Noren to No. 88 in the world rankings, almost back to where he ended 2019 (75th). Since late July, he's made nine of 10 cuts, three of them being top-10s and four others beingtop-25s. This will be his first trip to El Camaleon.
Harold Varner - $7,800 (60-1)
If you're into patterns, Varner is the man for you. He's gone T13-MC-T15-MC in his past four starts on Tour. And in his past four at Mayakoba, he's gone T5-MC-T6-T58. Varner is ranked 36th on Tour in Strokes Gained: Approach and 41st in birdie average.
Sepp Straka - $7,600 (100-1)
Straka is ranked 29th on Tour in SG: Approach and 30th in birdie average. He's played seven times this season with six made cuts, three of them top-25s, including a tie for fifth at the Houston Open. He missed the cut last year in his first visit to El Camaleon.
Doug Ghim - $7,400 (100-1)
When Cameron Tringale withdrew on Sunday, first alternate Ghim got in. Good for him, good for us. He has played five tournaments in the 2020-21 season and finished top-25 in four of them. Ghim has been doing it with his iron play, ranking 16th on Tour in SG: Approach and 25th in SG: Tee-to-Green. This will be his Mayakoba debut.
Brice Garnett - $7,000 (125-1)
If only every week could be Mayakoba week for Garnett. He has finished top-25 in each of his past five visits, three of them being top-10s plus a tie for 11th a year ago. He's ranked only 275th in the world, but he's had some success in 2020 with four top-25s. He is ranked 29th in SG: Putting this season.
Brian Stuard - $6,900 (125-1)
Like Garnett, Stuard has a great track record at El Camaleon. He's a two-time runner-up, lastly in 2013, along with another top-10 and a top-25 last year. He's ranked 37th in SG: Approach this season.
Adam Schenk - $6,900 (150-1)
Schenk had made 11 straight cuts before missing at Houston, then came right back to play the weekend at the RSM Classic. He missed the cut last year at Mayakoba, but had made it the two previous years.
Andy Ogletree - $6,700 (200-1)
We've seen so many collegiate stars make an immediate impact upon turning pro the past few years. Ogletree could be another. The 22-year-old Georgia Tech alum played three rounds at Augusta alongside Tiger Woods and didn't flinch (at least not noticeably). He even bested Woods by a shot on Sunday en route to winning Masters low amateur. It was Ogletree's first made cut in five PGA Tour starts in 2020. Playing outside of the country and with no fans in attendance should alleviate some of the pressure of his pro debut.