Don’t worry, folks. I did the hard work for you.
One of the great perks of my family reunion trip to Cabo San Lucas this past summer was a reconnaissance round at El Cardonal at Diamante – the first Tiger Woods design to host a PGA TOUR event.
And when handicapping a new TOUR venue – one where we don’t have a bank of historical data to help – we need every little piece of data we can get!
Now, by no means do I consider myself a great golfer… I can’t even consider myself a good one. And the Strokes Gained stats of my round compared to an average TOUR player are appropriate horror on Halloween week. But I still gained some unique insight into what I expect will be the focus for those chasing the trophy this week at the World Wide Technology Championship.
Woods has given the players plenty of space off the tee to attack with distance, and while the yardage says 7,452 yards, the reality is plenty of holes play downhill to shorten the true distance. The opening 582-yard par 5, for example, is straight downhill facing the Pacific Ocean and we should see some early eagles soaring around El Cardonal.
While there are certainly some potential tough lies in the desert, it will take an especially wild shot to end up there. And even amongst the cacti there is still the chance of a clean lie – save for some dirt on the ball.
The next feature of the course is large putting surfaces with multiple sections and available pin locations. For the amateur this means quite a few circus-like putts, but for the professional, dialed in wedges and irons will bring a plethora of birdie chances.
The defense of the course is the weather. In the summer I lost a playing partner to heat exhaustion – they won’t have that issue this week with temperatures in the low to mid 80s – but if the wind blows it could bring some interesting wrinkles.
Currently the forecast doesn’t include crazy winds but those conditions can change on a dime in and interestingly it often can start out of the north, or northwest and then turn to west southwest over the course of the day.
What does all this say for your picks? Well, I’m leaning toward the bombers who can crank things up without much fear and get themselves closer to the greens to ensure correct quadrants on approach.
We haven’t seen the big-hitting Cameron Young (+1200 to win at BetMGM Sportsbook) in a while, but he’s entered this tournament with just one thing in mind: winning. The PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year from 2022 is still chasing that elusive first victory, but this course is made for him. He’s fifth on TOUR in Driving Distance (second if you count all drives) and eighth in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee. He only needs to putt to the average this week and with all players learning the greens for the first time his usual “weakness” should be less pronounced.
Recent FedExCup Fall winner Luke List has moved from +4000 to +3300 as some sharp money marries his distance game with his current form. List sits ninth on TOUR for SG: Off-the-Tee and is fourth in Driving Distance (all drives). He also has the longest drive of the season with a 459-yard bomb at Kapalua. Like Young, he needs to bring some form of half-decent putting to capitalize on his long game.
You won’t get long odds for Sahith Theegala (+300 for a top 5) but you still need to consider him a likely contender. Fresh off his first win this fall in Napa, Theegala hits the ball long enough and his concern – driving accuracy – won’t be as big an issue in Cabo. Add the fact he’s 15th on TOUR in SG: Putting and he’s a likely force.
If the wind is going to be a factor, then keep your eye out for Aussie Lucas Herbert. He’s a proven winner on resort style windy courses thanks to his efforts in Bermuda in the past and has very solid rankings in both driving distance (all drives) at 39th on TOUR and SG: Putting at 30th. He’s sitting at +350 for a Top 10.
Another bomber in form of late is three-time TOUR winner Cameron Champ. With two top 20s in his last three starts I like Champ in the Top 20 market around the +200 mark. He’s 16th in SG: Off-the-Tee this season and third in Driving Distance.
New course, FedExCup Fall pressure… we could argue anyone as a longshot! But why not throw some darts at two huge hitters who have next to nothing to lose this week and need to chase down some points.
Trevor Cone sits third on TOUR for driving distance (all drives) and Brent Grant isn’t far behind ranked 10th. Cone has just one top 10 all season – his last top 40 as a T3 at the Barbasol Championship in July – and is 166th in the FedExCup Fall. He’s a true longshot but maybe his long ball gets him a top 40 at +333.
Grant is +250 for a top 40 at 167th in the FedExCup Fall standings and has missed four of his last five cuts. But he has gained +0.809 strokes on the field in his last 12 rounds and was T35 in his last start in Las Vegas. Don’t be surprised if he overperforms in another week of desert golf!
Source : PGA Tour