CORALES PUNTACANA RESORT & CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP
Winner's Share: $540,000
FedEx Cup Points: 300 to the Winner
Location: Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
Course: Puntacana Resort & Club (Corales course)
Let's begin with what not to do in this brand new PGA Tour event: pick Tony Romo. The quarterback-turned-broadcaster is part of the 132-man field that dips pretty dang deep into the priority rankings opposite the WGC-Match Play, but it shouldn't dip that deep. Romo will miss the cut by maybe 10 strokes. "Nuff said.
Moving on, this is the first PGA Tour event ever played in the Dominican Republic, but the tournament has been around since 2016, when it began as a Web.com Tour event. Dominic Bozzelli won that year at 24-under and now Nate Lashley -- who finished 20-under-par in 2017 -- is back to defend his title. Even though the course is massively long, second only to Torrey Pines on the schedule, it has been a birdie-fest, a resort-style track featuring extremely wide fairways and large greens. Strokes gained statistics were not tracked for the two Web.com events -- no stats were, really -- so we are going to stick to basics. Yes, the course will favor the longer hitters who can grip-it-and-rip-it (that was a cheap ploy to mention that John Daly is in the field), but the standard troika of greens in regulation, scrambling and putting will be our focus. More on that in the key stats and Champion's Profile below.
Emiliano Grillo heads the field with a world ranking of No. 76. Even if the Argentine wins, he will not accrue enough OWGR points to get into the top-50 and, thus, a berth in the Masters. Still, the winner will get a two-year exemption, so this is a huge opportunity, especially for the lesser guys. Scott Piercy, Jim Furyk, Patrick Rodgers and Graeme McDowell are some of the other "big" names" in the field. Curiously, there are a number of European Tour players, including Chris Wood, Paul Dunne and Fabrizio Zanotti.
The course has drawn comparisons to others in the general region: El Camaleon, home of the OHL Classic in Mexico, and Coco Beach (Puerto Rico Open), plus TPC Kuala Lumpur (CIMB Classic), which is in Malaysia but also has 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 (does it really matter?). But 17 was the hardest hole on the course last year, so there is that.
Weather-wise, we're looking at temperatures in the 80s all four days along with high humidity. There's a good chance of rain throughout the tournament, especially on the weekend, when the wind is also forecast to strengthen.
Key Stats to Winning at Corales
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained: approach
• Driving distance/strokes gained: off the tee
• Scrambling/strokes gained: around the green
• Putting average/strokes gained: putting
2017 - Nate Lashley
2016 - Dominic Bozzelli
We can glean a couple of things from the Web.com Tour players who've been to Corales: The longer hitters have an advantage, as full-throttle drivers pose little risk with the fairways so wide, and the greens are slow. On Paspalum greens, the ball tends to stick upon landing, so golfers dialed in on their irons will have many birdie opportunities. We'll look at guys who have played the course before and done well, guys who are playing well now, long hitters, GIR leaders and strong putters. Big greens tend to favor the better putters. And, frankly, we'll consider established PGA Tour golfers much more than golfers from the bowels of the priority rankings. Some of them are bound to make the cut, but good luck on those dart throws.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Scott Piercy - $11,200 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 20-1)
Piercy is second on the DraftKings board behind only Emiliano Grillo. He had three top-20s in his four previous starts until stumbling at Bay Hill, where he always stumbles. Piercy is ranked second on Tour in strokes gained: approach.
Rory Sabbatini - $10,400 (25-1)
At 41, Sabbatini seems revitalized this season, making 8-of-11 cuts with a bunch of high finishes. He's notched three top-20s in 2018, including a T5 last time out at the Valspar and T17 the week before at the Honda. Sabbatini is ranked sixth on Tour in strokes gained: around the green.
Patrick Rodgers - $10,000 (20-1)
If Rodgers can avoid saying to himself, "What am I doing in this rag-tag field?" he could win for the first time. He's amassing his best season so far, with four top-25s, two of them top-10s, including T7 last week at Bay Hill. Rodgers ranks 24th on Tour in strokes gained: putting.
Paul Dunne - $9,600 (30-1)
The 26-year-old Irishman has played in more big tournaments of late than most others in the field. He was in last month's WGC-Mexico, in which he tied for 55th. Dunne won the British Masters last October, besting runner-up Rory McIlroy by three shots. He's ranked 40th on the Euro Tour in strokes gained: putting.
Tier 2 Values
Corey Connors - $9,100 (40-1)
Many golf fans got their first glimpse of Connors a couple of weeks back at the Valspar, when as the 54-hole leader he faded to a tie for 16th. But the rookie had already made 9-of-10 cuts coming in. He is ranked 21st on Tour in strokes gained: off the tee. Connors saw the course last year on the Web.com Tour, tying for 53rd.
Harris English - $8,700 (25-1)
This is a very favorable price for an established PGA Tour golfer, especially one coming off a top-25 last week at Bay Hill. English has never reached the potential many expected of the Georgia alum, and he's missed more cuts than he's made this season. But he does have three top-25s, is ranked 37th in driving distance and 60th in strokes gained: putting.
Kelly Kraft - $8,600 (30-1)
Kraft stumbled out of the gate in 2018, missing his first four cuts. But he's now strung together three cashes in a row, with a top-10 at the Honda. Kraft is ranked 42nd on Tour in strokes gained: putting.
Seungsu Han - $8,500 (50-1)
Han may be the most interesting guy in the field, one many golf fans have never heard of. The 31-year-old South Korea native attended UNLV, now plays mostly in Japan and out of nowhere has shot up the world rankings. He's No. 85 after spending most of his career outside the top-1,000 (yes, three zeros). Han has played two PGA Tour events in his life -- in 2010 in Reno and also in Hartford in 2003 as a 16-year-old. His last two starts have been on Euro Tour, tying for fourth and 13th. A very interesting man, indeed.
Tier 3 Values
Sam Ryder - $7,800 (50-1)
Ryder's transition from Web.com Tour stud to the PGA Tour did not start out smoothly, as he missed his first four cuts. But he's starting to get the hang of it, making five of his past six -- and those were in tougher fields. Ryder played in both prior Corales events, tying for 12th last year and finishing as runner-up in 2016.
Derek Fathauer - $7,700 (50-1)
Fathauer is still trying to find his footing in his fourth full season on Tour. He's made 8-of-12 cuts, including three top-20s, two of them recently at Riviera and PGA National. Fathauer is ranked 62nd on Tour in strokes gained: putting.
Seamus Power - $7,500 (60-1)
Old friend Power has not developed this season as we anticipated, making only 4-of-11 cuts. In fact, he's trunk-slammed his last four starts. But the time before that was a T11 at the birdie-fest CareerBuilder. He's ranked 26th on Tour in strokes gained: putting, and he tied for seventh at Corales in 2016.
Adam Schenk - $7,500 (60-1)
The 26-year-old Indiana native and good sport (he has to be with that last name) has made 7-of-11 cuts, including his last three. Schenk is ranked 51st on Tour in strokes gained: off the tee and 67th in strokes gained: putting. He's played both prior Corales events, tying for 12th with Ryder a year ago and 41st in 2016.
Rafael Campos - $7,100 (50-1)
The 29-year-old Puerto Rican played four PGA Tour events last season, making three cuts, two of them top-10s, including a T10 at the Puerto Rico Open. This season on the Web Tour, Campos already has a pair of top-3s, and he tied for third in this event a year ago.
Andrew Putnam - $6,900 (Field, 9-4)
The Web.com grad has made 5-of-11 cuts this season. His best showing was a T17 at another birdie-fest, the CareerBuilder. Putnam is ranked 43rd on Tour in strokes gained: around the green and 51st in strokes gained: approach.
Eric Axley - $6,900 (Field, 9-4)
The veteran left-hander is certainly not a long hitter, but he's still managed to notch top-20s here the past two years. he made the cut last month at Pebble, and also in February he was T7 at the Panama stop on the Web.com Tour.
Xinjun Zhang - $6,800 (Field, 9-4)
There are 40 golfers at $6,800 or less on the DK board. Zhang has made six PGA Tour cuts this season -- more than the other 39 combined. The 30-year-old Web.com grad is 6-for-12 overall, but clearly has stumbled of late as the fields have gotten stronger. He does have two top-25s, though, including at the Sony, which is a much tougher field than Zhang will face this week.