Fred Funk won the inaugural edition of the World Wide Technology Championship (initially called the Mayakoba Golf Classic) as recently as 2007. The first six editions of the event were played in February as an opposite field event to the WGC Match Play before it switched to this November slot in the schedule eight years ago.
It used to be a fairly weak event but some big names have started attending and last year’s edition was won by the world number 17, Viktor Hovland.
El Camaleón Golf Club, Playa del Carmen, México.
Par 70, 7, 017 yards
Stroke average in 2020 – 70.07
Designed by Greg Norman and opened in 2004, El Camaleón is described as a ‘unique track’ that takes in three differing landscapes – tropical jungle, dense mangroves, and oceanfront. There’s even a cenote, which is an underground cavern common to the area, in the middle of the first fairway.
It’s a wind-affected, coastal track with smaller than average Sea Isle Paspalum greens that will run no faster than 11 on the stimpmeter.
It was the toughest of the eight tracks used on the PGA Tour that measured less than 7,000 yards in 2012, with 11 holes averaging over-par, but having switched to November and having been played in benign conditions, it’s played much easier over the last eight years, almost exactly averaging it’s par, with the seven winners all reaching at least 17-under-par. Matt Kuchar set the tournament record in 2018 when he got to 22-under and the last two winners, Brenden Todd and Viktor Hovland, have both amassed 20-unde-par 264 totals.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 19:00 on Thursday
Last Six Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices
2020 – Viktor Hovland -20 28.027/1
2019 – Brendon Todd -20 110.0109/1
2018 – Matt Kuchar -22 85.084/1
2017 – Patton Kizzire -19 85.084/1
2016 – Pat Perez -21 150.0149/1
2015 – Graeme McDowell -18 40.039/1
What Will it Take to Win the World Wide Technology Championship?
I haven’t got any stats for the inaugural event but the 13 winners since have an average Driving Distance ranking of 34.38 and an average Driving Accuracy ranking of 31.07 so stats-wise, what you do off the tee here isn’t especially significant but I’d slightly favour accuracy over length.
Hovland was excellent off the tee last year, ranking eighth for DD and 12th for DA but the 2019 winner, Brendon Todd, ranked only 79th for DD, compared to 25th for DA and there are certainly a few holes were an errant drive means big trouble.
Hovland ranked first for Greens In Regulation and he missed just 11 all week long. Todd ranked third two years ago and that’s usually a key stat given six of the last seven winners have ranked inside the top-11 for GIR.
The last three winners have topped the Par 4 Scoring stats and in 2017, Patton Kizzire and Rickie Fowler, who finished first and second, ranked first and second. Every single winner has ranked inside the top-seven for Par 4 Scoring.
Getting up-and-down had appeared more important than putting in 2019 and 2018. Todd ranked fourth for Scrambling and eighth for Putting Average and 12 months earlier, four of the top-five ranked fifth or better for Scrambling but Hovland only ranked 70th for Scrambling and he ranked 10th for PA.
The 2018 winner, Kuchar, only had a Putting Average ranking of 41st but the two winners before him had a PA ranking of fourth and it would have been nice to see some Strokes Gained Putting stats over the last five years because the three winners before Pat Perez in 2016 all ranked number one for that stat. Unfortunately, they haven’t produced any SGP stats for any of the last five editions but a good week with the flat-stick looks essential.
Is There an Angle In?
There are plenty of really strong course correlations to consider here – almost too many!
The only other courses encountered every year on the PGA Tour that now use Paspalum grass are the Trump International Golf Club, host of the Puerto Rico Open, and the Corales Golf Club in the Dominican Republic, which hosts the Corales Puntacana Championship and both correlate nicely.
The 2018 runner-up, Danny Lee, has also finished second in Puerto Rico, the 2011 winner here, Johnson Wagner, finished second in Puerto Rico in 2019 and Hovland has now won at both venues.
The Corales Puntacana Championship has only been a PGA Tour event for four years but the 2015 winner here, Graeme McDowell, won the event CPC in 2019, 12 months after Brice Garnett, who was fifth in this event three years ago, had won the first edition on the PGA Tour. This year’s CPC winner, Joel Dahmen, was sixth here two years ago.
The RBC Heritage at Harbour Town Links and the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club are two events well worth considering and so too is last week’s event – the Bermuda Championship.
Brian Gay, McDowell and Kuchar have all won this event and the RBC and following Kuchar’s win here three years ago, and his victory at the Sony Open in 2019, a feat also achieved by Patton Kizzire the year before, as many as four players have won this event and the Sony Open. Kuchar and Kizzire and Mark Wilson and Johnson Wagner have all won both events.
The 2013 winner, Harris English has a ninth, a fourth and a third placed finish in the Sony and Robert Allenby has finished second in the two tournaments.
Following last week’s third edition of the Bermuda Championship, we’ve now seen Gay and Todd win both that event and this one and Danny Lee finish runner-up in both (as well as the Puerto Rico Open) so that’s another one to consider strongly.
There’s also a link between this venue and TPC Southwind, which now hosts the WGC FedEx St Jude. English and Gay have both won at both venues and form crosses over well.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Fred Funk set the tone when he won the inaugural event at the age of 50 and although Hovland pulled the average age of the winners down last year when he won having just turned 23, the average age of the winners is still 34.
John Huh, who was 21 in 2012 and Harris English, who was 24 in 2013, are the only other winners that hadn’t reached the age of 30 when they won here. Kuchar, just like the 2016 winner, Perez, had just turned 40 in 2018 so age is no barrier but even though Hovland won at odds of around 28.027/1, fancied players don’t have a great record here and outsiders fare well.
The 2010 and 2011 winners, Cameron Beckman and Johnson Wagner, were treble-figure priced outsiders Perez was a 150.0149/1 chance. Todd was generally a 110.0109/1 chance in 2019 but he drifted all the way out to 190.0189/1 on the day before the off and Kizzire and Kuchar, the two winners before Todd, both went off at around 85.084/1. And although priced in the double-figure bracket, the four winners between and 2012 and 2015 weren’t especially well-fancied either.
Kizzire, Brian Gay and John Huh are the only three winners to break their PGA Tour ducks in the event so the majority of winners had already tasted victory. That’s not entirely surprising given the average age of the winners.
Winner’s Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four
2020 – Viktor Hovland – solo third, trailing by two 4.77/2
2019 – Brendon Todd led by one stroke *
2018 – Matt Kuchar led by four strokes 1.538/15
2017 – Patton Kizzire led by one stroke *
2016 – Pat Perez 2- trailing by one 5.14/1
2015 – Graeme McDowell T3 – trailing by three 9.617/2
* The 2017 & 2019 editions were interrupted by the weather so there weren’t breaks in play in-between rounds three and four. It was therefore not possible to capture the pre-round four prices
Hovland sat tied for fifth and just two off the lead after an opening 67 last year, before a 69 in round two saw him slip to eighth, but he sat third after a 63 in round three.
Todd trailed by just a stroke after round one two years ago and he was third and two back at halfway, but he led through three rounds and the two winners before him, Kuchar and Kizzire, both won wire-to-wire.
Every winner has shot a round in the 60s to kick the event off and, except for Pat Perez six years ago, every winner has been inside the top-ten at halfway. With the exception of Perez and Hovland (who trailed by seven in a tie for eighth) every winner has been no more than four adrift at halfway.
The first and second are tricky holes (ranked third and fifth hardest last year) but the front-nine, which contains two of the three par fives (holes five and seven) is much easier than the second nine. The par five 13th is the easiest hole on the course year after year but five of the six hardest holes are all encountered late on. Holes 12, 14, 16, 17 and 18 last year ranked as the second, fourth, first, tenth and sixth hardest.
World number seven, Justin Thomas, heads the market and he looks a great price at 19.018/1 given how prolific he is, how much the course should suit him, and that he’s more than ten points bigger than he went off at last year.
He was 24th here on debut way back in 2014 and he finished 12th last year after an awful start and with an ice-cold putter on Sunday. He sat tied 70th after an opening 72 before firing 67 on Friday and 62 on Saturday to get back into contention, only to get frustrated when he couldn’t get a putt to drop on pay day.
Thomas’ first two PGA Tour wins came back-to-back at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia in 2015 and 2016, when the course was still a Paspalum track, and in January 2016 he won consecutive events in Hawaii – the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the aforementioned Sony Open (which he won by seven strokes!). Since then, he’s won another ten PGA Tour titles including a USPGA Championship and a couple of WGCs and the 13th of his 14 wins to date was the FedEx St Jude in August last year so he has an abundance of form at courses that correlate with this one.
Thomas has form figures at the WGC-Mexico Championship that read 5-2-9-6 and he returns to the country in fair form having finished fourth at both the Tour Championship and The Northern Trust in two of his last four starts. He was only 18th at the CJ Cup last time out but signed off with an eight-under-par 64.
Abraham Ancer won this year’s WGC St Jude and he has course form figures reading MC-55-9-21-8-12. Since his win in Memphis in August, he’s produced only ordinary form that reads 64-9-11-MC-14 and he looks short enough to me given his St Jude success is the 30-year-old’s only victory to date.
The defending champ, Viktor Hovland, is the only other player trading at less than 30.029/1 and there’s nothing to suggest he shouldn’t perform well here again, although his fourth at the Tour Championship is his only top-ten in nine starts since he won the BMW International Open in Germany.
I’ll be back with at least two outsiders for the Find Me a 100 Winner later today or tomorrow but for now, my sole bet is on Justin Thomas at 19.018/1.
This isn’t a great tournament for favourites, but I really like Thomas’ chances. He’s no bigger than 14/1 on the High Street and that looks a fair price so the 19.018/1 on offer is huge.
Justin Thomas @ 19.018/1
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter