Punter’s pointers: A strong field at this week’s World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba

The popular El Camaleon course at the Mayakoba Resort welcomes probably the best field in its 15 years on the PGA TOUR schedule.

When it first appeared on the PGA Tour schedule El Camaleon hosted an opposite field event early in the year, up against the WGC Match Play.

It meant the field was necessarily weak.

However, it was also quickly apparent that this was a lovely track that called on skill sets that would permit punters to feel they had a good grasp of the likely winner.

It's a blustery venue, it calls for smart decisions and execution from tee to green, and the grainy greens need a shrewd eye and a solid technique.

It was quickly apparent that golfers who thrived at Harbour Town and Waialae would also enjoy El Camaleon.

It didn't take long for the event to be pushed into the Fall section of the new schedule and with it came a modicum of added prestige.

But this week's field is undoubtedly the finest it has been able to boast.

Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Brooks KoepkaScottie Scheffler and Patrick Reed are all top class.

Abraham Ancer leads the home charge.

And Tyrrell Hatton, Viktor Hovland, Justin Rose, Sergio GarciaShane Lowry and Ian Poulter add real European strength.

It makes for an intriguing prospect. What was very much a specialist's event - helped by the lack of top class firepower - might now by vulnerable to the big guns.

Or will they be tripped up by the mangroves, caves and jungle that lines the El Camaleon fairways?

Let's take a closer look.

Pointers from the top of the market

So many of those high class stars are yet to be tested at El Camaleon - or, at least, have limited experience of the test.

Of those in the latter category, Hovland is the defending champion (after two missed cuts), Thomas has played twice (both top 25), Koepka is 0-for-2, Reed and Poulter missed the cut in their only start, Scheffler landed T18th in his only appearance, Finau has two top 10s from five visits, and Ancer has finished top 25 in his last four starts with two top 10s.

Reed raced home last week for tied second - that bodes well.

But what of those new to El Camaleon? Are their Waialae/Harbour Town records any help?

Rose has a solid record at both and was second the last time he played Waialae, Garcia has a patchy record at both tracks, Hatton has been a 54 hole leader at Harbour Town when finishing third, and Lowry was a halfway leader at the same course in 2019, also finishing third, and he was also ninth there earlier this year.

Lowry might have good memories in his mind this week too because the European Tour is playing the Portugal Masters, an event he won in 2012.

The Paspalum factor

The greens at El Camaleon feature a special grass that can be irrigated with sea water. On the one hand it is environmentally friendly (the use of pesticides and fresh water in seaside courses is proven to be devastating to local nature).

On the other, it provides a distinct test for the golfers. Vaughn Taylor said of it: "The grass is different. It's grainy. If you haven't been on it before, you might be a little confused."

It's one reason why course form tends to be a strong factor this week. Also take into account results at Corales Puntacana and also at Kiawah Island in this year's PGA Championship - both tracks have Paspalum on the greens.

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Billy Horschel finished T23rd at Kiawah ranking seventh for Strokes Gained Putting and he also has an excellent El Camaleon record.

He's made the cut in five of his six visits, always landed a top 30 when he's made the weekend, was eighth in his penultimate start and fifth last year when closing with rounds of 65-64.

He's had a fine 2021 with a first and second in the World Golf Championship events, was the seventh low-scorer in the 2020/21 season-ending Tour Championship, and then won the European Tour's BMW PGA Championship.

Also, consider Joel Dahmen. He finished top 15 three times at Corales ahead of this year's event, which he won.

He was last seen at the Shriners Children's Open when he closed out with a 64.

And he's never missed a cut in four trips to El Camaleon, including sixth in 2019 and T20th last year when fifth at halfway.

The perfect primer?

Last week's event in Bermuda was won by Lucas Herbert. The Aussie is a different golfer to the two previous winners at Port Royal - he's younger and more dynamic in approach - but he is also another wind specialist (he's performed well on the linksland and won the Dubai Desert Classic in a gale).

Those first two winners, Brendon Todd and Brian Gay, have both won at El Camaleon and it makes sense given that similar skill sets are required: accuracy from tee to green, ability to play in the wind, strong putting on grainy greens.

Todd even won at Port Royal and El Camaleon in back-to-back starts.

Herbert will attempt to emulate him this week, but can anyone else thrive off the Bermuda primer?

Danny Lee made a terrible mess of three holes early in the back nine last week before bouncing back to claim tied second. Can he use that lesson to his advantage?

He was very confident of the state of his game in Bermuda and should be quite content to be heading to Mexico next - he finished third at El Camaleon in 2014 and second in 2018.

Russell Knox got the wrong end of the Thursday weather last week before three good rounds allowed him to land a third top 20 in Bermuda.

Now he, too, returns to another happy hunting ground.

He's 8-for-8 at making the cut at Mayakoba with three top 10s including back-to-back play-off defeat and third in 2015 and 2016.

READ MORE: 3-2-1: European Tour's seasonal finale and card chase begins at this week's Portugal Masters

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