November 13 2013
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
The 18th hole at El Camaleón Golf Club seems docile enough: Straightforward routing, slightly uphill but also downwind in prevailing breezes, a middle-iron approach shot, strategic but restrained bunkering.
Nonetheless, the 452-yard finisher at the Mayakoba resort has shown a knack for turning up the heat on the final Sunday finishers of what’s now the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.
“You can get in trouble on that tee,” Cameron Beckman said in 2010 after maneuvering home a par that finished off a two-stroke victory.
One only has to recall last year’s closing sequence for an understanding. Robert Allenby, on the brink of his first PGA TOUR victory since 2001, watched a two-shot lead vanish with a double bogey after driving into the trees on the right.
Allenby wound up losing an eight-hole playoff to rookie John Huh, who also fought to keep his drives at No. 18 – five in all, counting the playoff – from drifting right. Chris Stroud, meantime, missed the playoff when he also double bogeyed No. 18.
At the 2011 edition, Spencer Levin lost a playoff to Johnson Wagner when his drive at the 18th found one of the bunkers left of the fairway. “It’s tough when you go in the trap,” Levin said.
No. 18 typically ranks near the middle of the pack in difficulty, only last year’s ninth-toughest and eighth in 2011. But with two deep fairway bunkers on the left and thick trees right of the fairway, hitting the short grass is critical.
The ideal play is to hug the bunkers on the left, offering the best line into a green that tilts subtly away from the golfer starting about halfway back. Another large bunker guards the green’s front right.
The Mayakoba clubhouse also presents a bit of an optical illusion for golfers, with its split, double-vaulted roof creating a flat-looking background that runs against the flow of the putting surface.
No. 18 has seen just 24 final-round birdies over the past three years, plus John Peterson’s eagle last year from far back in the pack. No winner has birdied No. 18 on Sunday, and just five have come from top-10 finishers.