MAYAKOBA: The PGA Tour’s Fall Series dips south of the border this week for the World Wide Technology Championship, an event that has steadily grown in popularity and prestige over the past decade and now boasts a field that features the likes of Scottie Scheffler, Collin Morikawa, and 2-time defending champion Viktor Hovland, among others.
There are several reasons for this tournament’s continued rise in prominence– changes in scheduling, an increased purse, modifications to the Tour’s Fall Series point structure, etc.– but the biggest one is probably the location, Playa del Carmen, Mexico, a tropical paradise with white sandy beaches, warm turquoise water, and fewer crowds and drunken revelers than you’ll find in neighboring Cancun. It’s the type of place that wives and girlfriends circle on their calendar, and with the majority of the field staying onsite at the resort, I’m sure the atmosphere is fun and festive.
There’s another reason the players enjoy coming here: the course, El Camaleon Golf Club, is among the best in Central America, a tricky little track that winds along the coastline and through the inland jungle. Designed by Greg Norman and completed in 2006, El Camaleon is short by Tour standards, measuring just 7,017 yards, and has become known as a “second shot” golf course, meaning what you do off the tee is less important than how you choose to approach the small, spongy greens. That’s not to say the tee game is irrelevant–holding the greens from the sticky paspalum rough can be tricky, and hazards come into play on a few tee shots– but the fairways are wider than you’ll see at many short courses, and 10 of the past 14 winners of this event have finished that season ranked outside the top 100 on Tour in driving distance (h/t The Golf Channel). We’re looking for great iron players and guys who can catch some heat with the putter.
With that in mind, here’s what I’m thinking this week:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Billy Horschel (19.5)- The man known as Billy Ho has been on quite a run these past couple of months, finding the top-20 in each of his last four worldwide starts, including a T7 at the CJ Cup two weeks ago. He’s also enjoyed considerable success at El Camaleon, finishing 21st or better in this tournament in 3 of his past 4 appearances, a run highlighted by a 5th-place finish in 2020 and a T8 in 2019. And it wasn’t like the wheels fell off last year, as he opened with a 64 and went on to finish T33. He currently ranks first on Tour in strokes gained on approach, so he’s obviously swinging the irons well, and it can turn into a dart-throwing contest at El Camaleon, so you have to like Horschel’s chances. He’s a blue-chip option this week and a decent value at nearly 20/1.
Brendon Todd (35.0)- This may be a little shorter than Todd is usually priced, but he’s a “course horse” for sure, winning this tournament in 2019 and following that up with a T8 in 2020 and a T11 last year. Todd is always a threat on courses where length off the tee is irrelevant, but there’s obviously something about El Camaleon that really brings out the best in him, and when you consider the way he’s been playing lately– top-30 finishes in 3 of 4 starts this Fall, including a T9 at the Fortinet Championship and a T7 at the CJ Cup just two weeks ago– you begin to understand why he’s probably a steal at better than 30/1. If you removed all names and just did a “Player A vs. Player B” type of comparison this week between everyone in the field, Todd would surely profile as one of the favorites.
Adam Long (64.0)- Usually we like to pick a weekly longshot in the triple-digit range, but Long is so tempting at this price that I just have to include him here, and I feel strongly enough about Todd that I didn’t want to exclude him, either. While Long has yet to win this tournament, he’s come pretty darn close, finishing runner-up in 2019 and T3 in 2020, and since his only other appearance here was a T22 last year in which he broke par in all four rounds, we can accurately say that Long has never known anything but success at El Camaleon. He’s made 3 cuts in 4 starts this Fall and has had a hot putter, ranking 2nd on Tour in strokes gained putting. Sounds like a little trip south of the border is just what he needs. At better than 60/1, Long might be the best value on the board this week.