Mayakoba Championship Preview, Picks & Analysis
NORWAY’S Viktor Hovland will attempt to become the first player to successfully defend his title at Mayakoba when he competes against a 132-player field at the World Wide Technology Championship at El Camaleon Golf Course at Mayakoba in Mexico’s Riviera Maya.
Last year, Hovland shot a 6-under-par 65 in the final round that included three birdies in his last six holes, to finish 20-under and separate himself from a crowded leaderboard which included Aaron Wise, Adam Long and past champion Harris English. It was his second PGA Tour victory.
Hovland claims that he suffers from nerves when he is in contention but he looked as cool as a cucumber when winning in 2020.
He saved par with a splendid 40-yard up and down from a waste area on the 16th hole and then drained 12-foot birdie putt on the final hole to beat Wise and win for the second time that year. It was the first time since the Mayakoba Classic began in 2007 that it had been won with a birdie putt on the final hole. For the 23-year-old from Norway, it's becoming old hat. Hovland won the Puerto Rico Open that February for his first PGA Tour title by holing a 30-foot birdie putt on the final hole.
"I was shaking there at the end," Hovland said afterwards. "I thought I lost it after second shot on 16. I made an awesome par there. I knew I had to make birdie on 18."
Wise closed with a 63 and did everything right over the final two holes except make the birdie putts. Tied for the lead, he missed birdie putts from 12 feet on each of the last two holes at El Camaleon Golf Club.
The former NCAA champion at Oregon also was going for his second PGA Tour win, the first one coming at the AT&T Byron Nelson in 2018.
"I played 17 aggressive off the tee. On 18, I hit two great shots," Wise said. "I hit every shot as good as I could hit it. I just couldn't get them to drop."Hovland had four birdies in the opening six holes and built a two-shot lead going into the back nine on a course softened by rain that caused a two-hour delay in the morning.
But he made bogey on the 12th hole, which seemed to create chances for a half-dozen players separated by one shot along the back nine.
Hovland responded with birdies on the next two holes, and he appeared to be in control with a tee shot to four feet on the par-3 15th. But he hit a tentative putt to remain tied with Wise.
Hovland thought he was in big trouble when his long iron on the 515-yard 16th hole sailed hard to the right. It came down in the waste area a few feet from the hazard, and he hit a superb sand shot to four feet to save par.
Starting his second season on the PGA Tour after a stellar college career at Oklahoma State, Hovland finished at 20-under 264 and moved to 15th in the world rankings.
This year he will face a tough challenge from home favourite Abraham Ancer, who claimed his first PGA Tour victory in August when he won the WGC–FedEx St. Jude Invitational. Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell and Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz are also both in the field.
“Since winning here last year, Viktor has had a wonderful season and has developed into one of the best young players in the world,” said Tournament Director Joe Mazzeo. “We are so proud of him and the way he has represented our event. It is exciting to have him and our friends Abraham, Carlos and Graeme already confirmed. As we prepare to welcome World Wide Technology in their first year as Title Sponsor, we are confident our field of players will be stronger than ever and we look forward to many additional exciting player commitments coming soon.”
Justin Thomas is likely to start as favourite and will be joined by Tony Finau, Tyrrell Hatton and Billy Horschel.
Additionally, European stars Matt Fitzpatrick, Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson will make their tournament debut as they tee it up at Mayakoba for the first time. Dynamic young American stars Matthew Wolff and Will Zalatoris will also compete with Wolff making his tournament debut as well.
“This field is so exciting,” said Mazzeo. “With such a compelling mix of highly-ranked stars, both veteran and youth, it shapes up to be our best field ever. Beyond just being great players, there are some truly incredible personalities who will make for a fun and thrilling competition. It’s a wonderful way to welcome our new Title Sponsor World Wide Technology and showcase what many in the game of golf have known for a long time now—that Mayakoba and this tournament are truly special.”
Other top names also confirmed to compete include Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker, Gary Woodland, Italy’s Francesco Molinari and England’s Danny Willett and Ian Poulter as well as South Africans Christiaan Bezuidenhout and Garrick Higgo.
McDowell is among the past champions who are confirmed to return in 2021 along with Brian Gay (2008), John Huh (2012), Charley Hoffman (2014), Pat Perez (2016), Patton Kizzire (2017), Matt Kuchar (2018), Brendon Todd (2019) and Hovland.
It was won in 2015 by Graeme McDowell, in 2016 by Pat Perez, in 2017 by Patton Kizzire, in 2018 by Matt Kuchar, in 2019 by Brendon Todd and last year by Viktor Hovland
El Camaleon was designed by Greg Norman and measures just 7,000 yards. It features lots of trees and mangroves, a huge amount of water and a host of bunkers. Expect to see some very low scoring
Viktor Hovland goes from strength to strength and has become on the most consistent golfers on the planet, grinding out top-10 finishes for fun. He already has two PGA Tour titles to his credit and will fancy his chances of a successful title defence. Consistency is also the watchword for Justin Thomas, who finished in a tie for 18th place in the CJ Cup. It is a measure of his standing in the game that last season was seen as a disappointment despite one victory, a runner-up finish, a third place and seven top-10 finishes. Keep an eye on a resurgent Rickie Fowler, who finished third behind Rory McIlroy in Las Vegas and is beginning to look like the player we all know him to be.
Viktor Hovland. Wonderful temperament
Justin Thomas. Looking for a big start to the new season
Rickie Fowler. Showing welcome signs of life
Player to Follow:
Viktor Hovland. Nothing ruffles his feathers
Justin Thomas. Brilliant ball striker
Rickie Fowler. Back to his best - almost
Christiaan Bezuidenhout. Maiden PGA Tour win can’t be long in coming
Five Outsiders to Watch:
Camillo Villegas. Looking for a way back
Emiliano Grillo. At his best can beat anybody
Carlos Ortiz.. Looking for a big week on home soil
Jhonattan Vegas. Showing flashes of good form
Brendon Todd. Former winner
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