Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship
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So with the PGA Tour’s elite chasing the big bucks in Texas the rank and file of the tour have a chance to take a trip to The Dominican Republic and register a potentially career changing week at the Corales Puntacana Championship
The event was first played in 2018 as an official PGA Tour event so this years running will be the fourth edition.
Prior to 2018 it had been held as a Korn Ferry Tour event for two seasons.
If it seems to readers like hardly yesterday since the last edition that is because the 2020 event was actually held last September after initially being postponed due to the Covid 19 pandemic.
The 2020 Champion Hudson Swafford then will have barely had his trophy for six months before now having to defend it.
As tends to be the case with these opposite field events the field is made up by the usual mix of up and coming youngsters, bigger names who’s games have fallen on harder times, tour journeymen and tour veterans who rarely get a start these days.
The betting market is headed up by Charley Hoffman, Thomas Pieters and Emilliano Grillo.
The Corales course, which opened in 2010 is a Tom Fazio design.
The course is a par 72 stretching to 7600 yds plus.
The greens are Papsalum. Other events to feature Papsulum greens include the OHL Classic, The Puerto Rico open and the CIMB Classic.
The course plays along the cliffs, bays and coves of the Caribbean so the wind is very much its main defence.
The last three holes are known as ‘The Devils Elbow’ and they culminate in the 501 yd par 4, which apparently requires you to “blast one over waves breaking against the ocean if you want to reach the green in regulation”.
This is the fourth year the event will have been staged on the PGA Tour Schedule with the two winners to date being Brice Garnett in 2018 and Graeme McDowell last year. Here are the top five from these events;
1 H Swafford -18
2 T McCumber -17
3 M Hughes -16
4 N Lashley -15
5 A Long -14
1 G McDowell -18
T2 M Hughes & C Stroud -17
4 J Byrd -16
T5 K Kraft & C McDaniel – 15
1 B Garnett -18
2 K Mitchell -14
3 K Kraft -13
4 D McCarthy -12
T5th Eight players at -11 - H English, P Dunne, KJ Choi, A Putnam, X Zhang, T Lovelady, S Power & S Han.
In addition when the event was held as a Korn Ferry Tour event in 2016 and 2017 Dominic Bozzelli and Nate Lashley came out on top.
Looking at the leaderboards from the past three years and it is clear that the type of player we need to be focusing on are those who are comfortable on and perform well at the other [usually shorter] coastal tracks used on tour such as the El Camaleon home of the Mayakoba, Coco Beach GC [Puerto Rico Open], Hilton Head, [RBC Heritage] Waialae CC [Sony Open], Sea Island [RSM Classic], Pebble Beach and the Bermuda Championship.
With regards to form on this course with only two years to go on obviously this is fairly sparse with McDowell winning here after missing the cut the previous year and Garnett had missed the cut here when playing the Korn Ferry event the year before his win.
McDowell though as we know is a master of this type of track having won the RBC Heritage, The Mayakoba and the US Open at Pebble Beach while Garnett had produced his best two performances in the previous two seasons at the Mayakoba when finishing seventh and sixth.
As for last September’s champion Swafford he had missed the cut on his only previous visit however he does boast a strong record at Waialae CC with a third place finish and two further top tens there to his name so his liking for this type of track was there to see.
In relation to form coming in McDowell arrived here on a solid run of form having made his previous five cuts on the PGA Tour and of course was on a mission to qualify for Portrush and the US Open at Pebble Beach. Garnett though other than the link with the Mayakoba would have been less easy to find as he had missed two of his previous three cuts although he did finish 35th last time out at the Valspar. As for Swafford he had finished 56th at the season opener The Safeway a fortnight before however prior to that he had no teed it up since July.
With regards to a winning total the three PGA Tour events were both won with totals of -18 while two Korn Ferry events were won with totals of -19, -18 and -20.
Temperatures look set to sit in the mid-80s all week with the possibility of a shower or two over the weekend.
Wind, which is always a factor here looks like it could play a part with gusts of 20mph possible on all four days.
As I always say though this could all change!
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I have gone with five players as follows;
TYLER McCUMBER – 55-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED 18th
First up this week is a player who would had on board to know avail at the Honda last time out, Tyler McCumber.
Tyler, the son of former PGA Tour stalwart Mark McCumber has been in the big league for one and a bit seasons now and by far his biggest performance to date came in this evet last September where he chased home Hudson Swafford for a second place finish.
A native of Ponte Vedra Florida in addition to performing well here last year Tyler has consistently produced his better stuff on coastal tests with his best two finishes in his debut season coming on the paspalum of Puerto Rico where he was 20th and at Torrey Pines where he was 21st.
Furthermore if we go back to 2018 Tyler’s lone start on the PGA Tour came here at the Corales where he posted a 19th place finish, a result that could have been much better but for a closing 75.
Since his second place here last September and the sixth place finish that came at the Sandersons straight afterwards McCumber has gone off the boil somewhat however over the past fortnight he has shown far more promise firstly when finishing 22nd at Sawgrass and then in posting four steady rounds at The Honda last week for 33rd.
Having played really strongly on Sunday here last year Tyler should be licking his chops to get back to the Dominican Republic on the back of his upturn in form of late and he looks great each way value to me at the odds.
CAMILLO VILLEGAS – 66-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED MC
Next up for me this week is a player who was in the spotlight a lot last week at The Honda, Camillo Villegas.
Villegas arrived at PGA National last week needing a tie for third place to secure has playing rights on the last start of his exemption and although he produced a mighty effort he came up just short ultimately finishing eighth.
As has been well documented the past couple of years has seen huge personal tragedy for Camillo with the loss of his daughter and it is to his great credit that he has found a way to get back on the golf course and focus on his career again. From that point of view while he will no doubt be disappointed he came up short on Sunday I am sure he will put this in to perspective and look to make the most of the playing opportunities he now gets this season going forward.
The first such opportunity comes this week and while this is Camillo’s debut in the event there is every reason to think that it will be a venue that suits him.
Firstly as we know the Colombian who bases himself in Florida has always been at his best on windy coastal tracks so any breezes here this week should pose no fear to him. Secondly if we look at Camillo’s form on paspalum greens he played solidly at both the CIMB and Puerto Rico, posting top 20s on rare visits over the years and you would have to think he encountered this surface a lot in his younger days.
Arriving here on the back of a week that Camillo can take huge positives from my hunch is that he can build on his performance at PGA National and put in another big performance.
AARON BADDELEY – 80-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED 48th
Next cab of the rank for me this week is Aaron Baddeley.
Baddeley it goes without saying is an incredibly hard player to catch right and his form this season on the PGA Tour has been poor to say the least with only three made cuts in 11 starts to his name, with a best of 30th in Puerto Rico.
Last week however Badds tee’d it up on the Korn Ferry Tour in Louisiana and he produced a far more encouraging performance to finish 23rd. Furthermore what was particularly encouraging in this start was his play over the weekend, which saw him post rounds of 67 and 66 while making only one bogey across the two days.
Even more encouragingly was Aaron’s iron play, which saw him rank 12th for the weekin old fashioned GIR.
Looking at the Aussie’s fit for this weeks venue and while he missed the cut here last September he did finish seventh here the year before so we know he can handle the course, furthermore his career is littered with strong performances on coastal tracks like Hilton Head where he is a former champion and Pebble Beach and there is no doubt that like most Aussie’s he is a strong player in the wind.
Baddeley as has been well publicised turned to veteran swing coach Butch Harmon in August last year and while the fruits of this have not yet been seen in the results he has talked positively about the direction his game his heading.
On that basis and with his eye catching display last week the 39yr old proven winner looks worth risking at the odds this week.
TED POTTER JNR – 66-1 - 1pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED MC
Next up for me this week is another player I always like in this kind of test Ted Potter Jnr.
I chanced ‘the wizard’ a few weeks back in Puerto Rico and he didn’t disappoint finishing seventh thus bringing us a share of the place money.
A two time winner on tour, one of which of course came memorably at Pebble Beach which as already established sits very nicely here, the 37yr old was know is a law to his own popping up out of the blue with big performances.
Significantly for this week though a lot of those big performances come on all the right correlating courses for this test. Most noticeably he now has back to back top tens on the paspalum in Puerto Rico he posted a top ten at the Sony last year there is the win at Pebble of course and other solid performances at the Heritage, the RSM and even Torrey recently. All of this tells us that Ted is very much at home playing by the coast.
Potter Jnr has made two trips to the Dominican Republic over the years playing on both occasions that the event was held under the Korn Ferry banner and the negative here is that he missed the cut on both occasions. As noted however he is a mercurial player who is more than capable of winning on his day and I am happy to overlook that history and chance him this week.
BEN MARTIN – 110-1 - 1pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 7 - FINISHED 9th
For my final selection this week I am going to roll the dice on one time tour winner Ben Martin.
Let’s not beat about the bush here since landing his lone PGA Tour title in Las Vegas in 2015 Ben’s PGA Tour career has been hugely disappointing and there is nothing in his play over the past season or two in the big league that would lead you to believe that another win is on the horizon.
Last week however like one of our other selections Aaron Baddeley, Ben tee’d it up on the Korn Ferry tour and again, similarly to Badds, he caught the eye with a closing 65 on Sunday to finish 23rd, his best finish of the calendar year so far.
What then ties in nicely to me for this week is if we look more closely at Ben’s form over the recent years on the PGA Tour and his best two finishes in the big league last campaign were a 14th at Puerto Rico and a 20th at the Mayakoba, both on paspalum surfaces, while his last top ten on the PGA Tour came at the Sony Open in 2018, an event we know correlates well here. If we then go back to the early days of his career on tour and he has posted top five finishes at both Hilton Head and TPC Sawgrass, which also rubber stamp his credentials as a strong wind player.
Like several of our team this week Martin is hugely unpredictable and a MC is of course a distinct possibility however in keeping with the likes of Baddeley and Potter Jnr he knows how to win and in a field of this nature that is key for me.
I am happy then to wrap things up by including the Clemson man in the hope that he can build on Sunday and reward us at big odds.