OHL Classic at Mayakoba Preview, Picks & Analysis
THE PGA Tour has come a long way since the OHL Classic at Mayakoba was first staged in Mexico in 2007 - literally and metaphorically. Back then just three tournaments were played outside of the USA - The Open, the Canadian Open and the OHL Classic.
Since then, its tentacles have spread ever wider, taking in such countries as China, Puerto Rico, South Korea, Malaysia and the Dominican Republic. Back in 2007, the OHL Classic was won by Fred Funk who, at the age of 50 years, eight months and 11 days became the oldest winner on the PGA Tour. It was won in 2010 by Cameron Beckman, in 2011 by Johnson Wagner, in 2012 by John Huh, in 2014 by Harris English (when its place in the calendar moved), in 2015 by Graeme McDowell and last year by Pat Perez.
There have been some great stories over the years, but none more so than that first staging, when Funk's historic victory was watched by an astonishing TV audience of 500 million. When the tournament celebrated its 10-year anniversary last year it was won by Perez, for whom it was a highly emotional victory. He had undergone serious shoulder surgery and at one point questioned whether he would ever again be able to play competitive golf.
“This one was a little extra special because I’m 40 years old,” said Perez. “It’s really, it's really fulfilling. It feels amazing. It feels better than the last one because everything I had to go through.” Perez has since enjoyed the best 12 months of his professional career.
Another tremendous story came in 2015, with former US Open champion Graeme McDowell claiming his third PGA TOUR title, having gone more than two years since his last win at the 2013 RBC Heritage. “I dreamed of this day coming again sometime,” McDowell said following his playoff victory. “I said to myself that I was really going to appreciate it and I do appreciate it. I’m certainly going to use it as a bit of a springboard and a stepping block to where I want to be in this game again.”
The PGA Tour’s intention with the OHL Classic was to help grow the game in Mexico and beyond by showcasing the world’s top golfers. It has always been an easy sell to the players - the Mayakoba Resort, a luxury resort along the Caribbean coastline in Riviera Maya is a stunning venue and the Greg Norman-designed course is truly stunning.
Since 2007, the passion for golf in Mexico has continued to grow, and the country now stages the WGC-Mexico Championship, won earlier this year by Dustin Johnson.
“One of the things that's so exciting about being here is the long?term commitment to grow this game in Mexico,” said PGA TOUR Commissioner Jay Monahan. “We have nine million people here in Mexico City. The PGA Tour has 10 million fans throughout Mexico.”
Since 1994, Mexico has hosted more than 70 tournaments on professional golf tours, including four World Cups. It has produced more than 20 professionals currently competing full-time on the PGA Tour, Champions Tour, Web.com Tour, PGA Tour Latinoamérica and the LPGA. Included on that list are Roberto Diaz, Sebastián Vázquez, Carlos Ortiz, Abraham Ancer, Rodolfo Cazaubon, and LPGA members Gaby Lopez and Alejandra Llaneza. Lopez and Llaneza represented Mexico at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, while Ortiz and Cazaubon competed for the men.
So the thing you can't help but notice about the list of previous winners is that with the possible exception of Harris English, none of them could possibly be described as bombers.
So, who is going to win this year?
Perez is riding the crest of wave, with two victories in lass than a year and a Presidents Cup appearance to his credit. He should have achieved more in his career than he has to date and has always been his own worst enemy. To describe his temper as volcanic is something of an understatement but he has finally woken up to the fact that it has been self-destructive. Over the years he has upset fellow players and spectators alike with his childish behaviour and temper tantrums, but he has at last realised that everybody who plays this game suffers bad breaks.
Perez has found a way to just get on with it and eliminate the black moods that held him back for so long and he will be keen to get back to Mexico and draw on the positive memories of his two-shot victory of 12 months ago.
The course is made for Zach Johnson, the 2015 Open champion. Johnson hits the ball straight - really straight. He doesn't miss fairways, and that makes it an easy game for him. The feature of his victory at St Andrews in 2015 was his laser-like iron play and if he can reproduce that in Mexico and hole a few putts he will be extremely difficult to beat.
The highest ranking player in the field is Rickie Fowler, a man who will have looked on with some jealousy as young guns Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka enjoyed major success this year. Fowler has no weaknesses and it is surely only a matter of time before he finally lands that elusive first major.
Fowler is renowned for his ball striking, which is always of the very highest order. He is also a magnificent bunker player and one of the best clutch putters in the game.
Rickie Fowler. Class act
Pat Perez. Great memories
Zach Johnson. Course is made for him
Rickie Fowler. Has no weaknesses
Pat Perez. Full of confidence
Zach Johnson. It all depends on his putting
Patrick Reed. Fiery character, desperate for another win
Stewart Cink. Finding his best form again
Charley Hoffman. Underrated
Jhonattan Vegas. Big hitter
Bryson DeChambeau. Does it his own way
Charles Howell III. Money-making machine
Russell Knox. Played well here 12 months ago
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