Since we’re all still dealing with a U.S. Open hangover — metaphorical or otherwise — I won’t go too deep here in my Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship preview.
Here’s what you need to know: There’s a very weak field this week, with the likes of Henrik Stenson, Charles Howell III and Graeme McDowell among the biggest names competing. The host course features immensely wide fairways; in fact, you could probably fit about three Winged Foot fairways inside each one of these. And yes, it should play a bit easier than the U.S. Open venue, with each of the two previous PGA TOUR events having a winning score of 18-under and two Korn Ferry tourneys before that getting to at least 20-under.
Oh, and for everyone grousing about last week’s course being too long? Well, this one plays nearly 200 yards longer at 7,670 yards, though it hardly has the same impact.
Let’s get right to the picks, as there should be plenty of value all through this field.
One player to win the tournament.
With finishes of T-7 (Safeway Open) and T-13 (Wyndham Championship) in his last three starts, Burns is trending in the right direction. He was T-12 here a year ago — only a second-round 74 kept him from seriously contending. The LSU product is at the point in his career where he’s ready to pick off a win at an event like this one, so don’t be surprised if this is the week.
Potential selections for one-and-done options.
The “other” Oklahoma State player, Ventura was teammates with Matthew Wolff and Viktor Hovland not that long ago. If for no other reason, he might be worth a play based on motivation alone, but there are indeed other reasons. Since the restart, he owns six finishes of 21st or better in nine starts going back and forth between the PGA TOUR and the Korn Ferry. I like him for outrights, props and, yes, OADs this week.
There’s not much of a sample size, but good putters tend to fare well at this tourney — and nobody rolled it better during the recently completed season than McCarthy. He also started hitting the ball a bit better toward the end of that campaign. He’s by no means a smash play this week, but then again, neither is (almost) anyone else.
One player to finish top-five.
I’ll let it slide if you just scrolled down the page searching for this name. Following his T-6 at the U.S. Open, I was tempted to put the Korn Ferry stud, who’s playing on a sponsor’s exemption this week, as my favorite for the outright win, but I’ll temper expectations just a bit and “only” list him for a top-five. If you didn’t get a chance to watch him play at Winged Foot, check him out this week, because he’s a star in the making.
One player to finish top-10.
I’m gonna be blunt here: Grillo is an underachiever. He owns way more talent than what shows in his results. That might be disappointing for him, but it should excite us, because it means he owns plenty of value. I’ve been waiting a few years for the Argentinian to become a top-50 type of player, but maybe he’s starting to inch his way there. In his last five starts, he owns a pair of top-10s and hasn’t missed a cut.
One player to finish top-20.
I’m gonna warn you: We’re about to get weird with these next three plays, but the makeup of this tourney warrants it. First off is Oppenheim, one of the truly good dudes on the PGA TOUR, who made big news when he contended at the Wyndham, only to post a final-round 72 and fall into a share of 15th place. He’s been hitting it well, though, and tends to play his best golf in weaker fields, so I like the top-20 play with a good price to it.
One player to finish top-30.
Hey, I warned you. It’s not often that I’ll recommend a player who MC’d in eight of his last 10 starts, but Ledesma really hit the ball well during a T-23 in his last event at the Safeway Open, so here’s hoping some of that carries over to this week, as well.
One player to finish top-40.
I mean, at least I’m not giving you chalk, right? Gellerman hasn’t posted a top-40 since the second week of 2020, so this is purely a hunch play. I will say, though, in the limited times I’ve watched him play, I really like his swing and he seems like one of those big dudes with soft hands around the greens.
DFS Free Bingo Square
A safe plug-and-play option for DFS.
This one came down to a pair of Canadian pals, but I’m going with Hughes over Corey Conners in an event that — as I wrote earlier — tends to favor guys who can get hot with the flatstick. As if we needed more evidence, he finished in a share of second place here last year, throwing up a pair of 66s on the weekend. It’s well within reason that he could win this week.
A lower-priced option for DFS.
If Tony Finau is the big-event guy whom I’ve lost the most money betting on over the years, then Uihlein is the small-event guy who must hold that honor. Anytime I see his name in a field like this one, I get sucked in, because I know just how talented he really is. He was T-22 here last year, which gives me a little more hope than usual with him.
One player to post the low score Thursday.
If we’re firing darts this week anyway, might as well try to shoot for the moon. The 18-year-old with four career wins at professional events now has two PGA TOUR starts under his belt and should be ready to post a low one. A weaker field should be the perfect opportunity to take a shot, whether it’s as FRL or for props and DFS lineups.
One player who should beat comparable players.
Sensing a theme here? Bhatia is actually five months older than Kim, so the grizzled veteran should be able to cash us some matchup plays. He might not have been on my radar previously, with a bevy of MCs in a bunch of sponsor’s exemptions, but a T-9 at the Safeway Open — which got him into this week’s field — has me thinking we should make a little Akshay investment before the price gets too high.
The Big Fade
One top player to avoid at this tournament.
Biggest name in the field? Check. Playing like the best player? Not exactly. Stenson has only played three events since the restart and owns a T-35 (in a limited-field, no-cut event) and two missed cuts. It’s certainly within reason that this could be a “get-right” start for him, just as it was for McDowell, who won last year. I don’t see much value in banking on that turnaround, though, so I’d rather fade him instead.