Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship
Whilst the games elite will be chasing the mega bucks down in Austin, Texas this week the lesser lights of the PGA Tour will be teeing it up in the snappily titled Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship as the PGA Tour makes its debut stop in the Dominican Republic.
The field from a betting perspective is headed up by Emilliano Grillo at a best priced 12-1.
Next in the market come the likes of Jim Furyk, Scott Piercy, Patrick Rodgers & GMac.
Any field that sees Jonathan Kaye teeing it up on the PGA Tour for the first time in 7yrs alongside the likes of veteran ‘blasts from the past’ Keith Clearwater, Dudley Hart and Ted Purdy, and which at the time of writing boasts Brett Wetterich as the first reserve, needs to be treated with some trepidation, however, with all due respect to these names who basically make up the numbers, this will hopefully mean we can find some value in some genuine contenders elsewhere in the field.
From a spectacle point of view probably the most watched player this week will be none of those mentioned above but actually former Dallas Cowboys Quarterback Tony Romo who has received a sponsors exemption in to the event.
This is obviously great publicity for the tournament and if it helps build the event for the future and grow the game in the Dominican Republic then I’m not going to criticise it. Suffice to say though there is more chance of Kaye or Clearwater winning this week than Romo finishing in the top 20.
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 should very much have a links feel to it.
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”.
We have nothing to go on from a PGA Tour event point of view however the course did host a Web.com event in both 2016 & 2017.
These were won by Dominic Bozzelli and Nate Lashley with respective winning scores of -24 and -20. It would appear therefore that whilst the wind strength I’m guessing can dictate how the course will play, ‘going low’ will be required this week to get the job done.
There does not appear to be any rain in the forecast leading up to the event, however a couple of days during the tournament, Friday & Saturday, do show the possibility of thunderstorms.
The wind does not appear to be an issue on Thursday or Friday, ,however 20mph + gusts do show up in the forecast for Saturday & Sunday, which if materialising will make life tricky for the players.
I have gone with five players as follows;
RORY SABBATINI – 25-1 - 2pts E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 43rd
This pick is purely about current form.
I said after watching Sabbatini at the Valspar on Sunday a couple of weeks ago that I felt he would win soon and until he either does so, or his form dips, I want to keep him onside.
Rory is the sort of player who can play well anywhere if he is on one of his rolls.
His last win came at the Honda in 2011 on the back of three top 25s in four starts including a 5th at the Mayakoba his previous time out.
His previous win to that at the Byron Nelson came after a couple of top 10s in his previous four events and his previous win to that came on the back of three top five finishes in his previous five events.
Rory now comes in to this week on the back of a string of solid performances including 17th and 5th in his last two starts.
In addition whilst as I say above the pick is about current form it’s also comforting to see that Rory has two top five finishes in the bank at the OHL Classic which is played on similar papsulum greens.
KELLY KRAFT – 50-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 3rd
With three top 5s on the PGA Tour last season and an 8th place finish as recently as a couple of weeks ago this former US Open Amateur Champion has been threatening a breakthrough on the PGA Tour for a while now.
Kraft’s best finish on tour of 2nd place came on another coastal track in the Pebble Beach Pro Am.
In addition Kraft has notched a 15th place finish on the Papsalum greens of Puerto Rico in the only start he has made there and you would expect this event to be as close a reference as you could get to the test the players will face this week.
In a field therefore largely made up of long in the tooth journeyman or unproven maidens I am happy to chance the improving Kraft at what I see as a very generous 50-1.
ALEX CEJKA – 66-1 - 1pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 7 NON RUNNER - WITHDREW BEFORE START
In a second division event played on Papsalum greens Cejka always has to come in to the conversation.
A proven winner on the European Tour Cejka decided to relocate and take up life on the PGA Tour in the early 2000s and after many years of toil he was finally rewarded with a victory at the Puerto Rico Open in 2015.
This victory of course makes Cejka of interest in this event due to the obvious course correlations previously noted.
In addition to the Puerto Rico win Cejka has notched other solid finishes at that event and also at the OHL Classic to prove he handles this type of track well.
Furthermore he showed as recently as last November that he can still mix it on the PGA tour when losing in a play off to Patrick Cantlay at the Shriners Hospital For Children Open.
Whilst his form has dipped a bit of late Alex has shown before that he can find his game out of nowhere most noticeably when winning in Puerto Rico on the back of a string of poor results, and I am therefore happy to chance him this week on a course that should suit.
TYLER DUNCAN – 100-1 - 1pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED M/C
I mentioned earlier in the preview that this event has graced the Web.com tour for the past two seasons and Duncan is one player who has tee’d it up in both renewals.
In those two outings Duncan has finished 33rd in 2016 and 3rd in 2017 and in eight rounds on the course his worst performance is 70. Clearly therefore Tyler has enjoyed his time in the Dominican Republic.
As well as performing well in this event the Indiana native spent time on the PGA Tour of LatinoAmerica before graduating on to the Web.com tour so it is not surprising that he is comfortable when returning to this environment and style of course.
After progressing to the PGA Tour Tyler started of at the Safeway Open like a house on fire notching a top 5 finish, however not unsurprisingly for a rookie feeling his way things have somewhat cooled off since then.
What is interesting to note however is that has best three performances since the top 5 at the Safeway have come in three coastal events, at the OHL Classic, the RSM Classic and at the Honda just a few weeks ago where he finished 24th.
It is clear therefore that Tyler enjoys playing links feel courses and I am optimistic a return to a course which he clearly likes will reignite his season.
FABIAN GOMEZ – 150-1 - 1pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 22nd
For my final selection this week I can’t resist throwing a speculative dart at the Argentinian Fabian Gomez.
In a field of this level any two time PGA Tour winner from the past three years who is priced up at 150-1 deserves a second look.
Obviously the reason for Gomez being this price means the case for him this week is fairly tenuous but I shall make it as follows;
Firstly when Fabian won the St Jude Classic in 2015 he was horribly out of form having finished no better than 27th all calendar year. Interestingly though that 27th place had come two starts previous to the win at St Jude.
Secondly Gomez’ second PGA Tour win came at the Sony Open in Hawaii, having played well the week before at Kapalua, two coastal courses [particularly Kapalua] which strike me as reasonable match for this week.
We now move on to Fabian’s recent form and this is of course the reason that 150s readily available, basically he’s been having a shocker of a season.
However last time out at the Valspar he closed with a 69 after opening with three straight bogeys. The back nine was particularly encouraging as he reeled of four birdies in five holes.
The hope therefore is that something just may have clicked in that round that Fabian can build on this week and if that were the case this proven winner is more than capable of delivering in this company at a massive price.