OHL CLASSIC: The PGA Tour’s Fall Series rolls on this week with the OHL Classic, an event that has steadily grown in prestige over the past few years and now features some of the game’s biggest names in addition to the usual assortment of mid-tier grinders and freshly-minted Tour players.
Part of the allure is undoubtedly the location: Playa del Carmen, a luxurious resort town perched on the tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, is the type of place that will definitely earn some extra credit points with the wives and girlfriends. And the course, El Camaleon Golf Club, is a unique, tropical Greg Norman design that has been lauded by the players for its creative use of the natural landscape and its playability, as Norman has managed to construct a championship layout that measures just 6,987 yards and is therefore the rare modern track that prioritizes skill and precision over raw distance.
This will mark the 11th consecutive year that El Camaleon has hosted this tournament, so many players have extensive experience on the course. That does not include market leader Rickie Fowler, who is making his first career appearance at this event and first competitive appearance anywhere since September’s Tour Championship, and yet is priced at a shortish 9.6. He’s joined atop the market by defending champion Pat Perez (16.0), a man who enjoyed the best year of his career in 2017 despite approaching 40 years old, and an assortment of quality players such as Gary Woodland (21.0), Patrick Reed (25.0), Charley Hoffman (26.0), and Zach Johnson (29.0).
Here are my thoughts on this week’s action:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Chez Reavie (43.0)- This is a perfect venue for Reavie, a man who is often overwhelmed by some of the longer courses on the PGA Tour schedule. His lack of length off the tee is no problem at El Camaleon, but his accuracy and precision iron play serve him well at a place that can severely penalize offline shots. His 4th-place finish in this event last year was his best performance of the season, so he should be brimming with confidence this week, particularly since he’s been playing so well lately, with top-25 finishes in each of his past five worldwide starts. He obviously doesn’t win much, but with that notable caveat aside he projects as one of the favorites this week, making him a tasty proposition at a price like 43.0.
Anirban Lahiri (50.0)- Lahiri has been playing well for awhile now, capitalizing on a solid 2017 campaign with a hot start this season that includes three top-10s in his past four starts, including a T5 at the CJ Cup a couple of weeks ago. And that performance was nearly much better, as a final-round 70 would’ve been good enough to join Marc Leishman and Justin Thomas in a playoff. But I doubt the near-miss affected Lahiri much– after all, this is a man who spent 10 days in total silence after missing out on June’s U.S. Open (link). He knows his way around El Camaleon after finishing 28th in this event last year, but that week, like the recently-completed CJ Cup, didn’t end the way he would want, as he opened with rounds of 69-67-66 before closing with a mediocre 72. Don’t be surprised if he cleans that up a bit this time and is among the leaders come Sunday afternoon.
Alex Cejka (136.0)– The veteran Cejka always seems to surface at unusual times, so it wasn’t terribly surprising to see him nearly win at TPC Summerlin last week after a Sunday 63. He’s a streaky sort who usually makes all of his money in three or four-week stretches, and he’s most dangerous on courses that can’t be overpowered by the younger, stronger opposition, so there are some legitimate reasons to fancy his chances this week. His past record at El Camaleon is certainly respectable, with two top-20 finishes to his credit, the most recent one coming in 2015, and his success at tropical/island venues that, like El Camaleon, feature paspalum grass, is notable (his last PGA Tour win came at the 2015 Puerto Rico Open). All things considered, I think Cejka qualifies as a “live ‘dog” this week and is certainly worth a bet at a price like 136.0.
TOURNAMENT MATCH BETS
Danny Lee (1.92) vs. David Lingmerth (1.91)
Lingmerth’s play has been uninspiring of late, as he hasn’t logged a top-25 finish since early July and has broken par just once in his last seven competitive rounds. Lee has been inconsistent, as usual, but he’s at least shown flashes of brilliance, most recently at the CIMB Classic a couple of weeks ago, where a Friday 65 propelled him to a 7th-place finish. He’s also had success at El Camaleon, finishing third in this event back in 2015. Recommendation: Lee at 1.92
B.H. An (1.91) vs. Charles Howell III (1.91)
Howell has been a popular pick this week, and that’s certainly understandable considering his recent form (back-to-back top-20 finishes at the CJ Cup and HSBC Champions) and the fact that he’s recorded six top-20 finishes in eight career appearances at this tournament. He’s one to watch this week, no doubt, but he failed to best An at the CJ Cup, where the young Korean finished 11th, and An went on to have another good week at the Shriners Hospital Open. An’s lack of experience at El Camaleon is a little worrisome, but it sure seems like a place where an elite ball-striker like him should excel. I’m taking a chance on him against Howell here. Recommendation: An at 1.91