Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship
So with the PGA Tour’s elite chasing the big bucks in Texas the rank and file of the tour have a chance to take a trip to The Dominican Republic and register a potentially career changing week at the Corales Puntacana Championship
The event was first played in 2018 as an official PGA Tour event so this years running will be the fourth edition.
Prior to 2018 it had been held as a Korn Ferry Tour event for two seasons.
The 2020 edition was played late in that year due to the revised schedule following on from the covid pandemic before the 2021 event returned to its regular March slot just six months later and the event has kept that position on the calendar since.
As tends to be the case with these opposite field events the field is made up by the usual mix of up and coming youngsters, bigger names who’s games have fallen on harder times, tour journeymen and tour veterans who rarely get a start these days.
That said the event has drawn probably a selection of bigger names than it did last year and the betting market is headed up by the inform Wyndham Clark, a former Champion here Joel Dahmen, Thomas Detry and Matt Wallace.
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 the wind is very much its main defence.
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”.
This is the sixth year the event will have been staged on the PGA Tour Schedule. Here are the top five from these events;
1 C Ramey -17
T2 A Smalley & B Martin -16
T4 J Vegas, C Percy -15
1 J Dahmen -12
T2 S Ryder & R Campos -11
T4 M Gligic & G McDowell -10
1 H Swafford -18
2 T McCumber -17
3 M Hughes -16
4 N Lashley -15
5 A Long -14
1 G McDowell -18
T2 M Hughes & C Stroud -17
4 J Byrd -16
T5 K Kraft & C McDaniel – 15
1 B Garnett -18
2 K Mitchell -14
3 K Kraft -13
4 D McCarthy -12
T5th Eight players at -11 - H English, P Dunne, KJ Choi, A Putnam, X Zhang, T Lovelady, S Power & S Han.
In addition when the event was held as a Korn Ferry Tour event in 2016 and 2017 Dominic Bozzelli and Nate Lashley came out on top.
Looking at the leaderboards from the past five years and it is clear that the type of player we need to be focusing on are those who are comfortable on and who have performed well at the other [usually shorter] coastal tracks used on tour such as the El Camaleon historically home of the Mayakoba, Coco Beach GC [Puerto Rico Open], Hilton Head, [RBC Heritage] Waialae CC [Sony Open], Sea Island [RSM Classic], Pebble Beach and the Bermuda Championship.
With regards to form on this course with only a few years to go on obviously this is fairly sparse. McDowell won here after missing the cut the previous year and Garnett had missed the cut here when playing the Korn Ferry event the year before his win.
McDowell though as we know is a master of this type of track having won the RBC Heritage, The Mayakoba and the US Open at Pebble Beach while Garnett had produced his best two performances in the previous two seasons at the Mayakoba when finishing seventh and sixth.
The 2020 champion Swafford had missed the cut on his only previous visit however he boasted a strong record at Waialae CC with a third place finish and two further top tens there to his name so his liking for this type of track was there to see.
Moving on and Dahmen had finished 12th and 13th here on his two starts in the event on the PGA Tour and 11th when playing here on the Korn Ferry. In addition he had a sixth place at the Mayakoba on his resume prior to his win here so the signs were there.
Finally last years champion Ramey while as a rookie was making his debut here, had finished fifth in Puerto Rico just two starts previously and notched a 17th in the fall in Bermuda so again we had a massive pointer.
In relation to form coming in McDowell arrived here on a solid run of form having made his previous five cuts on the PGA Tour and of course was on a mission to qualify for Portrush and the US Open at Pebble Beach. Garnett though other than the link with the Mayakoba would have been less easy to find as he had missed two of his previous three cuts although he did finish 35th last time out at the Valspar. As for Swafford he had finished 56th at the season opener The Safeway a fortnight before however prior to that he had not teed it up since July.
Dahmen meanwhile it must be said had been in horrible form prior to his victory here missing six of his previous seven cuts and finishing 60th when he did make the weekend so his win was definitely a case of course suitability outweighing current form, while Ramey as noted above had found some mojo in Puerto Rico with his fifth place finish.
With regards to a winning total the three PGA Tour events were both won with totals of -18 while two Korn Ferry events were won with totals of -19, -18 and -20.
Temperatures look set to sit in the mid to high 80s all week with hopefully dry conditions.
Wind, which is always a factor here looks like it could play a part with gusts of 20mph possible on all four days.
As I always say though this could all change!
I have gone with four players as follows;
ADAM LONG – 40/1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC
I will start things off this week by chancing Adam Long at what I see as pretty decent odds in this company.
It seems a long time, if you pardon the pun, since Long shocked the golfing world to stare down Phil Mickelson, and indeed our bet that week Adam Hadwin, and bag the American Express title in 2019 as a rookie.
Since then while Adam has comfortably kept his card, finishing 86th in the Fedex Cup last year, he hasn’t quite scaled those heights and this year, currently sat in 136th he could be drawn in to a real dog fight to keep his status for the second tier events next season, never mind threatening to get near the big ones.
One thing we have seen from Adam over time though is still more than capable of popping up with a big finish particularly on a shorter coastal track, which tends to be his forte.
Expanding that further and last season two of his best efforts came at the RBC Heritage and the RSM when 12th and 16th respectively while over the previous two seasons his best two results came at the Mayakoba when he was second and then third, so a real pointer for this week.
Following on from this and while form at the Mayakoba is of course heartening we don’t need to guess as to his liking for this track as he was fifth here on his last visit in 2020 while he also posted a seventh here on the back of two missed cuts when he played the Korn Ferry event in 2017.
As mentioned earlier this season has been a struggle for Adam so far to date however last week he posted his best effort of the campaign to far, a 19th at the Valspar where he ranked 24th from tee to green and fifth in driving accuracy.
Arriving here one would hope then in a more positive frame of mind I’ll take Adam to push in this week and produce a big performance on a track that clearly favours him.
MICHAEL KIM – 50/1 - 1pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 6 - FINISHED 26th
Next up this week I’ll take a chance on Michael Kim.
Kim returned to the PGA Tour this season after a horrendous loss of form which saw his game fall off a cliff completely through 2019-2021 after he posted his lone tour win at the John Deere. Credit to the Californian though he turned it around on the Korn Ferry last season to regain his card and work his way back to the big league.
One of Kim’s first shoots of recovery last year came in Puerto Rico when he got as start on the PGA Tour and posted a 16th place. He then returned to that same event recently to post a fifth place finish so he is clearly comfortable on the paspalum and in an event, which gave us a huge pointer to last years winner here Chad Ramey.
As well as that recent top five in Puerto Rico Michael also has an 11th on his resume this season at Pebble Beach so he is clearly comfortable by the coast.
Last week Kim produced an up and down week at the Valspar to finish 45th however there was some good stuff in there, particularly on Friday.
I’ll take him this week then to return to the Paspalum on, which he thrived just a few weeks back and as a proven winner in this company to push on again at decent odds.
CODY GRIBBLE – 50/1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 50th
Next up for me this week is Cody Gribble.
Gribble as those with long memories will remember came straight off the Korn Ferry Tour in 2016 to win on his second start in the big league at the Sanderson Farms Championship.
A whirlwind start then to life on the PGA Tour, however as is often the case in these situations there was only one way it could really go from there, downhill, and that’s what happened.
To be fair to Gribble while he initially struggled for form it was injuries that really blighted his progress as he started to struggle with a hip problem in 2019, which lead to surgery later in that year.
Throw in the impact of the covid hiatus and when he was preparing for a return in the latter part of 2020 he was then hit with more problems, which required shoulder surgery in 2021.
Finally getting back in to the swing of things in 2022 then Cody started to put some decent results together at the back end of the year notching two top twelve finishes on the Korn Ferry Tour in three starts.
On to this year then and after a sluggish start Cody has managed to take advantage of some playing opportunities that have come his way and things really clicked in Puerto Rico a couple of weeks back where he posted a seventh place finish. He then rolled that top ten and the start it gave him in in to a second straight seventh place at the Valspar last week.
A Texas man through and through Gribble has talked about how a combination of his competitive nature and seeing the successes of fellow Texans Scheffler and Spieth has inspired him to keep fighting and he clearly now has the platform with his recent results to regain his tour card.
Always known as a strong putter Gribble was also dialled in with his long game at the Valspar ranking fourth of the tee for the week and 26th in approach play. He also ranked 11th in Accuracy off the tee and fourth in good old fashioned GIR so clearly plenty is firing.
Comfortable like all Texans in the wind and having played on the Latino America tour for a season as well in his early years he should feel at home here and the strong week in Puerto Rico recently on the Paspalum is also of course a huge pointer.
Gribble is clearly a tenacious character who is not afraid to win and at the odds on offer I am happy to side with him to keep his recent momentum going.
AARON BADDELEY – 80/1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 6 - FINISHED 46th
In a year where he is clearly beginning to show an upward trend again plenty of roads this week lead to Aaron Baddeley.
The Aussie started the 22-23 campaign without full playing privileges on the tour however as things stand he currently sits at 81st in the Fedex Cup standings and with a strong second half of the season it is not beyond the realms of possibility that he can make it in to the holy grail of the top 50 for next season.
Impressive stuff then from Badds and all the more so as he has done this on a combination of the limited starts his status allows him and Monday qualifiers.
Not the longest off the tee the Aussie has done his best work on the shorter coastal tests this season finishing sixth in Bermuda in the Fall when we were on board at juicy each way odds and then seventh in January in Hawaii.
Since that strong effort at Waialae CC Aaron has cooled off a bit however he has continued to play solidly making his last two cuts in Florida including an impressive 34th at Bay Hill and you would have to think a drop in ‘class’ this week coupled with a return to a course he has previously performed well on finishing seventh in 2019 will be of real benefit.
A former champion at Hilton Head and also a runner up on the paspalum in Puerto Rico Badds should be relishing the challenge this week and he is a must for me here.