The Mayakoba Golf Classic preview with Skeeter McGillicuddy
Next stop Mexico for the Tour for the Mayakoba Golf Classic where Patton Kizzire defends his first tour title. Kizzire won for us last year when we’d backed up on him after a near miss, to an extent vindicating the stable approach to unearthing winners.
The field is headed, (for star power), by Jordan who putted well enough in Vegas but who’s ball striking let him down. As keen as he is no doubt to get off to a flyer he is playing these early season events to comply with Tour rules and who knows how that’s affecting him. It must have been alarming to have played with Champ given how long and straight he is. As if Rory, Dustbin and Brooks etc weren’t enough to make you feel like you were playing a different course along comes Champ who is stupid long. Ricky also backs up after a fine closing 63 at Summerline for 4th place, which follows his previous two top tens after his enforced absence. Add in his runner up finish last year and he makes a worthy favourite but again he just doesn’t win often enough to go in at 9/1. Finau also tees it up and hardly hacked it around last week, and like last week I can’t have him on price or momentum. Didn’t stop Bryson though.
The venue, El Camaleon, a tree lined less than 7000 yard par 71 is not a course for wayward driving. Played across varying landscapes, described as jungle, swamp and coast, El Camaleon will yield scores so long as you hit it straight and the weather doesn’t intervene.
There are a host of players with solid course form including the likes of Grillo and Howell with multiple top tens.
My shortlist included Wise (again but too short), Hosler (again), Grillo (too short), English (former winner) and Ancer (great form currently and here but local with serious focus on him).
Joaquin Niemann 1pt e/w at$46 with bet365
Sung-Jae Im 1pt e/w at $61 with bet365
Patrick Rodgers 1pt e/w at $61 with bet365
Joaquin Niemann (last week) makes his debut here and at Summerlin. The 19-year-old Chilean made an impressive full season debut last year with 4 top tens from 17 starts. He has yet to set the tour on fire with his putting but he did post a full set of positive figures including 72% of greens, a 12th in SG Off The Tee, 5th in SG Approaching the Green and an impressive 15th in SG Total. Despite this impressive ball striking 17-event run he still managed a positive strokes gained putting figure. He is only 19 but he can win. The boy didn’t quite get us the each way return at The Shriners but he did post a very positive top ten at 14 under with four rounds in the sixties – improving every day. Two eagles. a hole in one, and fifteen birdies testimony to a player who can really score. He needs to eliminate the errors to win but that’s all part of the learning curve. A huge talent I see no reason to abandon him in this field even at a contracted price.
Sung-Jae Im is a serious talent coming off a great year on the Web.com tour. A Web.com tour that seems to have thrown up some really solid main tour prospects – the aforementioned Champ amongst them. There appear to be no real weak parts to his game. Longish, he is also straight and hits geens with his short-term 2019 PGA Tour season stats mirroring his deeper Web.com stats. Mid – high 60’s for fairways and low 70’s for greens. A really solid 15th at the Shriners with 21 birdies where he started off slowly but then posted two career equalling low rounds of 65 over the final three days, he can clearly putt to go with his impressive tee to green game. He’s already posted a 4th placed finish the Safeway and is the 94th ranked player in the world – that is temporary. Now is the time to get on this winner in waiting.
Patrick Rodgers(last week) has flattered to deceive for us before but he’s an undoubted talent. He hardly set the world on fire last year with a best placed 7th but he has 2 runners up finishes in a 104 start career and comes here in good, if not spectacular form. In his last 12 rounds he’s 31 under – an adjusted scoring average of 69.41. Anyone averaging less than 69.5 will make a ton of cash on tour and has the potential to win. Perhaps what really attracts me to his chances are his improved putting over the course of the 2018 season where he ranked 10th at 0.596 – the first time in his full season career he has recorded a positive figure. We have to contend with a very iffy TPC Summerlin form of three missed cuts in four starts – but he did manage a 13th in 2015 so he has some positive memories. To a lesser extent Rodgers did what Niemann did at the Shriners – turned up and performed well as his form suggested he might. I’m less convinced of his potential than Niemann but he did make 15 birdies and one eagle at the Shriners for 9 under. He’s now 28 under for his last three events with a worst score of 71 and a scoring average of 69.33. Add in a top ten and a 14th around El Camaleon and, like Niemann, I see no reason not to be on him again.