There are ball-striker's paradises, and then there are ball-striker's paradises. El Camaleón Golf Club at Mayakoba Resort is the latter.
It's the recurring theme for the host of the Mayakoba Golf Classic, and why not? Just look around. There's fantastic reason why the PGA TOUR has set up shop on the Yucatan Peninsula since 2007. Emerging from the jungle to reach open water, the walk is like the set location for the climax in "Apocalypto."
Continue reading beneath the projected contenders for a review of the course, trends and more.
Jason Day, Joaquin Niemann, Cameron Champ, Kevin Kisner and Emiliano Grillo will be among the notables reviewed in Tuesday's Fantasy Insider.
Not unlike how Jaguar Paw escaped danger time and again in the Mel Gibson flick that trades liberties with reality for drama, getting up and down around El Camaleón seems just as improbable in the context of contending, given that the course yields about 12.5 greens in regulation per golfer per round on average. Yet, even though seven of the 14 who finished inside the top 10 on last year's leaderboard ranked inside the top 20 in GIR for the tournament, eight of the same 14 also slotted inside the top 20 in scrambling. Defending champion Matt Kuchar was one of three who populated both subsets.
Further consider that all of the top-five finishers and Jim Furyk at T6 ranked no worse than T16 in fairways hit. This sharpens the focus on what it takes to succeed even when the wind lays down. Ball-strikers with touch around greens will define the results.
Kuchar ranked third in fairways hit, T9 in GIR and T5 in scrambling. He was just 17th in putting: birdies-or-better – above average, yes, but not lights-out – and a mere 41st in putts per GIR, yet he converted 26 par breakers, second-most in the field of 132.
Kuchar also extended a long-term pattern as a winner of a certain age. In fact, he increased the average when he captured victory as a 40-year-old. The dozen champions of the Mayakoba Golf Classic have a mean age of 34.92. Four of the last five winners exceeded it.
Overall, the 2018 field averaged 69.247 on the Greg Norman design that plays to a par of 71. The course tips at 7,017 yards this year. All 30 yards of the increase over last year's edition are baked into the par-4 16th hole that now extends to 515 yards.
Hay can and should be made on the par 3s. Last year's scoring average on Nos. 4, 8, 10 and 15 was just 2.85. It was both a massive one-tenth of one stroke lower than the second-easiest set of the season (TPC Kuala Lumpur) and the second-lowest average on any course in 16 seasons (Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA WEST, 2.81, 2009).
One not-so-insignificant detail in "Apocalypto" that was entirely believable was the rainstorm that enhanced the backdrop of the deciding scene on the beach. Playa del Carmen, Mexico, is situated in a climate that favors exactly that.
Taking its cue this week, a reasonable threat of storms exists all the way into Friday. The good news is that the wind is forecast to play but a bit role in the narrative. It might kick up a little on Saturday, and from a northerly (read: not prevailing) direction at that.
Even so, paspalum greens prepped to run no longer than 11 feet on the Stimpmeter (in advance of the possibility of inclement conditions) figure to be receptive, thus favoring aggressive lines on approach and strikes with the putter. That’s where the experience of navigating the elements matters. It's also why the man holding the chameleon trophy made of limestone typically has done heavy lifting for much longer than his peers.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.