Damien Kayat previews Corales Puntecana Championship taking place at The Corales Puntecana Resort and Club Championship, Corales Golf Club, Punte Cana, Dominican Republic.
Image Copyright – Steve Haag Sports
2021 US PGA Tour
Corales Puntecana Championship
The Corales Puntecana Resort and Club Championship, Corales Golf Club, Punte Cana, Dominican Republic
Obviously, most eyes will be fixed on the golfing elite in Texas this week, with 64 of the best players teeing it up at the WGC Match-Play in Austin. This will clearly give some of the bridesmaids on tour a chance to pick up a rare victory. It also gives you the chance to back favourites at higher than 10/1. This will be the 2nd edition of this event in seven months, with last year’s event manoeuvred to September due to the pandemic. This will be the 4th year that this event is staged as a full US PGA event (the two previous editions had been Korn Ferry events). Past evidence has taught us that it is crucial to go super-low around Corales.
The Tom Fazio designed Corales Course is set among natural cliffs and gorgeous ocean coves (haven’t you noticed that these alternate events have some of the most breath-taking features). Six holes run adjacent to the Caribbean, culminating in the dramatic finishing stretch known as the ‘Devils Elbow’. This very long Paspalum Course has wide, generous fairways and slow greens. Despite its length, this is an easy course for tour professionals. Just look at the winning scores over the past five years. Three players shot 10-under 62’s in the inaugural edition of this event. This should boil down to something of a putting contest. One should also look at the other similar, wind-affected courses on tour. Venues such as El Camaleon and Waialae are useful corollaries.
Charley Hoffman has been in resurgent form, with three top 17 finishes in his last four starts. That probably makes him the form dog, despite Pieters’ starting odds. Defending champion Hudson Swafford has been fairly dreadful since claiming the title in September (he’s been cut in his last five starts). Jhonattan Vegas is always one to watch in these ultra-low scoring affairs. Of particular interest to me this week is the presence of Ryder Cup Captain Padraig Harrington in the field. That will give added motivation (or pressure) to the bevy of talented European players in the field. The likes of Pieters, Willett and Detry will be desperate to perform this week.
2020: Hudson Swafford (-18)
2019: Graeme McDowell (-18)
2018: Brice Garnett (-18)
2017: Nate Lashley (-20) – as Korn Ferry event
2016: Dominic Bozzelli (-24) – as Korn Ferry event
Outright Betting (To Win)
Thomas Pieters (16/1)
Charley Hoffman (18/1)
Emiliano Grillo (22/1)
Jhonattan Vegas (25/1)
Thomas Detry (25/1)
Charles Howell III- To Win (45/1), To Place (19/2)
Howell managed to extricate a huge monkey off his back in 2018, winning his first title in 11 years at the RSM Classic. This week he could ensure that the next wait isn’t nearly as long. A top 10 machine, Howell III hasn’t been lighting it up of late. He followed three successive missed cuts with a 36th place at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Of more encouragement was his performance at the elite field at Sawgrass. He finished 9th after carding a closing 66 (that equalled the best of all Sunday players). Howell missed the cut here in September despite an opening 69. I think this could be a huge week for the usually metronomic Howell III.
Brice Garnett- To Win (45/1), To Place (19/1)
I’m opting for the man who one the inaugural PGA Tour staging of this event: Brice Garnett. Garnett is a guy who always seems to play his best golf on these coastal courses. He has a 5th, 6th and 7th at El Camaleon. He also has finishes of 11th and 17th at Harbour Town. He was also 5th four weeks back at Grand Reserve Country Club. He tends to enjoy the wind and Paspalum (there should be some fairly stern warm winds this week). He finished in an encouraging 25th at last week’s Honda Classic and his tee-to-green game is finally starting to look half-decent.
The Man to Beat
The Man to Beat- Nate Lashley- To Win (33/1), To Place (7/1)
I’m opting for a man with excellent experience at this course. Nate Lashley won this event when it was last staged as a Korn Ferry event in 2017. He did this with an impressive score of -20. He also manged to pick up a 4th place in September with a much stronger field. Lashley was recently in contention in a much stronger field. Four starts ago, at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, he was bang in contention going into the 70th hole. An untimely triple bogey managed to relegate him to 5th in that event. He should thrive in this field on a course he loves.