After tournaments in Las Vegas, Japan, and Bermuda, the PGA Tour plays in its fourth country in as many weeks with the World Wide Technology Championship taking place at Mayakoba in Playa del Carmen, Mexico, which is south of Cancun.
The tournament, which was known as the Mayakoba Golf Classic for much of its existence since coming on the PGA Tour in 2007, is held at El Camaleon Golf Club. The defending champion is Viktor Hovland, as he was just the second non-American to win the event since its inception (Graeme McDowell, 2015). Fred Funk won the inaugural event in 2007, and the Carlos Ortiz has been the highest-ranked Mexican finisher, as he tied for runner up in 2019, one stroke behind winner Brendon Todd. Matt Kuchar holds the tournament record, shooting a 22-under 262 while winning in 2018.
The tournament was originally designated an alternate event on the PGA Tour, paying out only half the amount of FedEx Cup points due to it being held opposite the WGC-Match Play Championship. In 2014, the tournament was moved to its current November slot and became a primary event, paying full FedEx Cup points along with other perks like an invitation to the Masters for the champion and an increased purse, which went from $3.7 million in 2012 to $6 million in 2013. It currently stands at $7.2 million.
World Wide Technology is on board as a title sponsor in a deal that begins this year and runs through 2027.
El Camaleon opened in 2006 and is a part of the Mayakoba resort, which is owned by World Golf Hall of Famer Greg Norman. The course is a par-71, 7,017-yard track, so it is not long, but there are many perils within. There are oceanfront holes to deal with along with ones that feature jungles and even a cenote—a naturally formed pit with limestone walls. This is a feature of the seventh hole and is mostly covered in water, but there are areas where you can hit out of the sand.
“Just keeping it out of the hazards is one of the main things out here,” Mexican golfer Abraham Ancer said about the course. “The rough can be tricky, so it’s even more key to be in the fairway.”
After an oceanfront par-3 as the 15th, the course finishes up with three-straight par-4 holes. The 17th is tempting for those needing birdies, as it’s only 386 yards, but there is a limestone canal to the left just two yards off the green. The 18th is 458 yards and uphill but is usually aided by wind. The challenge here is sand, as there are bunkers along both sides of the fairway, but a good tee shot lines up an open second shot to the green, again allowing golfers who need a birdie to go pin hunting on their second shot.
Those who are more adept at accuracy off the tee tend to fare best here, which can favor veteran golfers. Last year, Hovland was the first golfer in his 20s to win here since Harris English in 2013.
Making just his second PGA Tour start of the season after finishing 18th at the CJ Cup in Las Vegas three weeks ago, is the odds-on favorite at +1200 and finished 12th here last year, shooting the low round of the tournament with a 62 on Saturday. Thomas was great during the first few months of last season then struggled a bit (to his standards—his worst finish from May to August was still only a 42nd at the Memorial) before finishing strong during the FedEx Cup playoffs, recording fourths at both The Northern Trust and the Tour Championship. Eight of his 16 career wins have also come between September and January, so this is his strong time of year.
The defending champion, can be had at +1500. He played in his first Ryder Cup last month and then at The CJ Cup finished 18th. Because Hovland couldn’t defend his first PGA Tour title in Puerto Rico due to his elevated status, this will be the first occasion where he’s defending a win on the tour. Hovland joined elite company last year by recording his second PGA Tour win before turning 24, becoming just the fifth European player to do so after Seve Ballesteros, Sergio Garcia, Rory McIlroy, and Jon Rahm, all of who went on to win majors.
He’s also averaging 1.22 Strokes Gained: Ball-Striking, meaning off the tee and approach shots, which is fourth behind Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm, and Thomas, putting him in elite company and a good statistic for this course.
Hovland also became the first golfer to birdie No. 18 on Sunday and then win the event by one stroke in the history of the tournament.
+1800, will be getting a lot of attention this week as perhaps the best chance for a Mexican to win on his home soil. He’s playing here for the first time since becoming a winner on the PGA Tour, claiming victory at the WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in August. He’s also finished in the top 25 in his last four tries at Mayakoba, including two top 10s, and is averaging 67.75 shots per round in that span.
“Mayakoba is a place that I really, really like. I love the golf course, love playing here, love the food, love the place,” Ancer said leading up to the event. “I could hang out here every single day and not ever get bored. It’s always a pleasure to come here and play in front of my people. I’m really excited.”
After the win at St. Jude, he was 64th at The Northern Trust then rattled off a pair of ninth-place finishes at the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship, giving him his best finish in the FedEx Cup standings. He started this season by missing the cut at the Shriner’s Hospitals for Children Open but rebounded to finish tied for 14th at the CJ Cup.
Is also at +1800 after winning The Northern Trust late last year and being a member of the Ryder Cup team for the U.S. He was eighth here last year and ended up 11th in the FedEx Cup points after finishing in that spot at the Tour Championship. His lone start this year was a 45th-place effort at The CJ Cup. Like Hovland, Finau’s first win was in Puerto Rico and then after getting his second win on tour six years later at Liberty National, many believe that Finau will rattle off a series of victories this season.
American Billy Horschel is at +2500 and making his debut on the PGA Tour this season, but he’s been tearing it up on the European Tour. Horschel finished ninth at the Tour Championship and then the following week won the BMW PGA Championship, which is one of the signature events on the European Tour. He also owns an eighth and fifth place finish in the last two years here.
Brooks Koepka also sits at +2500 to open up the event here. He’s healthy and played well at the Ryder Cup but didn’t fare all that well in the two events after in Las Vegas, coming in 67th at the Shriners and 38th at the CJ Cup. Koepka’s Ryder Cup teammate Scottie Scheffler and Englishman Tyrrell Hatton are also +2500. Scheffler missed the cut at the Shriners and tied with Koepka at the CJ Cup, but he’s had a few weeks off to reset his game. Hatton stayed in the U.S. after the Ryder Cup and came in 18th at the CJ Cup. He’s had a win on the European Tour this year and won both in Europe and on the PGA Tour in 2020.
Aaron Wise is the final golfer at +2500, and he finished runner-up to Hovland here in 2020. Not only that, he’s been on a nice run, finishing tied for eighth at the Shriners and then bettered that with a fifth-place finish at the CJ Cup. He didn’t qualify for the Tour Championship, but he was trending up at the end of last year too, finishing 21st at The Northern Trust and 17th at the BMW Championship, missing out on qualifying for the Tour Championship by finishing 49th in the final standings.
Another glut of big names are at +3000, including Patrick Reed, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Will Zalatoris, Sergio Garcia, and Shane Lowry. Fitzpatrick was the favorite last week in Bermuda but couldn’t get going and finished tied for 30th a couple weeks after winning at Valderrama on the European Tour. Reed also played in Bermuda and fared much better, rallying to finish tied for second just one stroke off the lead after firing a final-round 65, so he appears to be over his health issues that he was dealing with late in the summer.
Zalatoris, the reigning rookie of the year, has been popular among bettors as he looks for his first-career win after having a great run at the majors last year, but he hasn’t seen results he would like recently. After a promising start to the season with an 11th at the Fortinet Championship and a 14th at the Sanderson Farms Championship, he missed the cut at the Shriners and was 54th at the ZOZO Championship in Japan last week.
Garcia missed the cut while defending his title at the Sanderson Farms Championship then played the Ryder Cup before finishing tied for 25th at the CJ Cup. He’s had a few-weeks’ break to recharge his game before heading to Mexico. This is his debut at the event, and his Spanish heritage will be popular among the locals. And his game also suits the course well, as he’s more of a sharpshooter than a big hitter.
Lowry, an Irishman, was on the European Ryder Cup team and then finished 54th at the CJ Cup. He hasn’t had the results to show for it, but he was one of the best ball strikers on tour since the summer. The former Open Championship winner did log a fourth-place finish at the PGA Championship in 2021, which was his best finish last season.
Looking further down the odds board, Maverick McNealy (+5000) has shown some promise this season, finishing in second place at the Fortinet Championship and rebounding from a missed cut at the Shriners to post a top-25 at the ZOZO Championship two weeks ago. He’s had two shots at Mayakoba, improving on a 26th in 2019 to finish 12th a year ago.
Taylor Pendrith (+7500) led by three strokes in Bermuda last week before shooting a 76 on Sunday to drop to fifth place. He was still just a shot off the lead until a double bogey on No. 17. Golfers can go either way after missing out on their first PGA Tour win, and at that price, it’s worth a shot to see if Pendrith can recover.
Russell Henley (+4500) also melted down after losing a lead late in the Wyndham Championship earlier this year, but he’s been sharp on his approach shots, ranking first over the last 24 rounds in Shots Gained: Approach and third in Tee-to-Green. He’s posted solid but not spectacular results this year, finishing 21st at the Shriners and 25th at the CJ Cup the following week.
Patrick Rodgers (+6500) appears to be back on track after missing the FedEx Cup playoffs last year for the first time in seven years. He already has two top-10 finishes this year—a sixth at the Fortinet Championship and then a fourth last week in Bermuda—and he’s finished in the top 20 in three of his seven attempts at Mayakoba.
Emiliano Grillo (+7000) seems to have a good handle on the course here as well. The Argentinian has made the cut in all five attempts at Mayakoba and was the leader after both the second and third round last year before settling for an eighth-place finish after shooting a 72 on Sunday.
The event has donated over $2.5 million to local and national causes since its inception in 2007, with a focus on positively affecting the communities of Playa del Carmen and Cancun. That includes Golf Para Todos (Golf For All), which teaches the game of golf, its ideals, and principles to those from age 10 to 18, teaching the game of golf to the young people of Mexico.
Last week, Lucas Herbert became the first first-time winner of the season, but with a stronger field, a veteran is more likely to prevail here this week, which has also been the case in other events this season. Hideki Matsuyama won in his native Japan two weeks ago, and Abraham Ancer has been on a roll over the past few months. Winning the St. Jude and finishing last season strong has given him the confidence boost he needs and will likely not make the moment too big if he’s in contention to win.
Thomas, the odds-on favorite, is also in perfect position for a victory. He hasn’t had spectacular results that would make people think that he’s ready for another win, but he finished last season with several top fives, was strong in the Ryder Cup, and has enough rest to be in prime form this week.
Another contender to watch is Horschel, as he’s determined to succeed on both tours and needs his game to round into form before the European Tour finishes up its season with the DP World Tour Championship, Dubai in two weeks. Horschel is second in the Race to Dubai rankings and is aiming to become the third golfer, and first American, to win both the Race to Dubai and the FedEx Cup, joining Henrik Stenson and Rory McIlroy in doing so previously.
|GOLFER||ODDS TO WIN THE 2021 WORLD WIDE TECHNOLOGY CHAMPIONSHIP|
|Patrick Reed / Matthew Fitzpatrick||+3000|
|Will Zalatoris / Sergio Garcia / Shane Lowry||+3000|
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