CORALES PUNTACANA: After watching the world’s best grind out pars at Winged Foot for four days, it’s time to collectively decompress in the sunny Dominican Republic– of course, those of us who aren’t part of the PGA Tour’s traveling roadshow will have to soak in the rays through our TV screens and tablets, but the vibe and viewing experience will be different, for sure.
For one thing, not many viewers have ever seen this golf course– this marks the third year that the PGA Tour has come to Corales Puntacana Resort & Club (it was a Korn Ferry stop in 2016 and 2017), but previously it has been an alternate event, held opposite the WGC Match Play, so I’d venture to say that only the most diabolically hard-core and sleep-deprived among us have tuned in. If you’re among that beautiful, wretched group, you probably remember lots of birdies– it’s taken 18-under or better to win this tournament in every year of its existence– and your wife probably hates you (unlike those of us who lock ourselves away writing about sports betting while the kids go crazy in the other room… wives love that).
That’s right, despite the course measuring a hefty 7,670 yards and being exposed to the wind and elements, this event is always a birdie-fest, as the players have plenty of room to blast driver, and the green complexes are basic and non-threatening. The paspalum grass provides a bit of a different challenge, but most touring professionals have plenty of experience on paspalum, a strain that is tougher and more resilient than bentgrass but much more consistent and not nearly as “grabby” as bermuda. The regular Tour stops in Mayakoba and Puerto Rico are paspalum courses, and this week’s field is very similar to what you typically see in those tournaments– not many big names, lots of journeymen and up-and-comers– so, unsurprisingly, there’s a large carryover between the three events. If you’re a bottom-rung Tour player, you see the paspalum plenty. The Rorys and DJs of the world only see it on vacation.
With so many of the elite guys taking this week off, BETDAQ’s Win Market look a bit unusual, as 24-year old Korn Ferry player Will Zalatoris is currently listed as the favorite at 13.5. Zalatoris did just finish 6th at Winged Foot, but for a guy with only one professional victory under his belt (and a Korn Ferry victory, at that), 13.5 seems ridiculously short. On a wide-open track where everybody will be making birdies, it’s anybody’s tournament, and there won’t be any big names or large galleries to strike fear in the nouveau contenders. With that in mind, here’s what I’m thinking this week:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Adam Long (29.0)- Though he’s a relatively new face on Tour, Long is not new to the world of professional golf– the 32-year old toiled on the mini-tours for nearly a decade before finally earning PGA Tour status in 2019, but once he got his card, he became acclimated quickly, winning the Desert Classic in his fifth career start. The rest of 2019 featured plenty of bumps in the road and only one more top-10, but he found his stride this past season, logging nine top-25s and a pair of runner-ups, with the most recent one coming in July’s 3M Open. Long is coming off a great week at the U.S. Open, finishing 13th and ranking third in the field in putting average, so he’s in top form and should be full of confidence. And he’s familiar with Corales Puntacana– he played this event in 2017, when it was still part of the Korn Ferry Tour, and shot 16-under for the week, finishing 8th. He should be considered one of the favorites this week and is worth a bet at nearly 30/1.
Seamus Power (64.0)- Despite a missed cut in the Safeway Open two weeks ago, Power shouldn’t be overlooked this week, as he’s in the midst of a solid stretch that includes two top-15 finishes in his last five events. With his length off the tee (33rd on Tour in driving distance) and proficiency around the greens (8th in Strokes Gained Around the Green), he profiles as a good fit at Corales Puntacana, which measures nearly 7,700 yards but features wide fairways, encouraging players to swing away with the driver. It should come as no surprise, then, that Power has an excellent history in this tournament, finishing 5th in 2018 and 7th back in 2016, when it was still part of the Korn Ferry Tour. So he knows the course as well as anyone in the field, it’s been an absolute cash cow for him during his career, and he’s been in good form over the past few weeks. At better than 60/1, Power is a good value.
Kelly Kraft (138.0)- This is the type of week for the Kelly Krafts of the world– no longer possessing full Tour status, Kraft plays when he can, and each start he gets is an opportunity to transform his life and professional situation. And though he’s only made 13 cuts in his past 37 PGA Tour starts, Corales Puntacana has been an oasis of joy for him, with his 5th-place finish in this tournament last year and 3rd-place showing in 2018 effectively keeping his career afloat. In fairness, Kraft has shown that he can contend when his game is right– he finished runner-up at both The Greenbrier in 2018 and the Barbasol Championship in 2019– but there’s only one event in which he’s logged back-to-back top-5s, and that’s this one. How do you not take a chance on a guy like that at a price like 138.0?