This article is part of our DraftKings PGA DFS Picks series.
WORLD WIDE TECHNOLOGY CHAMPIONSHIP AT MAYAKOBA
Winner's Share: $1.476M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the winner
Location: Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Course: El Camaleon Golf Club
2021 champion: Viktor Hovland
The calendar has flipped to November and we are closer to the end of the fall season than the start. This will be the seventh of nine events before the PGA Tour takes its annual winter break. After Mayakoba come the Houston Open and RSM Classic leading into Thanksgiving and then that's it till the Tournament of Champions kicks off the new year. Unless you want to include Tiger Woods' Hero World Challenge in December (and we do, because there will be DraftKings games).
Last year's field was the strongest in Mayakoba's 15-year history and, while this one won't match it, it is pretty stout. Recently dethroned world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler heads the 132-man contingent, and he could return to No. 1 with a win (he'll also play Houston next week). There's also two-time defending champion Viktor Hovland, plus Collin Morikawa, Tony Finau and Billy Horschel. Others of note include Justin Rose, Matt Kuchar, Brian Harman, Tom Hoge, Aaron Wise, Taylor Montgomery and Jason Day.
El Camaleon was designed in 2006 by um, er, how can we say this? ... Greg Norman. The course was an instant hit and only a year later, Mayakoba became the first Tour event ever contested outside the United States or Canada (non-British Open). The course is perched on the easternmost point of Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula. It is described on the tournament website as bending "through three distinct landscapes - tropical jungle, dense mangroves, and oceanfront stretches of sand with holes bisected by massive limestone canals." 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.
Last year, a then-24-year-old Hovland went back to back, countering a very strong trend that had developed through the tournament's first 13 editions. Eleven times the winner was at least 30 years old (heck, 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. The past two years notwithstanding, maybe that's why older guys usually won this tournament. You just can't bomb it here. You don't necessarily have to keep it in the fairway, just don't stray too far. Hovland won at 20-under in 2021 and upped it to 23-under last year. In other words, birdie-fest. El Camaleon often sits in the neighborhood of 10th-12th easiest tracks on Tour.
There are only three par-5s and all are under 575 yards. The par-3s are also collectively short, one of them a mere 116. Similarly, eight of the par-4s are 450ish or less. So this is surely a second-shot golf course, one where the golfers will be firing at the larger-than-average paspalum grass greens that are about 7,000 square feet and running only 11 on the Stimpmeter. Paspalum is uncommon on Tour but not unheard of, featured on tracks in Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and formerly Malaysia (Hovland has also won in Puerto Rico, hint, hint). There's water all over El Camaleon, with a series of canals snaking through the course. Based on where it's situated, where the Gulf of Mexico meets the Caribbean, wind is a primary defense.
Weather-wise, thunderstorms were in the forecast Tuesday through Friday before clearing the rest of the week. Temperatures will be in the upper 80s and the wind looks like it could be a factor the first two days, blowing in the mid-teens mph.
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/Birdie or Better Percentage
2021 - Viktor Hovland
2020 - Viktor Hovland
2019 - Brendon Todd
2018 - Matt Kuchar
2017 - Patton Kizzire
2016 - Pat Perez
2015 - Graeme McDowell
2014 - Charley Hoffman
2013 - Harris English
2012 - John Huh
Just like last week, we don't have ShotLink data to consult. Hovland was masterful last year in winning by four strokes over Carlos Ortiz. He ranked eighth in driving distance (though only 298.4 yards), second in fairways hit, fifth in greens in regulation and 10th in putting average. Ortiz got as close as he did by leading the field in putting. One of the keys, if not *the* key for Hovland was the being able to get the ball on the green. That allowed him to steer clear of his big trouble spot: scrambling. Two years ago, Hovland ranked first in greens in regulation and, even though he was 45th in putting, he edged Aaron Wise by shot. As Hovland showed in his title defense, his putting has vastly improved. Hovland is normally on the longer side off the tee, but he smartly toned it down at Mayakoba. As we mentioned above, before Hovland won there was quite a theme here, as increased age and decreased distance dovetailed. Todd, Kuchar, Kizzire, Perez, McDowell, Hoffman, Johnson Wagner (2011), Cameron Beckman (2010), Mark Wilson (2009), Brian Gay (2008) and Fred Funk (2007) were 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. Putting usually has been important on these unfamiliar paspalum greens. The greens run pretty slow, which also tends to benefit older guys. The over/under on the winning score as determined by golfodds.com was set at 262.5 -- 21.5 under par. That's the same number as last year.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Viktor Hovland - $11,200 (Winning odds at the DraftKings Sportsbook: +1000)
Hovland will try to become the first three-peat winner on the PGA Tour since Steve Stricker accomplished the feat from 2009-2011 at the John Deere Classic. And there's a good chance he can do it. He obviously likes paspalum greens, having won twice here and also at the 2020 Puerto Rico Open. Hovland said they run slower, which he likes. He has not won since last year's Mayakoba and surprisingly still has not won on the mainland U.S., but that seems more like a quirk than a trend.
Aaron Wise - $10,200 (+1600)
Wise is sitting at a career-best 34th in the world in large part because he's become a better putter. And yet, he has putted well at Mayakoba even when he wasn't putting well anywhere else. Wise was runner-up to Hovland in 2020 and was 15th last year. He's coming off a tie for sixth at the CJ Cup, and also was T6 at the TOUR Championship (low-72).
Billy Horschel - $10,000 (+1600)
Horschel is another Mayakoba course horse, having finished fifth in 2020 and eighth the year before. He's a good GIR guy and a good putter, so those results make sense. Horschel has played three times since the TOUR Championship, finishing in the top-10 every time -- twice in Europe and most recently at the CJ CUP.
Tom Hoge - $9,500 (+3000)
Hoge's price finally has caught up to his improved play. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted. But he's still a good play. Hoge has teed it up four times in the fall season and finished no worse than 13th with a pair of top-5s. He was third here two years ago behind Hovland and Wise.
Tier 2 Values
Maverick McNealy - $9,400 (+1800)
Every time we write about McNealy, we say that he still hasn't won on the PGA Tour. This seems like as good of a place as any to get that maiden win, since he's gone 11th and 12th the past two years, plus arrives on the heels of finishing 10th, 12th and 18th in his past three starts. In the mid-$9000s, McNealy doesn't even have to win to justify his price.
Emiliano Grillo - $9,100 (+2800)
Grillo has three top-10s plus a T15 here through the years. He missed the cut here last year, triggering a horrible stretch in which he made only two cuts in 11 starts. But since then he's missed only two of 16 with a pair of runners-up over the summer and two top-5s already this fall season. Aside from his usual great ball-striking, Grillo is ranked 87th in SG: Putting this season. Normally, he's outside the top-100.
Thomas Detry - $8,800 (+4000)
Detry is coming off a runner-up in Bermuda, his third top-12 already this fall. Of course, he is moving way up in class in this field, and it's still a hefty price, so this could tell us a lot about the up-and-coming Belgian in his rookie season on Tour. Detry played Mayakoba last year on a sponsor's invite and tied for 22nd.
Matt Kuchar - $8,000 (+5000)
Kuchar can still compete on these shorter tracks, ones where you have to think your way around 18 holes rather than bomb and gouge. He famously won here in 2018, then infamously cheaped out on his caddie. You would think that might've made returning to Mayakoba a bit embarrassing for Kuchar, but he was 14th the next year, then 22nd last year. Kuchar has finished 12th and 29th in two starts in the early going this season, buoyed by his still-excellent short game.
Tier 3 Values
Aaron Rai - $7,600 (+8000)
Rai is a very accurate off the tee and from the fairway -- ranking 27th in both driving accuracy and greens in regulation -- which is the perfect recipe for success this week. The Englishman has not missed a cut in four starts this season, and he tied for 15th here last year.
Adam Long - $7,400 (+7000)
It's fair to ask why a guy who was runner-up at Mayakoba three years ago, was third two years ago and 22nd last year is priced under $7,500. Well, if his recent form was terrible, that would make sense. But that's not the case with Long, who ran off four straight top-25s late last season and has opened 2022-23 with three cashes in four starts. Long is not a long hitter, so he must love coming to El Camaleon.
J.J. Spaun - $7,300 (+6000)
Spaun agonizingly just missed out on reaching the TOUR Championship back in August. It didn't affect him adversely coming out of the chute this season, as he opened with a pair of top-25s. Spaun has made the cut in all six visits to Mayakoba, including a podium finish in 2018.
S.H. Kim - $7,200 (+13000)
We touted Kim last week and it didn't end well with a missed cut. That he was priced at $9,600 was especially rough. Coming back for more in a far stronger field doesn't seem like the best plan, but we liked what we saw from the young Korean, and it's worth another try, at least at this far more favorable price.
C.T. Pan - $6,800 (+18000)
Pan is now outside the top-200 in the world rankings after once being ranked in the top-50. He has made four straight cuts to start the new season, though he does not have a high finish. Pan is a perfect five for five in made cuts at Mayakoba, and he does have a couple of high finishes with two top-16s. Pan is ranked 61st in greens in regulation, and that's what's been carrying him to the weekends so far this season.
John Huh - $6,700 (+18000)
Huh had a big second-place finish at the Wyndham back in August. We don't expect a similar result this week, but he's done quite well at Mayakoba through the years. Huh won here way back in 2012. Since then, he's missed only two cuts, with each cash inside the top-30, including T15 last year.
Scott Piercy - $6,600 (+18000)
Piercy tied for fourth here in 2016 and for sixth in 2018. We don't expect anything close to that this year, but Piercy continues to make cuts at Mayakoba -- six in a row now. He certainly fits the shorter-hitting, older-guy narrative discussed above. Piercy has not had a great start to this season, making only one cut in four starts. But that one was a top-20 at the Sanderson Farms.
Ben Martin - $6,400 (+30000)
Here's our weekly $6500-or-under pick where we mostly just try to reach the weekend and then hope for the best. Martin has done that in three of his four starts this season since emerging from the Korn Ferry playoffs. He's ranked 43rd on Tour in greens in regulation and is an average putter, ranked 100th in SG: Putting. Martin has not played Mayakoba since 2019, but he did tie for 20th that year.