We had our first Monday finish of the new PGA Tour season at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba in Mexico -- albeit not purposefully -- and we almost had our first back-to-back winner on Tour in 2015-16.
Scotland's Russell Knox, who had won the big-money WGC-HSBC Champions tournament two weeks ago in China as an alternate and for his first-ever Tour win, had a one-shot lead at El Camaleon Golf Club on his 72nd hole but drove into a fairway bunker, hit his approach shot short of the green and made bogey. That allowed Graeme McDowell and a Jason Bohn to join Knox in a playoff.
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McDowell, the Northern Irishman, won it with a birdie on the first playoff hole -- the first non-American winner of the event. The former U.S Open champion used to be one of the world's best players but had really fallen off as he entered the OHL Classic with just one Top-10 finish in his last 25 worldwide starts. McDowell and Knox had shared the lead at 19 under when play was suspended because of darkness on Sunday after a rain-interrupted day.
"It has been a tough year but this is special," said McDowell, who originally hadn't planned to play in Mexico but wanted to put the 2014-15 season behind him and start the new season on a positive note. "You go through a year like this and you think 'Am I finished? Am I good enough?' I have stuck to my task the last couple of months and this is a nice step back up to where I want to be."
I truly thought Knox would struggle in Mexico after his life-changing win in Shanghai. The last player to claim his first two victories in back-to-back starts was Camilo Villegas at the 2008 BMW Championship and Tour Championship. Billy Horschel was the last player to win back-to-back events; he took the 2014 BMW Championship and Tour Championship on the way to the FedEx Cup. Bohn's runner-up was his third top-three finish in four starts this season. I nearly picked him to win here but unfortunately went with Chris Stroud as my value pick, and he missed the cut. So did another guy I liked, Brendan Steele.
I did get Bohn at +163 for a Top 10. Also hit him at +110 over Matt Kuchar (-140). Ditto Patton Kizzire (-115) over Harris English (-115), Jason Dufner (-115) over David Hearn (-115), and Keegan Bradley (-115) over Charles Howell III (-115).
Now the PGA Tour heads back to the United States for the final official event of this calendar year, the RSM Classic at the Sea Island Resort in Sea Island, Georgia; it's a links-style course. Several Tour pros live in that area. It won't be the final golf tournament I look at this year -- there are a few silly season events as well as on the European Tour -- but no FedEx Cup points, etc., will be on the line again until the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii the first weekend of January (that's when the anchored putting ban begins). This event, formerly called the McGladrey Classic, has only been around since 2010. An American has won it each time and never by more than one shot.
Not a great field this week but two guys who live on neighboring St. Simons Island, Zach Johnson and Matt Kuchar, lead the way. No player will have played all six events on the early 2015-16 schedule. Many, including Knox, played the first five. The defending champion is Robert Streb, who got his first Tour win by beating Brandon de Jonge and Will MacKenzie in a playoff. Streb got into the playoff thanks to a final-round 7-under 63. He began the final round Sunday five shots out of the lead and bogeyed the first hole before getting hot.
Golf Odds: The RSM Classic Favorites
Johnson is the +1200 favorite at Bovada. He has played all five previous editions with a best finish of 12th in 2010. Johnson might be rusty as he hasn't teed it up since the Presidents Cup.
Justin Thomas and Kuchar are at +1600. Thomas won the CIMB Classic to start November and was T27 at the HSBC Champions in his last start. He has played here twice, with a best result of 71st last year. Kuchar was 68th last week and has a best result of seventh here in 2013.
The favorites are rounded out by Kevin Kisner (+1800), Bill Haas, McDowell and Patrick Rodgers, all +2500. Kisner was a runner-up in China and fourth here last year. Haas makes his first start since Presidents Cup. He was a runner-up here five years ago. It's Rodgers' first time playing this tournament. McDowell missed the cut here in 2011, his only time playing.
PGA Tour Picks: The RSM Classic Expert Betting Predictions
For a Top 10, I like Johnson (+110), Russell Henley (+225) and Kizzire (+250), who also lives in the area. No head-to-head props available as of this writing. For the top European, I like McDowell at +135 as it seems like his confidence is back. All of the other good Euros are playing overseas. Go with a playoff as the winning margin at +275.
I'm going with Kisner to win; and obviously a Top 10 (+125). He has had a strong start to the season and will know this course as well as anyone. Kisner is overdue a first victory and all winners on Tour this season but McDowell were first-timers.
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