The TOUR Heads to the Caribbean ⏤ Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship

Fantasy Golf

Corales Gc2

The PGA TOUR moves past the difficult test presented at the U.S. Open Championship to the much friendlier shores of the Dominican Republic for the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship. This event is relatively new on the PGA TOUR schedule--having been upgraded back in 2018 from a Korn Ferry Tour event to a full-fledged PGA TOUR competition. While the field may not boast the top players in the world, those who have elected to head down to the Caribbean for this tournament will be playing for the usual basket of goodies that come alongside a PGA TOUR win. The purse tops out at $4 million (with $720,000 going to the winner) and both a Masters Tournament invitation as well as important Fedex Cup points will be on the line.

The Field and the Favorites

This event was originally scheduled to be played opposite the WGC HSBC Champions event in Shanghai prior to the COVID-induced PGA TOUR pause back in March. In the time since, the WGC event was cancelled due to travel restrictions associated with the virus and now the Corales Championship stands alone as the only PGA TOUR event this week. There was some hope this might lead to a better field than expected back when this was an opposite-field event, but having a date that follows a grueling major championship like last week's U.S. Open certainly seems to have taken its toll on the final list of players participating this week at Corales Golf Club. 

Just one of the top 50 players in the world will be participating (Henrik Stenson) and that player represents just one of two major champions who will be in this week's field. The other major champion also happens to be the defending champion as Graeme McDowell captured his first PGA TOUR title since 2015 with a one-stroke win here last year over Chris Stroud and Mackenzie Hughes. The event last year was played opposite the WGC Dell Match Play Championship and featured a relatively similar field as most of the best players in the world could be found in Austin, TX for that week's more marquee event. 

Nevertheless, the score of 270 (-18) returned by McDowell delivered a badly-needed boost to the former U.S. Open champion's confidence at a much-needed time of struggle. ''This is big. This is big. ... It's been a rough few years,'' McDowell said in the wake of his win. McDowell went on to play much better the rest of 2019 and appears to be on his way back at least to the ranks of your standard PGA TOUR journeyman player.

The favorites this week are some names you may not recognize as Will Zalatoris (+1200) leads the way in the wake of his strong performance at Winged Foot. Mackenzie Hughes (+1400) has been playing strong golf of late as well and he finds himself among the favorites for what is likely one of the first times in his PGA TOUR career. He's joined at the top of the board by fellow Canadian Corey Conners (+1800) who missed the cut at Winged Foot but has otherwise had a very productive post-COVID summer. The defending champion McDowell finds himself among the darker horses (+6600) while PGA TOUR mainstays Charles Howell III (+3300) and Pat Perez (+2800) find themselves among the second-tier favorites.

The Golf Course

Corales Golf Club is located on a beautiful piece of property that sits on the shores of the Caribbean Sea. Predictably, this results in the wind becoming a critical factor in how the golf course plays on a day-to-day basis. This week the winds are not expected to be particularly high (somewhere in the 8-12mph range), but the exposure of the golf course to those winds means that even the slightest breezes will be impactful. It is no surprise that a Northern Irishman like McDowell had success here as growing up playing in the wind should yield anyone in the field an advantage over any fellow competitors not used to having to flight their ball.

The course has four five-par holes and scoring on those will be critical to success this week. The two on the front side are very reachable at yardages of 565 and 515 yards, but the two on the back both top out well above 600 yards and are unlikely to be reachable by anyone but the longest of hitters with the help of cooperative winds. With an expected winning score between 16 and 22 under par, players will have to find some birdies at these holes both with wedges in their hands for third shots at the twelfth and fourteenth holes and fairway woods and long iron seconds into the fourth and seventh.

The seventeenth hole should be another critical test as the 210 yard par-three hole plays to a skinny kidney-shaped green that bends around a bunker and abuts the Caribbean Sea. This hole is as exposed to the wind as any on the property and it usually blows into the players and from the water on the right towards the bunker on the left. Expect a few balls to find their way onto the beach and into the ocean while most players bail out towards the bunker and chipping area to the left of the putting surface. The birdie McDowell made here all but clinched his win last year and gave him the cushion he needed to make a bogey at the last and still win the golf tournament.

Here are our selections for the week:

Group A (Henrik Stenson)

Group B (Mackenzie Hughes)

Group C (Ricky Barnes)

Group D (Ryan Armour)

Group E (Sepp Straka)

Group F (Kiradech Aphibarnrat)