Best bets for PGA's WGC-Workday Championship

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Max Homa prevailed on the second playoff hole over Tony Finau to win the Genesis Invitational on Sunday as Finau again fell short in his bid for his second PGA Tour victory. Homa triumphed at a price of 70-1, and the win allowed him entry into this week's WGC event, where he is priced at 60-1. Finau, slotted at 20-1, is hoping to break his winless streak of 127 events, which includes eight runner-up finishes and 37 top-10s. All of the OWGR Top 50 are participating this week except Tiger Woods and Paul Casey. World No. 1 Dustin Johnson (13-2) headlines the field along with World No. 2 Jon Rahm (9-1). Xander Schauffele (15-1), Rory McIlroy (16-1), Justin Thomas (16-1), Bryson DeChambeau (20-1) and Patrick Cantlay (20-1) also feature in this field.  

THE EVENT

The WGC-Mexico Championship has been relocated to Florida this year — and is called the WGC- Workday Championship — because of COVID-19 concerns in Mexico. The event began in 1999 as the WGC-American Express Championship and was played at multiple sites around the world. The tournament found a permanent home in Miami at the Doral Golf Resort from 2007-16. In late 2016, Cadillac elected not to renew its sponsorship, and the event moved to Mexico starting in 2017. 

The move to Mexico seemed twofold: 1) There has been long-standing criticism that not enough World Golf Championships were being held outside of the United States, and 2) The Doral Golf Resort became Trump National Doral in 2012 when it was purchased by Donald Trump before he became president, and the PGA Tour and sponsors seemingly wanted to avoid controversy and skirt any association with politics. The field is made up of 72 players and is a no-cut event. The makeup for the field is as follows: 

* Top 50 players from the Official World Golf Ranking 

* Top players from member tours' money lists or orders of merit (from last complete season)  

* Top 30 PGA Tour FedEx Cup list (also top 10 from one week before event) 

* Top 20 European Tour (also top 10 from two weeks before event) 

* Top 2 each from Asian Tour, Japan Golf Tour, PGA Tour of Australasia and Sunshine Tour 

* The highest-ranked available player from Mexico in the Official World Golf Ranking (two weeks before event) 

* Alternates to fill field of 72 from the Official World Golf Ranking (one week before event) 

THE COURSE

The Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla., will play host this week. Concession opened in 2006 and was designed as a Jack Nicklaus and Tony Jacklin collaboration. The course takes its name from the famous three-foot putt "concession" that Nicklaus made to Jacklin on the 18th hole at Royal Birkdale at the 1969 Ryder Cup, ensuring the first tie in Ryder Cup history. Concession is a par-72 of 7,494 yards, so some power will be required off the tee. The parklands layout has generous fairways, but as typical for Nicklaus designs, it is a second-shot golf course. Water will be in play on 12 holes, and there are 73 bunkers. TifEagle Bermudagrass is used on the entire layout, including on the greens, which are about 6,000 square feet on average and roll relatively fast (12 stimpmeter). The greens are also multi-tiered with multiple slopes and undulations.  

Here are some other Jack Nicklaus designs that have been featured on the PGA Tour in recent years and players in this week's field who have won on these courses: 

Annandale Golf Club: Sanderson Farms Championship through 2013 

Glen Abbey: RBC Canadian Open, 2008, 2013, 2015-2018 (Jason Day 2015; Dustin Johnson 2018) 

Montreux Golf & Country Club: Barracuda Championship through 2019 (Gary Woodland 2013; Collin Morikawa 2019) 

Muirfield Village: Memorial Tournament (Jon Rahm 2020; Patrick Cantlay 2019; Bryson DeChambeau 2018; Hideki Matsuyama 2014; Matt Kuchar 2013; Justin Rose 2010) 

Old Greenwood GC: Barracuda Championship 2020 

PGA National: Honda Classic (Sungjae Im 2020; Justin Thomas 2018; Adam Scott 2016; Rory McIlroy 2012) 

PGA West – Nicklaus Private: Humana Challenge through 2015 

PGA West: The American Express through 2016 (Patrick Reed 2014) 

Sherwood Country Club – Thousand Oaks: World Challenge through 2013; Zozo Championship 2020 (Patrick Cantlay 2020) 

Valhalla Golf Club: 2014 PGA Championship (Rory McIlroy) 

Also of note: While Concession has never hosted a PGA Tour event, it did serve as the venue for the 2015 NCAA championship. DeChambeau won that event and Thomas Detry finished tied for third. 

RECENT HISTORY/WINNERS

WGC Mexico Championship (Chapultepec) 

2020: Patrick Reed, 50-1 

2019: Dustin Johnson, 11-1 

2018: Phil Mickelson, 25-1* 

2017: Dustin Johnson, 7-1 

WGC Cadillac Championship (Doral)   

2016: Adam Scott, 12-1 

2015: Dustin Johnson, 22-1 

2014: Patrick Reed, 80-1 

2013: Tiger Woods, 12-1 

2012: Justin Rose, 66-1 

2011: Nick Watney, 20-1 

2010: Ernie Els, 40-1 

* playoff win over Justin Thomas 

TRENDS AND ANGLES

14 of the last 18 WGC event winners were at prices of 25-1 or shorter.  

Last time a player outside the OWGR Top 20 won a WGC stroke-play event was Phil Mickelson at 2018 WGC Mexico.

Dating to 2010, all winners of this event had posted a top-10 or better finish in one of their previous five worldwide starts. 

Dating to 2013, all winners of this event had posted either a win or a runner-up in one of their previous worldwide starts. 

STATS

As mentioned above, this is a second-shot golf course. While we do not have any course form at Concession, Strokes Gained: Approach would seem to be a significant stat.  

Here are the SG: Approach leaders over the last 50 rounds: 

Collin Morikawa 46.5 total strokes gained 

Dustin Johnson 46.2 

Justin Thomas 44.9 

Matthew Wolff 35.9 

Tyrrell Hatton 32.9 

Tony Finau 32.2 

Lanto Griffin 26.8 

Will Zalatoris 26.6 

Jon Rahm 24.5 

Kevin Kisner 24.3 

The contours of the greens will likely see some balls roll off the putting surface and some of the longer par-5s and the close to drivable par-4s will force some short pitch and chip shots around the greens. 

Here are the SG: Around the Green leaders over the last 50 rounds: 

Xander Schauffele 22.3 total strokes gained 

Jason Day 18.8  

Patrick Cantlay 18.0 

Justin Thomas 17.8 

Carlos Ortiz 16.1 

Jon Rahm 15.9 

Harris English 15.9 

Webb Simpson 15.4 

Brendon Todd 15.3 

Bernd Wiesberger 15.3 

SELECTIONS

Jon Rahm 9-1 

Rahm shot 66 on Sunday at Riviera to backdoor a top-5 finish. Despite the slow start, he finished fourth in the field for SG: Tee-to-Green, seventh for SG: Off-the-Tee and eighth for SG: Approach. 

This week could be eerily reminiscent of last year at the Workday Championship, when Rahm finished T-27 but found something in his Sunday final round to carry over the following week and won the Memorial Tournament, on a Nicklaus design at Muirfield Village.  

Rahm ranks top 5 or better over the last 50 rounds for the following: SG: Tee-to-Green, SG: Ball Striking (Off-the-Tee +  Approach), SG: Total, SG: Off-the-Tee and SG: Around the Green.  

Rory McIlroy 17-1 

McIlroy, like Thomas and DeChambeau, missed the cut badly at Riviera last weekend, ending a cuts-made streak dating to 2019 at Royal Portrush. He has never been that great in the Golden State, save for a 2015 WGC Match Play win at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco, but now he returns to friendlier territory in the Sunshine State, where he has wins at the Players, Bay Hill and at the Honda Classic on a Nicklaus-designed PGA National.  

Nevertheless, McIlroy has two wins in four starts over the past three seasons playing the week after he missed the cut.  

He was awful with the putter last week and lost six strokes over two rounds either on or around the greens. Returning to Florida should cure those ills. McIlroy ranks fifth among all PGA Tour players over the past five years for SG: Total per round on the Florida swing (1.92 per round) 

Patrick Cantlay 20-1 

Cantlay usually skips much of the Florida swing but comes here for the WGC event played on a Nicklaus-designed layout. He won the Zozo Championship last fall at Sherwood and is a former champion at the Memorial Tournament, both on Nicklaus courses.

He fell to a T-15 on Sunday at Riviera but was in contention for three rounds.  

Only Adam Scott and Matt Kuchar, both not in the best of current form, rank ahead of Cantlay for SG: Total on Nicklaus designs over the course of the last 50 rounds.  

Viktor Hovland 23-1 

Hovland is not defending his Puerto Rico Open title this week because he is here this week against the world's elite, and the No. 14 player in the world is showing that he very much belongs.  

Over his last three starts, Hovland finished T-2 in San Diego, sixth in Saudi Arabia and T-5 last week in Los Angeles and ranked first in the field at Riviera for SG: Off-the-Tee. 

Sungjae Im 40-1 

Im took the last two weeks off after finishing T-17 in Phoenix. Now he returns to Florida on the Bermuda greens, where he is at his best.  

Im has been Mr. Florida over the past couple of seasons. Here is his form over the last two seasons: 

2018-2019  

Honda Classic 51st 

Arnold Palmer Invitational 3rd 

Players Championship MC 

Valspar Championship 4th 

2019-2020

Honda Classic WIN 

Arnold Palmer Invitational 3rd 

Cameron Smith 60-1 

Smith finished fourth last week at Riviera where he ranked 2nd for SG: Tee-to-Green, 10th for SG: Approach and 13th for SG: Off-the-Tee.  

The Aussie tends to follow up good finishes with more good finishes. Last fall, he finished fourth at the Zozo at Sherwood, a Nicklaus design, then followed it up with a T-2 at the Masters. In 2019, he closed the year with a T-10 at the Australian PGA Championship, then opened 2020 with a win at the Sony Open in Hawaii.  

Puerto Rico Open

The Puerto Rico Open takes its customary spot opposite a WGC event this week. Last year, Viktor Hovland, then ranked 100th in the world, earned his first PGA Tour win here and started his ascension up the OWGR. This year, a few Europeans make the trip because there’s no European Tour event on the schedule this week. Matt Wallace, Ian Poulter and Thomas Pieters (all priced at 16-1) are hoping for a win or at least a high-end finish to work their way into the OWGR Top 50. Wallace and Poulter are just outside that number but already have Masters invitations, while Pieters, ranked No. 74, is still on the outside looking in. Emiliano Grillo (18-1) is in a similar boat, but he arguably has the most proven event form this week with a T-3 here last year and a runner-up in 2015. Byeong-Hun An and Branden Grace (both 20-1) are also here seeking career jump-starts.  

THE EVENT

The Puerto Rico Open began as an alternate tour event in 2008 and has maintained that status since. From 2008-15, this event was opposite the WGC event at Doral before going opposite of the WGC-Dell Match Play in 2016 and 2017. This year will be its second as the alternate tournament for the WGC Mexico. There was no event in 2018 because of Hurricane Maria, so a Puerto Rico Open Charity Day one-day event was held in its place.  

THE COURSE

The Grand Reserve Country Club in Rio Grande, on the northern coast of Puerto Rico and about a 40-mile drive northeast of San Juan, has hosted the Puerto Rico Open since its inception in 2008. The course is a typical coastal resort track that was designed by Tom Kite in 2004. It is a par-72 of 7,506 yards and is an exposed parklands that can be susceptible to windy conditions. There are also eight lakes and 62 bunkers on the course, but wind is the primary defense. The fairways and greens are both Paspalum, and those greens are relatively large (6,500 square feet) and slow (10.5 stimpmeter).  

RECENT HISTORY/WINNERS

2020: Viktor Hovland (-20/268), 12-1 

2019: Martin Trainer (-15/273), 125-1 

2018: No Tournament due to Hurricane Maria 

2017: D.A. Points (-20/268), 175-1 

2016: Tony Finau (-12/276), 50-1* 

2015: Alex Cejka (-7/281), 125-1** 

2014: Chesson Hadley (-21/267), 50-1 

2013: Scott Brown (-20/268), 50-1 

2012: George McNeill (-16/272), 55-1 

2011: Michael Bradley (-16/272), 135-1*** 

2010: Derek Lamely (-19/269), 110-1 

* playoff win over Steve Marino

** playoff win over Jon Curran, Emiliano Grillo, Tim Petrovic and Sam Saunders 

*** playoff win over Troy Matteson

SELECTIONS 

Branden Grace 20-1 

Grace returned to action at Pebble Beach two weeks ago after his father's death and posted a respectable 34th.  

He was T-20 last weekend at Riviera, where he was 14th in SG: Tee-to-Green and 12th for SG: Approach.  

Will Gordon 45-1 

Gordon earned PGA Tour Special Temporary Membership last summer with several strong finishes. Now he has full PGA Tour status but currently sits outside the FedEx Cup Top 125, so this week could be a big opportunity to gain in the standings.  

His 66 on Thursday at Spyglass Hill was the best round in the Pebble Beach field. Gordon ranks ninth on the PGA Tour for Driving Distance. 

Davis Riley 57-1 

Riley regularly plays on the Korn Ferry Tour and won twice there in 2020 and is one win away from the "battlefield promotion," which is an immediate promotion to the PGA Tour.  

He can bypass that with a win on the PGA Tour this week.  

Scott Brown 70-1 

Alternate events are basically a crapshoot, so course form tends to be tough to find and even slightly overrated, but no player in this field has the history here that Brown has.  

Brown is a former winner here (2013) and has two top-5s and five top-10s while never missing a cut. He has a great history on coastal courses and posted a solid T-30 at Pebble Beach two weeks ago. 

Anirban Lahiri 70-1 

Lahiri has shown good recent form on courses with Paspalum surfaces with finishes of sixth at the Corales Puntacana and 11th in Bermuda. He also has finishes of 10th and 14th at Mayakoba in recent years.  

Furthermore, he posted back-to-back top-10s at the former CIMB Classic held in Malaysia also on Paspalum surfaces.  

Rafael Campos 200-1 

Puerto Rico native Campos had missed four straight cuts on the PGA Tour to start 2021, but he finished T-7 last week at the Lecom Suncoast Classic on the Korn Ferry Tour. 

Campos can at least bring some confidence here off that finish and he does have two top-10 finishes in this event.  

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