Corales Championship Preview

            The PGA Tour capped off the Florida swing with the Honda Classic last week and will have two different events this week. The main event is the WGC Match Play, where the top players will battle against one another in head-to-head match play. Match Play is really fun to watch but the outright betting opportunities are limited. I’ve decided to focus my normal betting card on the alternate event, the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. Corales Golf Club is a long Par 72, measuring over 7,600 yards. The length of the course does not take short hitters out of play, because the fairways are wide open and greens are easy to hit. The wide-open nature of the course allows even the short hitters to put a little extra on their drives, while the long hitters will go with a “bomb and gouge” strategy. The greens are Paspalum which is more common in the Caribbean. There is no ShotLink data available for the course so my usual handicapping process was abbreviated this week.

Without ShotLink data, I am relying more heavily on the course specifics to help find golfers who profile well for this event. As a Par 72, there are ten Par 4s, four Par 3s, and four Par 5s. Five of the Par 4s will measure between 400-450 yards, and four more will measure between 450-500 yards. Longer Par 4s indicates that approaches will be with longer irons so ball-striking is key. Leniency Off-the-Tee will allow long hitters to pull driver and bomb it down the fairway. While the fairways are wide and easy to hit, it is important to keep the ball on the short grass. Playing from the fairway will give golfers the best angles at attacking the holes, and this event will turn into a birdie-fest. Golfers will need to be in attack mode all four days and go for the pins. Two Par 5s measure over 600 yards, and the Par 5s are easy to score on. Bombers should look at all of the Par 5s as a “must birdie” opportunity. This event was formerly a Korn Ferry Tour event, and was moved onto the PGA Tour schedule back in 2018.

Former winners of this event are Brice Garnett, Graeme McDowell, and Hudson Swafford. All three winners missed the cut at Corales the year prior to their victory, including Brice Garnett missing the cut at this event when it was on the Korn Ferry Tour. All three winners won this event with a final score of -18. Low scoring means that prior course history isn’t as important because the winner will be whoever has their A-Game this week and gets hot with his putter.

Correlated courses I looked at were El Cameleon Golf Club (Mayakoba Classic), Grand Reserve Country Club (Puerto Rico Open), and Sea Island Seaside Course (RSM Classic). Mayakoba is an event that takes place in Mexico, and features Paspalum greens. Mayakoba attracts a similar field and is also a coastal track. The Puerto Rico Open is a very similar event as this one. It is also an alternate field event, it’s in the Caribbean, and has Paspalum greens. The RSM Classic is a Tom Fazio re-designed course, which is the same designer as Corales. Also, RSM is a coastal event and is a swing season event.

Key Stats: Off-the-Tee, Approach, Distance, Greens-in-Regulation, Good Drive Percentage, and Putting Average

Scoring Upside: Birdie or Better Percentage, Par 4 Birdie or Better Percentage, Par 5 Birdie or Better Percentage, Bogey Avoidance, Par 4 Efficiency 400-450 yards

Corales Championship Tip

Jhonattan Vegas 30-1 (DraftKings)

            Vegas is coming off a 30th place finish at the Honda Classic last week. Over his last four events, Vegas has ranked inside the Top 30 of strokes gained Off-the-Tee in all of them. The Venezuelan popped up at the top of the leaderboard at the Puerto Rico Open where he notched a runner-up finish. Vegas has played well at coastal courses, recording a 2nd place and 9th place finish at the Puerto Rico Open. He also finished 20th at Mayakoba last fall. His previous trips to Corales Golf Course have resulted in a missed cut and 26th place finish. Vegas is a bomber, ranking tenth Off-the-Tee in 2021 among all PGA Tour players.

Using 2020 ShotLink data, in this field Vegas ranks: first Off-the-Tee, fourth in Par 5 Birdie or Better Percentage, fifth in Driving Distance, fifth in Greens-in-Regulation, seventh in Birdie or Better Percentage, ninth in Good Drive Percentage, and 16th in Par 4 Birdie or Better Percentage. Corales is a golf course that asks very little from golfer. Find the fairways, land on the greens and birdies will be available. Vegas is great at getting to the green and giving himself looks at birdies. I love the way Vegas profiles for this course, and love this number as the starting point for my betting card.

Patrick Rodgers 50-1 (DraftKings)

            Rodgers missed the cut last week at the Honda Classic, but the Florida courses are completely different than an alternate field coastal track. The Florida courses requires golfers to scratch out pars and avoid big mistakes. Corales Golf Course couldn’t be more different than that. Rodgers has had success on coastal courses in the past. Two of his three best finishes since the start of the 2021 PGA Tour season have come at coastal events. Rodgers finished 11th at Corales in the fall, and added a 17th place finish at Mayakoba. Rodgers has played Corales twice, making the cut both times and recording two Top 25 finishes. The 28-year-old has never won on the PGA Tour. The closest he ever came to a win was at the 2018 RSM Classic where he was defeated by Charles Howell in a playoff.

Using 2020 ShotLink data, in this field Rodgers ranks: seventh in Driving Distance, seventh in Par 5 Birdie or Better Percentage, tenth in Putting Average, 11th in Off-the-Tee, and 15th in Par 4 Efficiency 400-450 yards. Rodgers has traditionally been a good player Off-the-Tee but has struggled with ball-striking this season. However, over his last 20 rounds he is gaining .68 strokes putting per round. Rodgers’s putting is trending in the right direction, and the leniency Off-the-Tee should allow him to fix his ball-striking.

Will Gordon 55-1 (DraftKings)

            Gordon is a young, unproven player who has shown flashes of upside in recent weeks. Gordon has made four straight cuts with finishes of: 36th, 49th, 27th, and 21st. In all four of those events Gordon has gained strokes Off-the-Tee. The 27th place finish at the Puerto Rico Open is encouraging because after a poor first round he needed to scramble make the cut. He went on to shoot -8 on the weekend. At the Honda Classic last week, Gordon finished second in the field Off-the-Tee. He is striking and driving the ball well, which is the most important skillset for Corales. Gordon has recorded a 10th place finish at the RSM Classic in 2020.

Using 2020 ShotLink data, in this field Gordon ranks: first in Greens-in-Regulation, second Off-the-Tee, sixth in Driving Distance, sixth in Birdie-or-Better Percentage, 11th in Par 4 Birdie-or-Better Percentage, 12th in Bogey Avoidance, 14th in Par 5 Birdie or Better Percentage, and 18th in Par 4 Efficiency 400-450 yards. From a scoring perspective, this course is right in Gordon’s wheelhouse. I expect Gordon to bomb his drives down the fairway and get himself plenty of birdies. The key to success this week is fairways and greens, and Gordon is a perfect fit.

Justin Suh 55-1 (DraftKings)

            Suh is a young stud who has had very limited PGA Tour experience. Suh has played five events in the 2021 season and has made four cuts, including an 8th place finish at Shriners, and a 14th place finish at Corales. Suh played four seasons at USC where he was a two-time first team All-American and a three-time first team All-Pac-12 player. Suh’s highly decorated college career translated well to the inaugural season of the LOCALiQ Series. He played five events with four Top 10 Finishes. Over his last five PGA Tour events, only two events had ShotLink data. In those two events, over eight rounds Suh gained 1.89 total strokes per round. At Corales in the fall, Suh played very well and finished 14th despite a final round +1. Suh was in the mix after 54-Holes last time he played this event and I expect a similar result this week.

Grayson Murray 125-1 (DraftKings)

            Murray is a one trick pony. Murray is a long hitter, and is very volatile. He has not played well over the last year, but he was on my radar heading into the Puerto Rico Open. At the Puerto Rico Open, he finished third place. He went into Sunday’s final round with a share of the 54-Hole lead but wasn’t able to convert it into a victory. Murray finished 12th place at Corales in 2019, so he has shown the ability to contend on this course, and against this type of field. Murray is one of the only golfers I am betting on this week who has already won a PGA Tour event. In 2017, Murray took down the Barbasol Championship. Using 2020 ShotLink data, in this field Murray ranks: first in Par 5 Birdie or Better Percentage, second in Driving Distance, tenth in Birdie or Better Percentage, 14th in Putting Average, and 15th in Off-the-Tee. Murray has proven win equity and has shown recently that he can be on the first page of the leaderboard.

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