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Favorites, Longshots, Fantasy Plays, and Our Picks to Win the PGA Season Finale

By: Kyle Cunningham-Rhoads

It has a mix of bonafide superstars, swing-season studs and up-and-comers.

The final PGA event of 2020 kicks off on Thursday in Playa del Carmen, Mexico at El Camaleon Golf Club. Justin Thomas heads the Mayakoba Classic as the No. 3 player in the world, and is accompanied by fellow top-25 players Brooks Koepka (12), Daniel Berger (13), Tony Finau (19) and Abraham Ancer (22).

Overall, the strength of field is almost on par with the last two PGA tournaments – the Vivint Houston Open and RSM Classic. However, those tournaments were won by longshots Carlos Ortiz and Robert Streb, respectively, so a strong field doesn’t necessarily mean a winner from the top of the board.

El Camaleon Golf Club

El Camaleon is a par 71 playing almost exactly 7,000 yards. It’s a very short course located right on the ocean and only plays difficult when the wind is howling. That’s not to say the course is a walk in the park. Most holes are lined by either water or mangrove forests, and an errant tee shot can find golfers hitting their third shot from the tee box.

Short-hitters who find fairways have a history of success here, with the last five winners all being below tour average off the tee. It’s a second-shot golf course, and players with strong iron play and a solid putter should perform well this week.

Our model is likely to pinpoint players with a high fairway percentage and good performance on short par 3s, short par 4s and par 5s.

TOP PICKS

JUSTIN THOMAS

Thomas is hands down the best player in the field and the course suits him perfectly. He leads the field in projected short par-4 performance (+0.26 strokes gained per hole) and long par-4 performance (+0.25), is second in par-5 performance (+0.27) to Tony Finau, and second in short par-3 performance (+0.24) to Abraham Ancer.

But enough about the odds-on favorite, let’s pick a different top golfer to root for this weekend.

ABRAHAM ANCER

Not only is it a home game for the Mexican, but he also has a history of success at El Camaleon. His last three trips to the Mayakoba Classic have resulted in ninth-, 21st-, and eighth-place finishes, and he hasn’t missed the cut since 2016. He’s coming in hot as well with no finishes outside of the top 40 since the U.S. Open, including a 13th-place showing at the Masters and a fourth-place effort at the Shriners.

Somehow, the 22nd-ranked golfer in the world is still looking for his first PGA win. But his ability to keep the ball in the fairway, as well as his aforementioned short par-3 scoring and strong short par-4 scoring (+0.216), should put him in prime position this week.

OTHERS WHO COULD CONTEND

BILLY HORSCHEL

Horschel is a fit at just about every course thanks to his par-4 and par-5 scoring, and our model particularly likes him when he doesn’t need to strain himself with long par 3s. He hits almost a tour-average number of fairways at tour-average distance, and his short game is phenomenal.

Even without the length off the tee, Horschel is projected to have the eighth-best performance on par 5s in the tournament. Additionally, El Camaleon is littered with sand bunkers, and Horschel’s superb bunker play should put him in a key spot to compete this weekend.

GARY WOODLAND

Woodland’s expectations have dropped significantly since the restart due to some incredibly bad play. In fact, he hasn’t made a cut since the PGA Championship. But Woodland, who has been battling a hip injury during the fall months and has taken a lot of time off, only missed the cut by a single stroke at the Masters. He looked a little healthier at Augusta, and he’s a good fit for this course.

Even with all the poor showings of late, our model still projects Woodland as the third-best scorer on par 5s (+0.25 strokes/hole) and in the top 11 in both short par 3s and short par 4s. If he can hold it together on the long par 4s, where he’s projected at 29th in the field, he could remind everyone that he’s a major champion.

JOEL DAHMEN

Dahmen owns one of the more polarizing scoring trends on tour. He’s projected to rank fifth in short-par scoring (+0.18) and third in short par-3 scoring (+0.23), but 68th in par-5 scoring (-0.01). He simply doesn’t score on par 5s, which is remarkable given his iron play.

He’s so good at short 3s and 4s, however, that El Camaleon should suit him. Historically, he’s never missed a cut at the Mayakoba, finishing 23rd in 2017, 41st in 2018, and sixth in 2019.

LONGSHOTS WHO COULD SURPRISE

ADAM HADWIN

Hadwin is coming in ice cold, finishing no better than 28th over the last two and a half months, but perhaps a trip to a warm climate and a course he’s had success on will warm the Canadian right up. He’s netted top 10s at the Mayakoba the last two times he’s been here, and he’s another golfer who is well suited for the course.

As a longshot, he projected for a top-20 performance in short par 4s (+0.16), long par 4s (+0.12), and par 5s (+0.12). He also hits fairways at an above-average rate, so the penalty shouldn’t be an issue for him.

MAX HOMA

Homa has flashed all sorts of ability but has had a tough time stringing together four quality rounds. This week, it’s another case of a golfer suited to a course. Homa’s biggest weakness is long par 4s, and while this course features five of them, they’re overshadowed by the short 4s, short 3s, and par 5s we’ve been harping on.

His best performance of the year came at the 3M Open, which featured six short par 4s and three par 5s. Sound familiar? Even with all his struggles lately, we still have him as a top 25 golfer for the three types of holes we’re following this week.

BYEONG HUN AN

One of the best personalities on tour, Ben An is a frustrating golfer to follow. He’s a great iron player, gaining more than 2.5 strokes on approach five times since the PGA Championship, but he’s also lost more than 4.1 strokes on the greens four times in that stretch.

Despite his putting deficiencies, we have him projected for eighth in the field on short par 3s (+0.16), while cracking the top 30 in long par 4s and par 5s. If his putter gets hot, he can go on a tear, but we really haven’t seen that happen yet. Perhaps golfing in some warm tropical air on the ocean is what he needs.

FAVORITE DRAFTKINGS GPP PLAYS

JUSTIN THOMAS ($11,400)

He’ll probably be the highest-owned golfer, but his ceiling is so much higher than anyone else in the field.

Harris English ($10,100)

Abraham Ancer ($9,900)

Viktor Hovland ($9,700)

Russell Henley ($9,300)

Corey Conners ($9,000)

Charles Howell III ($8,100)

Joel Dahmen ($8,000)

Alex Noren ($7,900)

Harold Varner III ($7,800)

Adam Long ($7,800)

Chez Reavie ($7,700)

Keegan Bradley ($7,700)

Byeong Hun An ($7,600)

Kevin Streelman ($7,500)

Adam Hadwin ($7,200)

Lucas Glover ($7,200)

Tyler Duncan ($6,900)

Rafa Cabrera Bello ($6,900)

Mark Hubbard ($6,800)

Max Homa ($6,800)

Tom Hoge ($6,800)

Brendan Steele ($6,700)

Troy Merritt ($6,500)

 

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