Patrick Reed, Brooks Koepka, Shane Lowry, Will Zalatoris and 2018 champion Matt Kuchar will be among the notables reviewed in Tuesday’s Fantasy Insider.
Compared to his contemporaries, Collin Morikawa and Matthew Wolff, Hovland doesn’t get as much credit for his distance off the tee. Yet, Morikawa happens to be the shortest on average of the trio. If that surprises you, your perspective might be influenced by his historic drive into the par-4 16th hole at TPC Harding Park in the final round of the 2020 PGA Championship, and that’s OK, but the data is convincing.
In their first two completed seasons as PGA TOUR members, Wolff has led the way in ranking a respective sixth (2019-20) and seventh (2020-21) in distance of all drives. Hovland slotted second at 47th and 22nd, respectively. Morikawa trails at T78 and T99.
While that analysis might be narrow, it’s also eye-opening. Yet, all it means is that Hovland has an extra gear, and he uses it, but he remains stereotyped as a tee-to-green tactician, which he is as well. Viktor isn’t so much of an “-or” guy as Hovland is an “-and” pro. Every fan know that long and straight plays everywhere.
Hovland led the 2020 edition of the WWT Championship at Mayakoba in greens in regulation. He missed only 11 all week and prevailed by one stroke at 20-under 264. He also ranked T13 in fairways hit. It’s the kind of formula that’s defined almost all of the winners since the tournament’s inception in 2007. (ShotLink isn’t utilized at El Camaleón.) And while Hovland wasn’t the youngest champion (John Huh, 21, 2012), he wasn’t anywhere near the bull’s-eye of winners of a certain age.
From 50-year-old Fred Funk in 2007 through 34-year-old Brendon Todd in 2019, the average age among the first 13 winners was 34.85. Hovland lowered the average to an even 34. Just as the golf ball doesn’t know how old you are, neither does the beautiful backdrop in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
El Camaleón is a par 71 with three par 5s, and it tips at 7,017 yards. For the second consecutive edition, there have been no changes of significance to the course, so with the cooperation of Mother Nature, the scoring average should land at about a stroke under par. With perhaps its deepest field in history, it could dip into the 60s.
The same possibility will exist with the overnight low temperatures, while daytime highs will climb well into the 80s. With a low chance of rain and relatively calm wind, albeit with the occasional gust along the sea, this is as good as it gets in the elements.
With primary rough ranging just over two inches and with receptive greens – remember, it’s a resort course – El Camaleón presents as a second-shot competition. Paspalum greens governed to 11 feet on the Stimpmeter have assisted in winners’ aggregates of 17-under 267 (in 2014) to 22-under 262 (in 2018) since the tournament was moved to November in 2013.
The outlier at El Camaleón is the quartet of par 3s. Since the shift to the fall, they have been the easiest set of one-shotters on all courses in every season but one. The exception was in 2014 when the par 3s were, wait for it, the second-easiest.
En route to his victory, Hovland scored just 2-under on the par 3s and ranked T38 in par-3 scoring, but he co-led in par-4 scoring and finished T4 in par-5 scoring.</…….