Mayakoba Golf Classic Preview, Picks & Analysis
IT IS clear that Jordan Spieth is determined that there will be no repetition of the 2017-18 season when he failed to win a tournament and missed out on the Tour Championship - two events that would have been considered unthinkable at the beginning of the season. Having already played in the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, Spieth has also confirmed his participation in the Mayakoba Golf Classic at El Camaleon Golf Club in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
“It is very exciting for everyone involved with the tournament to welcome Jordan, who is an outstanding young player and a tremendous ambassador for the game of golf globally,” said Joe Mazzeo, the Mayakoba Golf Classic's tournament director.
The Shriners was Spieth’s first fall start in three years and his first in the United States. Three consecutive starts at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions (2013-15) were his only previous experience during the early portion of the PGA Tour schedule.
He finished 31st in last season’s FedEx Cup; by most people’s standards, that would represent a decent campaign, but Spieth is not most people. Apart from The Masters, where he finished just behind Patrick Reed, there was little for his fans to cheer. He will, however, hope that history repeats itself. The last time Spieth went through a season without a victory was 2014, but he bounced back to the FedEx Cup the following year. This has also been a significant time of year for him in the past. In 2014, he followed his winless PGA Tour campaign with victories at the Australian Open and Hero World Challenge that set the stage for his historic 2015 season. He also won the 2016 Australian Open.
There is a determination about the young American that could be ominous for his rivals in the weeks and months ahead - especially if he can rediscover that wondrous putting touch.
Incredibly, Tony Finau is also in the field. There will surely come a point when the big-hitting American falls over with exhaustion, such is the amount of golf that he has played in 2018. It is not just the number of tournaments but the amount of travel he has undertaken in search of a victory that he deserves more than any other player on the PGA Tour. He seems to have taken over the mantle from Matt Kuchar as the tour’s top-10 machine.
In the 2017-18 season, Finau played on 28 tournaments (most top players keep their schedule to 20-22 events). On top of that was the Ryder Cup and he has already finished second in China in the WGC HSBC Champions in China. On and on he goes, like a machine. Finau insists that he needs to play lots of golf to maintain his best form, but you can’t help but wonder if he might benefit from having a little more down time. He would point to the $5.6m in prize money, the fact that he was one of the few successes in the American Ryder Cup team, the six top-five finishes (seven if you count China), 12 top-10 finishes, 19 top-25 finishes and just three missed cuts as proof that what he is doing is working. But he did manage to get through the entire campaign without the victory his play deserved. And it is hard not to draw comparisons with Kuchar - another golfer who has churned out top-10 finishes for fun, has played in more tournaments than most and who has won far fewer tournaments than he should have done.
And now compare him with Rickie Fowler, who is also in the field this week. Fowler played in just 20 tournaments in 2017-18 and achieved almost as many top-10 finishes and won almost as much money. Yes, he failed to turned any of his great play into a victories, but that is a one-off. Fowler is a winner who, like Spieth, had a season where he failed to lift a trophy. It happens. It happened to Jack Nicklaus. It happened to Tom Watson. It has happened to Rory McIlroy.
If you sit Fowler down and ask him why he only plays 20 tournaments a year he will give you exactly the same answer as Finau, namely that he feels it is the way he produces his best form on a consistent basis. And if you take a look at Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods when they were in their prime, they played far fewer tournaments than their rivals. But they chose the right tournaments, the ones with the strongest fields, played on the toughest courses and, of course, the ones that were staged in the lead-up to the sport’s four majors. Their entire seasons, indeed their whole careers, were built around arriving at The Masters, US Open, Open and US PGA Championship in peak condition and with their games as sharp as they could possibly be.
Nobody is suggesting for one minute that Fowler is in the same league as Nicklaus and/or Woods because he patently is not, but he has looked at the way those two great champions went about their business and clearly believes it is the best approach for him to take. Spieth has also been a player who has been pretty picky about the tournaments in which he chooses to play - until now. It will be fascinating to see how it all pans out for Spieth, a man who looked to have the world in his hands but who must now be having his own doubts about whether he can recapture the form that saw him win The Masters, US Open and The Open.
It was won in 2011 by Johnson wagner, in 2012 by John Huh, in 2013 by Harris English, in 2014 by Charley Hoffman, in 2015 by Graeme McDowell, in 2016 by Pat Perez and last year by Patton Kizzire
Jordan Spieth. Desperate for a victory
Zach Johnson. Course is made for him
Tony Finau. Deserves a win
Jordan Spieth. If he putts well he wins
Zach Johnson. Straight and true
Tony Finau. Must be shattered, but it doesn't show
Cameron Champ. Has made a storming start to his PGA Tour career
Brosnon Burgoon. His time will come - and soon
Rickie Fowler. Looking to redisocver his best form
Gary Woodland. Could tear this place to shreds
Bill Horschel. Hugely underrated
Ryan Moore. Another who should love this course
Kevin Kisner. Has gone strangely quiet
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