2018 OHL Classic: El Camaelon Golf Club (11/7/17)
Patrick Cantlay gave us another picked winner in the Shriners Open last week after Kevin Na, our favorite golfer of the week, withdrew before he teed off. This week will also feature a relatively weakened field with a few top golfers to round out the field.
Rickie Fowler and Patrick Reed are the biggest names at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. Pat Perez will join those two at El Camaleon Golf Club in Mexico as the biggest riser in the early PGA Tour season. Perez revitalized his career at the OHL Classic last year and has since climbed the World Golf Rankings into a competing regular.
El Camaleon is one of the few courses left on the Tour that plays under 7,000 yards, but it's not too favorable to try to overpower the course. Past winners in the field like Perez, Hoffman, and McDowell aren't long drivers of the ball, but they keep the ball on the course and get hot with the putter.
Driving accuracy and putting will play the biggest roles as avoiding the many bunkers will be the key to make birdies at El Camaleon. Birdies will be needed, as you can imagine for a shorter course in this era of golf. Winning scores have historically approached or exceeded 20-under par at one of the easiest courses the field will face all year.
We'll break down the top Favorite, Long Shot, and Dud with a number of valuable other players in each category. Favorites will be considered as those with better than 40 to 1 odds, Long Shots will be 40 to 1 odds and greater, and Duds will be better than 40 to 1 odds players to avoid.
The odds with Rickie Fowler this week are expectedly low. Nonetheless, we'll take a stab here considering how much more complete of a golfer he is than the rest of the field. Fowler is a plus-player in every aspect of his game, and that is especially true with the flatstick.
Fowler finished last season with +0.761 strokes-gained putting per round on the Tour-average golfer. That ranks first in the field this week ahead of Graeme McDowell and Patrick Reed. Fowler also ranks 9th in the field in strokes-gained off-the-tee, but he's actually one of the longer hitters, too. That will enable Fowler to leave the driver in the bag quite often, and he's shown the discipline to do so in the past.
Fowler is by far the best player in the field where he ranks inside the top-10 in every relevant metric. The one sticky spot for Fowler is the long break he's taken as it may take some time to knock some rust off. That won't scare us away too much, but it's something to look for early.
Other Favorites with value in order of preference: Charley Hoffman (+2500)
There are few courses where Graeme McDowell can continue to compete with the never-ending expansion of PGA Tour courses to fit the length of the younger, stroner players. El Camaleon is certainly one of those coures that fit his length, along with the rest of his game.
Sure, McDowell only ranks 22nd in the field in strokes-gained off-the-tee, but he will improve that mark when he's not required to bomb from the tee box. McDowell finished 8th overall on the Tour last year in driving accuracy; thus, the difficulty comes from his inability to drive it as long as some of the top players.
McDowell won at the OHL Classic just two seasons ago, and his game has not changed much since then. At +0.655 strokes-gained putting, McDowell has the second-best flatstick in the field next to Fowler.
The end of his 2017 season did not go well; however, he showed some life at the Shriners Open where he finished T10 at six-under par as he shot 66 in the final round. Look for McDowell to avoid bunkers, play a majority of his shots out of the fairway, and convert with the putter. If he gets hot on the greens, as he has a tendency to do, he can easily win the OHL Classic again.
Other Long Shots with value in order of preference: Luke List (+4000), Stewart Cink (+6600)
We wrote last week about how Lahiri wasn't a great fit for TPC Summerlin due to his iron play and putting. Though, iron play takes a bit of a back seat to driver/three-wood play this week, Lahiri's putting should hurt him quite a bit at El Camaelon.
Lahiri saw some early-season success at the CIMB Classic and the CJ Cup which dropped his odds quite a bit the last few weeks. He's surrounded by Hoffman, Schniederjans, and Chappell on the board this week and he's an inferior golfer. At -0.186 total strokes-gained last year, Lahiri ranked 139th overall while ranking 164th in strokes-gained putting at -0.336.
Anirban has seen some success thus far on the greens in the wrap around season, but I would rather stick with the larger sample from the 2017 season than the small sample in the early-going. Lahiri should have some success off-the-tee, but he'll need to stay uncharacteristically hot with the putter to compete this week.
Other Duds without value in order of avoidance: Russell Knox (+5000)