Trust us, the PGA Tour is eventually going to make its way back onto U.S. soil after a long run in Asia.
But before teeing it up in the United States next week at the RSM Classic at Sea Island, GA, the players will make a quick detour and stop in Mexico for the 2019 Mayakoba Classic, the 13th year this event has been held.
Matt Kuchar won last year’s tournament at 22-under-par, edging Danny Lee by a stroke. Expect more low scores this week when players go birdie-hunting at El Camaleon Golf Club in Playa del Carmen.
For Kuchar, it snapped a winless drought that reached 116 tournaments. Kuchar had rounds of 65, 66, 67 and 65 so the mantra this week seems simple enough: Go low or go home.
The course, a Greg Norman design, is a par-71 layout stretching out to just over 7,000 yards so even the shorter hitters will be going flag-hunting early and often.
Many of the bigger names on the Tour’s rankings list are skipping the event as only nine of the top 50 players in the world are entered. Tony Finau at No. 14 is the top-ranked player in the field, but it sure appears to be a good time for a lesser-known player to grab the trophy.
And those who have won here seem to be making it an annual stop. The last seven champions are entered in the field including John Huh (2012), Harris English (2013), Charley Hoffman (2014), Graeme McDowell (2015), Pat Perez (2016), Patton Kizzire (2017) and Kuchar.
With the star-power of a high-profile PGA Tour event lacking, we’re going out on a limb in our pick this week. Way out on a limb. And the reasoning is as simple as checking out birdie leaders. The fact that you’re putting a ton of birdies on the scorecard is a great thing, or so we’ve been told.
We also have to compare the number of rounds each player has under his belt while he’s putting those circles on his scorecard.
With that being said and the math being calculated, watch out for Aaron Wise, 30-1, this week.
OK, stop shaking your head. We have great reasons to give him a shot to win.
He ranked third on the PGA Tour with 4.42 birdies per round during the last wraparound season heading into this event. He played 69 rounds and had 305 birdies so he’s solid in that stat. A few less ‘others’ on his scorecard along the way and this might be the week he puts his name on his second trophy on the PGA Tour.
He was T-10 here last year, stumbling out of the gate with an even-par 71 in his opening round that included four birdies. But he also added four bogeys into the mix. He finished with rounds of 65, 63 and 69 to get back in the hunt. That followed a MC at this event in 2017.
He also just finished T-3 at the Bermuda Championship which was held two weeks ago opposite the final Tour stop on the three-event Asia swing. His four rounds included 20 birdies (a little better than his average with five per round), two eagles and six bogeys. So with his improvement last year at this event and a strong showing last week, watch out.
We’re also keeping an eye on two III’s this week —Charles Howell at 30-1 and Harold Varner at 50-1. We would have added Davis Love III onto that list, but we’re already way, way out on that limb as it is picking underdogs.
And here’s one red-hot long shot for consideration: Harris English at 50-1. He has four starts in the wraparound season that includes three top-10s (actually three top 6s) and a fourth strong showing (T-33) that showcase his solid play.