Last week at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions event in China, we saw the best field that we will for the rest of 2015, including pretty much every top European player. So of course fairly little-known Scot Russell Knox won the tournament for his first career PGA Tour win. That has been a trend in the early going of the new season.
Knox wasn't even originally in the field but got a spot as an alternate when J.B. Holmes withdrew. Knox shot a final-round 4-under 68 to finish at 20-under and two shots ahead of Kevin Kisner. Knox is the first player to win a WGC event in his debut. I'm going to have to pick Kisner to win an event soon as it was his fourth runner-up finish dating back to April's RBC Heritage.
Really the biggest story line last week was that of 20-year-old Chinese player Hao Tong Li, who was treated like a rock star in Shanghai. He entered the final round just one shot off the lead but got off to a rough start on Sunday with three bogeys and a double bogey in his first five holes for an even-par 72. He finished T7 at 15-under, the highest-finish ever by a China-born player in a PGA Tour event. Li was only in the field on a national exemption as a China native.
Needless to say, I didn't have Knox on my radar last week. I went with Rickie Fowler, but he finished T17. He was my pick for top American finisher (obviously) as well, but that honor went to Kisner. Rory McIlroy was the favorite last week and finished T11, so I just missed him for a Top 10. Got a few head-to-head props right: Fowler (-105) over Bubba Watson (-125), Dustin Johnson (-125) over Hideki Matsuyama (-105), and Ian Poulter (-115) over Louis Oosthuizen (-115). That's about it.
This week the Tour stays outside the United States -- well, there was an opposite-field event in Mississippi last week won by Peter Malnati -- with the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, held at El Camaleon Golf Course in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. The PGA Tour began holding an event here in 2007, spending six years opposite the WGC-Match Play until the tournament got its own fall date in 2013. I'd like to sugarcoat the field this week, but you aren't going to see most guys flying from China to go play in Mexico. So the highest-ranked player in the field is No. 16 Matt Kuchar. Knox is here, however, one of just three guys who played last week in Shanghai. There are five Mexican pros in the field.
Charley Hoffman is the defending champion. He rallied from a three-shot deficit on Sunday with a 5-under 66. Hoffman hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation during the final round at El Camaleon to finish at 17-under 267. Shawn Stefani finished one shot back in second with Danny Lee and Andres Gonzales in third. Lee, a former U.S. Amateur champion, had seven straight birdies on the front nine Sunday to take the lead briefly.
There will be plenty of scoring this week on the par-71 course that is only 6,987 yards. Last year's average was a tournament-low 69.954.
Golf Odds: OHL Classic at Mayakoba Favorites
Kuchar is the +1200 Bovada favorite as he plays here for the first time since a T3 seven years ago. It's his first PGA Tour event since the season-ending Tour Championship, but he did win the Fiji International about three weeks ago. That's a tournament sanctioned by the OneAsia and Australasian tours.
Jason Bohn and Knox are +2000. I wouldn't touch Knox here on anything. He's going to be gassed from that big win last week and traveling. He's probably still celebrating. Surprised he's even playing. Knox was 37th here a year ago. Bohn already has a T2 and T3 finish on Tour this season and was seventh in Mexico in 2014.
Harris English, Patrick Rodgers and Patton Kizzire (all +2200) round out the favorites. Kizzire, last season's Web.com Tour money leader, has a T2 and T4 on the PGA Tour in the early season. English won here in 2014. He also played last week in China.
PGA Tour Picks: OHL Classic at Mayakoba Predictions
An American has won this event every year. Three of the previous eight editions have been decided in playoffs. For a Top 10, I'll go with Kuchar (+125), Bohn (+163) and Chris Stroud (+240). Head-to-head, go Bohn (+110) over Kuchar (-140), Kizzire (-115) over English (-115), Jason Dufner (-115) over David Hearn (-115), Hoffman (-110) over Rodgers (-120), Keegan Bradley (-110) over Charles Howell III (-120), Steele (-115) over Knox (-115), and Stroud (-115) over Graeme McDowell (-115).
I went with Bohn to win a couple of weeks ago when he had the runner-up finish. Am I ready to pick him again? Tempting. I'm also pretty high on Steele this week. But Stroud (+2800) is the guy. He knows this course as well as anyone, playing every year. And Stroud has three top-five finishes in Mexico.
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