Original article published 2 November 2022
The PGA Tour returns to Mexico this week, and Ben Everill has pinpointed the players he feels could be right in contention at Mayakoba.
The PGA Tour rolls on from the beaches of Bermuda to another paradise at Mayakoba in Mexico this week as Viktor Hovland looks to become a three-peat champion at the World Wide Technology Championship.
Only three players in the last 40 seasons on the TOUR have won the same tournament in three consecutive years – although one of them, 82-time Tour winner Tiger Woods – has managed the feat an incredible six times. Steve Stricker and Stuart Appleby are the others with Stricker the last to get it done at the John Deere Classic in 2009, 2010 and 2011.
Hovland’s game as an elite ball-striker obviously lends itself to success at El Camaleon Golf Club which has been part of the Tour landscape since 2007 and in this current fall section of the season since 2013.
While errant shots can end up in mangroves, canals or even a cave this resort style course is ripe for scoring at just 7,034 yards. Since joining the fall swing the par-71 has given up winning totals between 17 and 23 under with six of the nine editions reaching at least 20-under.
Players will need a focus on driving accuracy rather than distance off the tee and then make sure their approach shots into the Sea Isle I Paspalum greens are on well and truly on point. The staple Strokes Gained: Approach is crucial this week as is Greens in Regulation and Proximity to the hole. In the last nine years, eight winners have ranked T11 or better in GIR for the week.
Once on the greens it’s obviously a matter of converting. Hovland isn’t known for his putter but winners in Mayakoba routinely rank well in putts per GIR and he was no exception. Seven of the last nine have either led or co-led in birdies.
The course has just three par-5s but they routinely play as the easiest. Hovland is 20 under on those three holes over his two wins so par-5 scoring must also be factored into our choices.
Let’s see where the numbers point...
The top six chances to win outright according to bet365’s odds are Scottie Scheffler (9/1), Viktor Hovland (11/1), Collin Morikawa (16/1) and three players at 18/1 in Tony Finau, Billy Horschel and Aaron Wise.
Scheffler was two back after 36 holes a year ago before finishing fourth at 17 under. He led the field in GIR. Was also T18 on debut in 2020. Hovland is the two-time defending champion and Morikawa makes his first trip to Mayakoba.
Wise has a second, a T10 and a T15 among prior trips to El Camaleon while Horschel is T33 or better over his last four visits with T5 (2021) and T8 (2020) the highlights. Finau is making his first start of the new season and has two top 10s and a T16 among four cuts made in six trips to Mayakoba.
When assessing the six players across our key stats we will put more weight into last season’s numbers due to the lack of starts for most of late. But we’ve led with new season rankings for extra context despite smaller sample size.
The first major takeaway is Scheffler has every chance to regain world No.1 status after losing it to Rory McIlroy a few weeks back. He can get back to the top with a win or solo second. In his recent epic four-win season Scheffler was a stud on approach, leading the Tour in GIR. High efforts in SG: Approach, Birdie or Better and par-5 scoring have him trending nicely.
Morikawa showed strength across driving accuracy, SG: Approach, GIR and Proximity last season making him a very enticing option despite lack of course knowledge.
And Hovland might not been known for putting but in terms of birdie or better conversion rate on the greens the 25-year-old ranked fifth on TOUR a year ago.
Scheffler 3rd/100th, Morikawa 8th/29th, Horschel 9th/31st, Hovland 19th/70th, Wise 33rd/115th, Finau NA /129th.
Strokes Gained: Approach:
Horschel 1st/134th, Morikawa 10th/3rd, Scheffler 97th/4th, Wise 132nd/21st, Hovland 168th/15th, Finau NA/12th.
Greens In Regulation:
Horschel 4th/41st, Morikawa 15th/30th, Scheffler 17th/1st, Wise 83rd/21st, Hovland 173rd/74th, Finau NA/5th.
Horschel 7th/113th, Morikawa 17th/3rd, Hovland 149th/18th, Wise 125th/27th, Scheffler 201st/57th, Finau NA/27th.
Putting: Birdie or Better Percentage:
Hovland 74th/5th, Wise 107th/35th, Horschel 128th/121st, Morikawa 209th/66th, Scheffler 217th/8th, Finau NA/48th.
Par 5 Scoring:
Wise 4th/24th, Scheffler 40th/5th, Horschel 40th/32nd, Hovland 56th/64th, Morikawa 56th/53rd, Finau NA/14th.
Another sitting behind the top tier with value is Maverick McNealy.
Time to attack the mid-tier – or players outside the 50/1 mark who present possible value across each way options.
Matt Kuchar 50/1 – Winner in 2019 set the tournament scoring record at the time. Had a T14 defending the title and was T22 with all four rounds in the 60s last year. Never missed the cut in six tries stretching back to 2007.
Brendon Todd 50/1 – Another previous winner – this one from the 2019-20 season. Last three years is 49-under with all 12 rounds in 60s. Defended with T8 in 2020-21 before T11 last year.
The odds for the $1billion Powerball were certainly hard to crack but in golf a 100/1 shot can hit more often than you think.
Danny Lee 225/1 – Made the last four cuts here and six of eight over his career with T26 his worst four-round result. Last year's T7 included a 64 to close while the New Zealander’s T26 in 2020 included the 18-hole lead after a 62. Almost ran down Kuchar in 2019 with 65 in final round but fell one short of a playoff.
Ryan Armour – 200/1 – is another who pops up in our key stats above from last season that might surprise.
Good luck with all your choices!