This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
MAYAKOBA GOLF CLASSIC
Winner's Share: $1.296M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Playa del Carmen, Mexico
Course: El Camaleon Golf Club
2018 champion: Matt Kuchar
It was one year ago, actually slightly less to be precise, when the golf world became familiar with David Ortiz. We're not talking about Big Papi, of course, but El Tucan. Ortiz was the local caddie who looped for Matt Kuchar last year when Kuchar won the tournament, and with it, the nearly $1.3 million winner's share. And speaking of "share," Kuchar didn't. Instead of offering the traditional 10 percent caddie's fee for a tournament win – $130,000, in this case – Kuchar handed Ortiz a paltry $5,000. And it was only four grand until Kuchar felt "generous" and doled out another thousand as a "bonus." Soon after the tournament, word leaked about El Tucan and El Cheapo. After some public shaming, Kuchar coughed up another $45,000 – a thoughtful gesture but still less than five percent of his tournament winnings. Too little too late, as they say. It would've been cheaper in many ways for Kuchar to simply pay Ortiz the 10 percent, or something close, at the start. Instead, Kuchar's good-guy image, worth far more than $130,000, took a permanent hit. We know that Kuchar and Ortiz will not be teaming up again. As of now, it's uncertain whether he will be paired with any of the 132 golfers in the field.
Onto the goings-on on the course itself, this will be the ninth week of play in the elongated PGA Tour fall schedule, with one more to go. Yes, 10 tournaments will be played before Thanksgiving – and it's 11 if you want to include the alternate-field Bermuda Championship two weeks ago. After next week's RSM Classic, the Tour will break until January, having already played more than 25 percent of its 2019-20 schedule.
Last year at in this tournament, Kuchar continued a trend of old guys winning. Ten of the 12 champions in the tournament's history have been at least 30 years old, and Fred Funk was 51! It speaks to the shorter, old-school look and feel of El Camaleon Golf Club, where the (mostly) younger bombers don't have the edge they do on many Tour tracks. More on the course in a moment, and in the Key Stats and Champions Profile below.
The field features only eight of the top 50 in the world rankings, led by No. 14 Tony Finau, No. 22 Kuchar and No. 29 Jason Day. But as we've seen throughout the fall season, younger guys have been the star attractions. Viktor Hovland, Joaquin Niemann, Cameron Champ and Scottie Scheffler have brought excitement to the Tour at a time of year when many big names are idle. All four are in the field, along with Lanto Griffin, the early FedEx Cup points leader who, by the way, is over 30.
El Camaleon is an anachronistic sub-7,000 yards, and maybe that's why older guys usually win this tournament. The younger guys tend to bomb it off the tee, and you just can't do that this week. You don't necessarily have to keep it in the fairway, but you can't stray too far. While El Camaleon bleeds birdies, the Greg Norman design does have its defenses. The course is perched on the easternmost point of Mexico on the Yucatan Peninsula. It features tropical jungles, dense mangrove forests and even some sandy beaches. For those wondering what, exactly, a mangrove is, it's a tree or shrub that features many tangled roots. In other words, they're big trouble if your ball finds one.
Weather-wise, rain usually interrupts this tournament at some point, and there's a good chance it will happen again. That will slow down the already-slow greens even further. Thunderstorms are expected in the days before play begins and again on Thursday and Friday. As of now, it seems impossible to predict which tee times might have an advantage. But probably none. Temperatures will be in the 80s with light winds.
Key Stats to Winning at El Camaleon
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained: approach
• Putting average/strokes gained: putting
• Scrambling/strokes gained: around the green
• Birdie or better percentage
As we mentioned above, there is quite a theme here, as increased age and decreased distance dovetail. Kuchar, Kizzire, Perez, McDowell, Hoffman, Wagner, Beckman, Wilson, Brian Gay and Fred Funk are all older golfers, none of them the biggest hitters. Funk was the poster boy for short hitters when he won the inaugural Mayakoba Golf Classic in 2007 at 51 years old. That's because the key to El Camaleon is positioning. You don't necessarily need to put the ball in the fairway, you just can't be too far off the fairway. Of the last six winners, only Kuchar was top-15 in driving accuracy. But five of the six were top-11 in greens in regulation. Only McDowell was not, and he putted out of his mind. Five of the past six winners also were top-20 in scrambling. The winning score since the tournament moved to the fall has been perched between 17- and 22-under, with Kuchar setting the four-day record a year ago. The greens are paspalum grass, which isn't used on too many tracks. It's featured at one of the courses for the Puerto Rico Open. It used to be at the now-defunct CIMB Classic in Malaysia. The greens at El Camaleon tend to run pretty slow, which also benefits the older guys.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Matt Kuchar - $11,400 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 18-1)
Kuchar will surely have to answer questions about last year's caddie flap, but golf crowds don't exactly hammer players. So it should largely business as usual for Kuchar. He hasn't done much the second half of 2019, and he's been idle for more than two months, but as we saw last year, he's oblivious to a lot of things, including time off.
Viktor Hovland - $11,200 (18-1)
Hovland, Kuchar and Jason Day are the betting favorites at 18-1, but the youngster is the No. 2 guy on the DraftKings board ahead of Day. That's pretty remarkable. But Hovland is sound in all facets, making his game adaptable to almost any course. Interestingly, the 22-year-old has already played El Camaleon twice. As an amateur, he missed the cut last year and also played there for Norway in the 2016 Eisenhower Trophy tournament in which he tied for seventh in the individual portion.
Billy Horschel - $10,200 (20-1)
Horschel has teed it up four times since last season ended, but this will be his first event in the North America. He tied for fourth at the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth and then for sixth at the ZOZO in Japan. Horschel is not a long hitter, which usually hurts his GIR numbers; but that won't be as big a factor this week. He tied for 21st at El Camaleon last year.
Charles Howell III - $9,600 (30-1)
As usual, Howell has been busy, playing five times already in the new season and notching two top-10s and another top-20. He missed the cut here last year but has three top-10s and four other top-20s through the years. That's because Howell is very accurate with his irons, ranking seventh in greens in regulation last season.
Tier 2 Values
Abraham Ancer - $9,200 (30-1)
Ancer was born in Texas but hails from Mexico, and the best player ever to don the Mexican flag has not fallen victim to the pressure of playing a home game, finishing 21st and ninth the past two years here. Ancer continues to climb the OWGR ladder and is now ranked 36th in the world. He's coming off one of the best showings of his young career, a tie for fourth at the WGC-HSBC Champions two weeks ago.
Emiliano Grillo - $8,900 (30-1)
Grillo tied for 15th here a year ago, and that was his worst finish in three visits. The two previous years, he finished in the top 10. Grillo has not had a great start to the season, making 3-of-5 cuts without a top-25 finish. But his iron play has not been the issue, as he's ranked sixth in greens in regulation. He's been putting poorly, but we suspect he'll find comfort on the slow paspalum of El Camaleon.
Cameron Champ - $8,700 (40-1)
Champ is the biggest hitter around, but it didn't hurt him here last year. While leading the field with an average of 325 yards off the tee, he tied for 10th. Champ was wildly inaccurate off the tee last season, but he hits it so far he was ranked 22nd in greens in regulation. He hit over 80 percent of the greens last year here.
Danny Lee - $8,300 (50-1)
Lee is another guy who doesn't often play well, but does at this course. And he's also coming off a successful Asian Swing in which he was runner-up in South Korea before tying for 10th in Japan. Lee has played El Camaleon six times. He was runner-up to Kuchar last year and also tied for third in 2014.
Tier 3 Values
Pat Perez - $8,100 (50-1)
Perez won here three years ago and tied for sixth last year. He appears to be a big fan of the paspalum greens. He also won on that surface at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia in 2017. Perez has not had a great 2019, but he did recently tie for third at the Shriners event. Perez is ranked 32nd in greens in regulation this season.
Harris English - $8,000 (50-1)
Since winning here in 2013, English has done next to nothing in the tournament. But he arrives as one of the hottest golfers in the fall season, with three top-6s in four starts. He's done it with accurate iron play, as he ranks T4 in greens in regulation.
Harold Varner III - $7,900 (50-1)
Varner arrives having made nine straight cuts, including a pair of decent finishes in Asia, both of them top-30s. He's really taken a liking to El Camaleon, tying for sixth last year on the heels of a tie for fifth in 2015.
Brice Garnett - $7,600 (60-1)
This is one we don't want to overthink. Garnett has really never been a good golfer in his PGA Tour career, never cracking the top 100 in the OWGR, but don't tell that the fans who come out to El Camaleon every year. Garnett has made five visits south of the border and finished top-10 three times, including T5 a year ago. He's playing pretty well right now, too, making 3-of-4 cuts in the early going this season.
Matt Jones - $6,900 (100-1)
This is admittedly a bit of a gamble, maybe more. Jones has already withdrawn twice this season with back problems. But when he hasn't withdrawn, he's played well, going 3-for-3 in cuts with a top-10 and a top-20. And the WDs both came when Jones played the week before. Now, he's been idle for almost a month since playing (and finishing) in South Korea. The veteran Aussie has played here four times and has three cashes.
Brandon Wu - $6,800 (100-1)
The Stanford star recently turned pro. He's the latest addition to the Class of '19, though he doesn't have the playing privileges the others do – yet. Wu tied for 17th at the Houston Open. Putting aside his participation in the two Opens over the summer, that was his first PGA Tour start. He's in the field this week on a sponsor's exemption and will be eligible for a total of seven of those this season.
Scott Brown - $6,400 (150-1)
Brown now resides in the mid-300s in the world rankings. But he is capable of good weeks here and there, such as a T15 at Detroit earlier this year, a T7 at the Valero Open and a top-20 at The Honda Classic. Oh, and also when he plays this event. That wasn't the case last year, but he does have two top-6s at El Camaleon in the past four years and has made six straight cuts there.
Ben Taylor - $6,100 (300-1)
This is a bit of a deep dive , as Taylor ranks in the 500s in the OWGR and is a 300-1 long shot. But that's to win. We only really need him to make the cut and hope for the best. And after missing two cuts to start the season, Taylor has made three in row. Plus, he's ranked T25 in greens in regulation.