PGA Tour Picks: Mayakoba Golf Classic

By Tom LaMarre

Officials of the Mayakoba Golf Classic, the final PGA Tour event of 2020 which begins on Thursday, were thrilled when top-ranked Dustin Johnson committed to the tournament at El Camaleon Golf Club in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

However, after winning the Masters three weeks ago, DJ decided he needed more of a break before the restart in January and apologetically withdrew from the tournament last week.

While it won’t completely make up for it, the Mayakoba got a lift when former world No. 1 Brooks Koepka made a late commitment to play.

“The addition of Brooks to the field is tremendous for this tournament and certainly ensures that this will be the best field assembled in our 14-year history,” Mayakoba tournament director Joe Mazzeo said. “A worldwide television audience will be focused on Mayakoba … as the final official PGA Tour event of the calendar year is staged here at El Camaleón.”

Koepka, who returned to the PGA Tour late this year after battling hip and knee injuries, has won six times on the PGA Tour, including four major championships—two U.S. Opens and two PGA Championships. He is ranked No. 12 in the world

Having Koepka and Johnson would have been a real boon for the Mayakoba, but DJ apparently was feeling worn out after winning four tournaments this season, all since June, and claiming the FedEx Cup.

“After much careful thought, I have made the difficult decision to withdraw from the Mayakoba Classic,” Johnson said in a statement. “I have heard nothing but great things about the tournament, golf course and the Mayakoba resort, so I was excited to play. However, my mind and body are telling me it’s time for a break, so I look forward to spending some much-needed time at home with Paulina (Gretzky) and the boys.

“I know this is disappointing news and I sincerely apologize to all my friends involved with the tournament, especially those at RHL Properties. Hopefully, they will welcome me in the future.”

The Mayakoba Classic still has a solid field lined up, led by Koepka, third-ranked Justin Thomas, defending champion Brendon Todd, Daniel Berger, Tony Finau, Abraham Ancer of Mexico, Viktor Hovland of Norway, Marc Leishman of Australia, Steve Stricker, Gary Woodland, Billy Horschel, Russell Henley and Rickie Fowler.

There are also 12 players from Latin America playing this week at El Cameleon, including Ancer, Roberto Diaz, Armando Favela, Carlos Ortiz, Aaron Terrazas, Kristoffer Ventura of Mexico; Fabian Gomez and Emiliano Grillo of Argentina; Sebastian Munoz and Camilo Villegas of Colombia; Joaquin Niemann of Chile and Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela.

Former Mayakoba champions in the field in addition to Todd are Brian Gay, Harris English, John Huh, Patton Kizzire, Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland, Pat Perez and Johnson Wagner.

It should all add up to an exciting final PGA Tour event of 2020.

BEST BETS

  1. Justin Thomas, United States – The third-ranked Thomas is finishing off a year in which he has won three times, running his victory total on the PGA Tour to 13. He has been close recently, too, tying for eighth in the U.S. Open, tying for second in the Zozo and finishing fourth in the Masters. Tied for 23rd in only Mayakoba appearance in 2015.
  2. Brooks Koepka, United States – The four-time major champion and former world No. 1, coming back from hip and knee injuries, showed his game is close by tying for fifth in the Vivint Houston Open and tying for seventh in the Masters in his last two starts after he skipped the U.S. Open. Shot 72-71 to miss the cut only Mayakoba start in 2014.
  3. Carlos Ortiz, Mexico – One of the local favorites, Ortiz tied for second in his sixth start at El Camaleon last year, one shot behind winner Brendon Todd, and also tied for ninth in 2015. He sits ninth on the FedEx Cup standings this season after claiming his first PGA Tour victory in Houston, following three wins on the 2014 Korn Ferry Tour.
  4. Harris English, United States –With four scores in the 60s, including a 62 in round two, English won the 2014 Mayakoba Classic by four shots, and he was in the chase to the end last year before finishing fifth. Has three-top 10 results in the new season—fourth in the U.S. Open, 10th in the CJ Cup and a tie for sixth in the RSM, closing with a 62.
  5. Daniel Berger, United States – Claimed his third victory on the PGA Tour earlier this year in the Charles Schwab Challenge by beating Collin Morikawa in a playoff, and has six other top-10 finishes in 2020, including a second and two thirds. Opened with a 65 in only Mayakoba appearance in 2014, but shot 74-74 in the middle rounds tied for 51st.
  6. Abraham Ancer, Mexico – The top-ranked player in the world from Mexico at No. 22, Ancer is looking for his first PGA Tour victory and is coming off a solo fourth in the Shriners and a tie for 13th in the Masters, falling out of the top 10 with a closing 76. It’s his fourth Mayakoba start, and he tied for eighth last year and tied for ninth in 2017.
  7. Billy Horschel, United States – The 2014 FedEx Cup champion had six top-10 finishes during the 2019-20 season, including a tie for second in the Wyndham Championship, and was in good position in the Masters before closing with a 75 to slide into a tie for 38th. Making his sixth start in the Maykoba and tied for eighth last year.
  8. Gary Woodland, United States – The 2019 U.S. Open champion has gotten off to a slow start in the new season, but had four straight top 10s at one stage in 2019-20 and seven overall, including third in the CJ Cup. Woodland is making his fifth start in the Mayakoba and took the lead to the final round in 2017, but finished second after a 70.
  9. Brendon Todd, United States – Claimed his second victory in as many starts last year in the Mayakoba, giving him three on the PGA Tour and the first since 2014. Also won the Bermuda Championship two weeks earlier and the HP Byron Nelson six years ago. Todd’s best result so far in the new season was a tie for 23rd in the 120th U.S. Open.
  10. Graeme McDowell, Northern Ireland – G-Mac captured one of his four PGA Tour victories, which include the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, in the 2016 at Mayakoba by beating Jason Bohn and Russell Knox in a playoff. McDowell claimed the 16th title of his pro career earlier this year in the Saudi International, his 11th win on the Euro Tour.

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Rickie Fowler, United States; Marc Leishman, Australia; Brandt Snedeker, United States; Martin Laird, Scotland; Keegan Bradley, United States; Patton Kizzire, United States; Corey Conners, Canada; Tony Finau, United States; Adam Hadwin, Canada; Emiliano Grillo, Argentina; Charles Howell III, United States.

SLEEPERS

  1. Sebastian Munoz, Colombia – Four-time winner as a pro recently finished ninth in the CJ Cup, T-14 in the Zozo Championship and T-19 in his first appearance in the Masters.
  2. Peter Malnati, United States – Three-time winner as a pro is 16th in FedEx Cup race after a second at Sanderson Farms, and a T-5 in Shriners. T-10 in the 2016 Mayakoba.
  3. Robby Shelton, United States – T-21 in Sanderson Farms was his fifth top-25 of 2020, including T-3 in 3M Open. T-6 in 2019 Mayakoba, opening with 66-66, closing with 65.
  4. Henrik Norlander, Sweden – Two-time winner on the Korn Ferry Tour, who lost in a playoff in 2017 RSM, had T-4 in Sanderson Farms, one of his four top-10s this year.
  5. Andy Ogeltree, United States —Low amateur at Masters makes his pro debut. Two-time All-American at Georgia Tech, won 2019 U.S. Amateur, played in Walker Cup.

For first-round tee times, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html

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