Home favourite Abraham Ancer can go close in the Mayakoba Classic according to Ben Coley, who has six selections.
Let's get it out of the way: yes, it's the Mayakoba Classic and yes, that means a return to Mexico for Matt Kuchar where, yes, he stiffed a caddie last year. You and me, garden gate, top of the shop, El Tucan, into the bin it all can go.
For we've more pressing matters than tittle-tattle: finding the winner of what remains a strong end-of-term event, despite the withdrawal of Rickie Fowler. Jason Day, Kuchar, Tony Finau, Abraham Ancer and Joaquin Niemann are all here before playing Presidents Cup golf next month, and there's also the small matter of Viktor Hovland, who is favourite above all these on the exchanges.
Hovland is interesting, not least because while he's playing catch-up at most courses, learning on the job, that's not the case at El Camaleon. Back in 2016, he played really well here as part of a three-man Norway team in the Eisenhower Trophy, and just last year he made 10 birdies to miss the cut by one as an amateur, an excellent effort all things considered. It could be the difference between more good golf and a breakthrough which we all know is coming.
He is harder to leave out than most at the very head of the betting, but for all that this event tends to develop into a shootout, it's still one which has favoured experience over youth. That's likely because this is one course where driving it straight counts - more than half of the winners here are well above average in the accuracy stakes - but also because of the threat of wind, grainy greens and serious trouble spots which tend to level the playing field a little.
It may not stop Hovland, but it did stop Jon Rahm, who was twice the price despite having started his professional career in similarly explosive fashion. This is part of a wider point: bookmakers are probably a little more defensive than they once were, though Collin Morikawa opening at 750/1 for the Canadian Open in June shows that the net doesn't always reach all corners.
Forgive the stream-of-consciousness, but this leads me to Brandon Wu. Not far behind Hovland on the conveyor belt, Wu topped his section of Korn Ferry Qualifying School last week, shooting 17-under in an event where the man in third managed just nine-under. He's been doing similar things for a while - such as qualifying for The Open - and, at 150/1, this accurate driver is another stud to consider.
That said, while my staking plan is led by youngsters, it's probably best to stay alert to the fact that proper experience of this course is going to be hugely advantageous and it puts HARRIS ENGLISH back towards the top of my list.
Sixth when selected for the Sanderson Farms, 33rd when selected for the Safeway and then fourth when selected in the Houston Open, the following will be a familiar refrain for regular readers: he's back to his best, and that makes him a danger in just about any PGA Tour event, especially one he's won before.
In fact, English defied a lack of course knowledge to triumph here on debut in 2013, putting the lights out in an aggressive display which was supposed to mark the emergence of a world-class talent. His title defence was also solid - he led the field in greens hit but made nothing - and at the time you'd have expected the youngster to go on to be a regular feature on leaderboards here.
That he hasn't been reflects a long-term malaise, not problems with the specific nature of this course, and now that his driver is a major weapon again he should return to the standards set on his first couple of visits to El Camaleon.
English is currently fourth in driving accuracy, ninth in greens and seventh in par-four scoring, the old-fashioned formula for this course, and his strokes-gained stats are similarly encouraging. Only the short-game needs sharpening, and that's something he's sure to have been working on since a clumsy three-putt at the final hole cost him third place in Houston.
Even when struggling, as he did throughout the 2019 season, English scored on the par-fours, and whoever leads that category for the week seems sure to go close. Three of the last five have won, and Pat Perez ranked third for the week when he took this title. At a par 71 where everyone can reach the three par-fives, scoring on the rank-and-file holes is upgraded from very important to vital.
Form at Waialae in the Sony Open and at Harbour Town in the RBC Heritage further underlines that English is an excellent coastal golfer, who thrives on shorter, more technical courses, and with the putter firing again that makes him a massive player here. He was always going to be popular but I've no issues at all with the 50/1 quotes - I think the market remains behind his renaissance by quite a bit.
Another small factor in favour of the first selection is his performances on similar greens in the Dominican Republic, and that also helps make the case for DENNY MCCARTHY.
One of if not the best putter in the field, McCarthy could tear apart El Camaleon if he sets up the required chances and while his course form figures of 68-41 don't show much, he has bagged rounds of 64 and 65 to underline the damage he can do.
Crucially, he returns to Mexico with a working long-game, which hasn't always been the case previously. So far this season he's 48th in driving accuracy and 71st in greens hit, and for the player who topped the putting charts last term and sits second this, those numbers are all we need.
McCarthy is a prolific birdie-maker who ranks second in par-four performance right now, and form figures of 31-18-9-9-15 look very similar to those which preceded his breakthrough on the Web.com Tour in 2018.
They're also evidence that he's playing excellent golf and the 26-year-old, who was fourth in the Dominican Republic last year and played well there again in the spring, ought to go close at around the 50/1 mark.
So too should J.T. POSTON, who so impressively won the Wyndham Championship towards the end of last season and will continue to improve.
All-rounder Poston is closing in on the world's top 50 now and having been 27th behind Tiger Woods in Japan and 24th behind Rory McIlroy in China, his form at a higher level of late reads well.
Only two players in the field for the WGC-HSBC Champions played better across the par-fours, and with every one of his 12 rounds here at El Camaleon par or better, enough for form figures of 35-14-21, he's returning to a course he knows and likes.
Nineteen birdies and an eagle last time, built on a display of accuracy from the tee, confirm that he's in good form and I like the fact he's got some Heritage form to go with that Wyndham win. These are tournaments that correlate nicely with the Mayakoba and he's entitled to improve on previous visits.
Should Poston win, he'd have to be considered a viable candidate to replace Brooks Koepka in Tiger's Presidents Cup team, were the world number one to fail to recover from a knee injury in time for Australia.
I'm not sure it'll be on Poston's mind but it will be for both Kevin Kisner and Billy Horschel, who are more appealing than course specialist Russell Knox from those back at the top of the betting.
However, the best of the lot has to be ABRAHAM ANCER, who is good enough now to put home advantage to use rather than find the burden of expectation too heavy to carry.
Ancer was 21st here last year, unable to kick on following an excellent start, and ninth a year earlier, but there's now a key difference: victory in the Australian Open. It came this week last year, right on the heels of Mexico, and confirmed that he is more than good enough to hold his own in top-class company.
It's safe to say the following nine months or so didn't go to plan, but then came Ancer's ballsy second to Patrick Reed at Liberty National, a performance which secured his Presidents Cup place. It was another boost to his confidence, to go head-to-head with one of the world's toughest competitors, and it's another experience he can call upon this week.
Ancer went a little quiet after that, but fourth place in the HSBC Champions last time goes down as close to career-best form and it was built on the qualities which will be needed this week: tee-to-green accuracy and solid play across the par-fours.
During what was his best WGC performance by a distance, Ancer mentioned that he's eager to get home and prepare for an event which means a lot to him, but the crucial fact here is that it's also played on a course which suits. At 33/1, he's a decent bet to bring the house down having produced the three best performances of his career since last teeing it up in this event.
Of those at bigger prices, 300/1 shot Satoshi Kodaira is interesting. He played well in the ZOZO Championship, then fired a closing 62 in a Japan Tour event, and as an accurate winner of the Heritage ticks more boxes than many.
However, preference is for KRAMER HICKOK and HENRIK NORLANDER.
Hickok got his card back following an educational, largely disappointing rookie season, and can do much better this time around.
He opened with a round of 64 to lead here last year before finishing 29th, and 10th place in the Dominican Republic offers further evidence that this sort of test should suit him ideally.
Hickok is an accurate driver whose short-game is on fire at present, and after 23rd in Houston and 15th in Bermuda he can take another big step forward to contend at this level for the first time.
Norlander's best PGA Tour form came when he lost a five-man play-off for the RSM Classic three years ago, another event played by the coast and favouring those who can keep the ball in play, cope with a breeze and pile up the birdies.
Given that he was one of the most accurate players on the Korn Ferry Tour last season, and has been eighth and fifth for greens hit across his last two starts, Norlander stands out as an ideal candidate here and his Wichita win earlier this year came on a sub-7,000-yard course.
Although he finished down the leaderboard on his sole start at El Camaleon, Norlander spent the first three rounds inside the top 25 back in 2015, only to struggle on Sunday, and rankings of 16th in driving accuracy and 13th in greens confirm he took to the test.
Top-20 finishes at the Sony Open and the Wyndham further underline that he's best supported on a short, technical course where finding fairways counts for something, and at 200/1 this talented underachiever could be ready to step up.
Posted at 1020 GMT on 12/11/19.
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