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Jon Rahm makes his debut and is the favorite
Tyrrell Hatton has joined the PGA Tour exodus
Course specialist Charles Howell III is the defending champion
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This week will offer many clues as to the future of world golf.
When LIV Golf was introduced in 2022 it created a lot of noise in the sport and yet the product didn’t quite live up to the billing.
In 2023 that was less the case. Brooks Koepka rode the wave of his LIV Orlando win to fuel a tilt at Masters glory followed by victory in the PGA Championship, Bryson DeChambeau rediscovered his very best form, and the year ended with the shock signing of the former World No. 1 Jon Rahm of Spain.
A two-time major championship winner, the reigning Masters champion, and a Ryder Cup hero, Rahm had previously rejected LIV overtures so his change of heart proved controversial.
But it is an undoubted coup for the rebels and will earn them extra attention this week, as will news that his European Ryder Cup team-mate has joined him.
Expect lots of noise both on the course and on social media - LIV Golf will be going all-out to maximize their new stars.
Who will take the honors this week? Let’s find out.
|Champion and Winning Score
|Charles Howell III (U.S.A.) -17
|Russell Henley (U.S.A.) -23
|Viktor Hovland (Norway) -23
|Viktor Hovland (Norway) -20
|Brendon Todd (U.S.A.) -20
|Matt Kuchar (U.S.A.) -22
|Patton Kizzire (U.S.A.) -19
|Pat Perez (U.S.A.) -21
|Graeme McDowell (Northern Ireland) -18 (Playoff)
|Charley Hoffman (U.S.A.) -17
The course is a par 71 that plays to 7,116 yards
It was designed by LIV Commissioner Greg Norman
It is a tight layout lined by mangroves, caves, and water hazards
It sits by the ocean and blustery sea breezes need to be negotiated
The greens have paspalum grass on them
Pat Perez and Graeme McDowell were course winners on the PGA Tour
Rahm was not impressed with the PGA Tour schedule forced on him last season and felt it marred his preparations for the major championships. It undoubtedly influenced his decision to join LIV and this is a good starting point for him. He can speak Spanish all week and he won the 2022 Mexico Open. However, he does have a course best of only 10th in three starts.
A huge week for the Englishman and, although he only finished 40th in his only previous course start, this test might be better suited for him than Rahm. He finished 13th at Waialae recently in the Sony Open - a great pointer for this week - and he is incredibly consistent these days but here is a warning maybe: he actually hasn’t landed a win since early 2021.
The Australian played El Camaleon twice on the PGA Tour and didn’t land one top 40 finish but that record was deceptive because both starts came early in his career, long before he became a world-class performer. Duly, he finished fifth in this event last year and it made a lot of sense because he’s an accurate performer, can cope with wind and few in the world putt better.
There are a lot of very lightly-raced golfers in this week’s field and that might play into the hands of Joaquin Niemann.
The Chilean went to Australia before Christmas, finishing fifth in the Australian PGA Championship and winning the Australian Open.
He then opened 2024 with a fine fourth in the Dubai Desert Classic.
That’s excellent form and the best in the field.
He hasn’t quite cracked the LIV code but it might be a case of sooner rather than later and he’ll like his memories of El Camaleon - he was fifth there in 2021 and 11th last year after a very slow start.
Take him each way with bet365 offering +1400 and paying five places.
Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz has always thrived when playing high-level golf on home soil.
He won the Mexico Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour.
He finished top 20 in the 2020 World Golf Championship event in Mexico City after a very slow start.
And in nine starts at El Camaleon on the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, he has landed five top 10s.
Four of those have come in his last four starts, including a pair of second-place finishes.
He can get himself onto the first page of the leaderboard again and can be backed at +250 with Caesar’s Sportsbook.
The Kiwi Danny Lee has never been a consistent performer.
But he is good enough to have won on the PGA Tour, on the then-European Tour (when still an amateur), and on just his second start in LIV Golf last March.
Since that stunning start on this circuit, he has struggled but it is notable that the only other time he carded three rounds in the 60s was at Royal Greens in Saudi Arabia - a course that shares many characteristics with this week’s test.
And he does have very fond memories of El Camaleon because he’s finished second, third, and seventh there.
We’ve got a safe top 10 option with Oritz, let’s add Lee at a bigger price.
Tournament: LIV Golf Mayakoba
Location: El Camaleon GC, Mayakoba, Mexico
Date: Friday, February 2 - Sunday, February 4
How to watch: Friday - Saturday on The CW App. Sunday on The CW Network. And all three days on LIV Golf Plus and YouTube
Matt Cooper has been a sports journalist since 2009 with his work appearing at ESPN, Sky Sports, NBC, Sporting Life and the Planet Sport Network among many others, in addition to guest appearances on the BBC and CNN. Although a specialist in golf, who has traveled the world to cover the sport, Matt has also covered rugby, cricket, football and the Olympics. Email: [email protected]More info on Matt Cooper
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