Course Spotlight: Drive for show and putt for dough at El Cardonal
4 Min Read
Written by Keith Stewart @KJStewartpga
Trust Tiger Woods to envision a golf course that examines all types of approach shots. Woods, arguably the greatest iron player of all time, is the architect of El Cardonal at Diamante, the host venue for the World Wide Technology Championship. It’s a new tournament home on the west coast of Mexico after 16 years in Riviera Maya. Much like Woods, El Cardonal catches your attention. The par-72 layout covering 7,452 yards has your standard complement of four par 3s and 5s along with 10 par 4s.
The Diamante property is immense, and Woods’ course covers a large majority of it. Walking around the course one can only imagine how long it takes to mow all the grass. Kapalua is the only course on TOUR that comes close in scope. Fairways, some 60-yards wide, connect the tee boxes to the largest greens on the PGA TOUR. At 8,300 square feet on average these Paspalum putting complexes cover a ton of surface area.
Since hitting fairways and securing GIRs won’t be a differentiating measure in Mexico this week, how can we separate the field of 132 players with our PGA professional perspective? Predicting winners comes down to the course details. I believe two of them, when combined, will give us the information needed to build a successful betting card. These greens are nearly twice as big as the TOUR average, and they are covered in one of the most frustrating blades of grass these guys compete on all year, Platinum Paspalum.
Over the last 24 rounds, the best Paspalum putters on the PGA TOUR in the field are Brandon Wu, Davis Riley, Cameron Champ, Emiliano Grillo and Kelly Kraft.
Wu (+6600 at BetMGM) has finished second and third in his last two starts in the Mexico Open at Vidanta. To compound the Paspalum success, in his last two starts in Puerto Rico he hasn’t finished outside the top seven. I’m not sure if Viktor Hovland is ready to give up his title as the Prince of Paspalum yet, but if he did, Wu would be an incredible candidate.
Champ (+4000) would have a huge advantage off the tee at El Cardonal as he finished sixth and eighth in his two starts at the Mexico Open at Vidanta. Vidanta Vallarta boasts the same putting surface agronomy as Woods’ Paspalum. Champ also has two top 20 finishes in his last three starts in the FedExCup Fall.
PGATOUR.com has hundreds of interesting analytics. On the putting tab there is a category called “approach putting.” How close does a player get their first putt to the hole. That statistic lacks a large range of disparity, but when combined with the leaders in 3-putt avoidance, we do see a couple of valuable plays. Chris Kirk (+3300) is ranked inside the top five of both categories while Beau Hossler (+2500) is ranked fifth in 3-putt avoidance. Hossler was runner-up in Japan two weeks ago at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP and seventh at the Shriners Children’s Open. He hasn’t finished outside the top 30 this fall and certainly of interest considering he is ranked 16th in birdie or better percentage (BoB%) in the field.
Some operators have set the scoring over under at -23.5 for the tournament. Although Tiger always loved a tough test, I think he appreciated sub-par scores even more. Getting to 20-under par or better will take a fiery flatstick and Taylor Montgomery leads the TOUR in BoB% conversion. Sitting in second is Cameron Young (+1200). Young has yet to win his first TOUR event and I couldn’t think of better fit for him to contend. Another incredible driver of the golf ball, he makes loads of birdies and eagles. (Sahith Theegala, Harry Hall and Sam Ryder also pop in BoB%).
Don’t let the seaside setting distract you. The contenders vying for that $8.2 million dollar purse and valuable FedExCup points will have to keep their foot firmly affixed on the gas pedal. No brakes on this ride, we all get to watch the fall’s best players compete to secure their TOUR card. El Cardonal closes with two difficult par 4s, two par 5s, and a short par 3 over the final five holes.
Anyone wishing to capture the trophy will need to pass the Paspalum test and limit their total number of putts on their path to victory.
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Keith Stewart is a five-time award winning PGA Professional who covers the PGA TOUR and LPGA from a betting perspective. Founder of Read The Line, he is also published by Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News. Follow Keith Stewart on Twitter.