World Wide Technology Championship 2021: Fantasy picks, power rankings and analysis

Viktor Hovland and caddie Shay Knight are back in Mayakoba this week to defend the World Wide Technology Championship. Credit: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports

The globetrotting fall golf festival lands in Mexico this week for the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba and the posh resort and warm tropical breezes have attracted an outstanding field that includes seven of the top 20 professionals in the world.

I mean, why wouldn’t you, if you could?

The purse is $7.2 million, the 7,017-yard, par-71 El Camaleon layout is friendly to accurate players and the post-round refreshments are factored into the tab and part of the fun.

The 132-man field must meander through the mangroves, handle temperatures in the mid-80s and breezes that can kick up near 20 mph and the occasional shower, this being the wettest time of the year in the region.

In recent years, plodders like Brendon Todd and Matt Kuchar have prevailed here along with fellow putting demons Pat Perez and Patton Kizzire. Friend of the Power Rankings Viktor Hovland had the courage to claim his second Tour crown a year ago, continuing his comfortability on the paspalum greens.

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The short grass is the place to be as Tony Finau described last year.

“I thought if you weren’t hitting it in the fairway, it was really, really hard to predict how the ball comes out of this rough,” he said. “The fairways are just tight enough, even though they’re not very — even though they’re wide enough, they’re hard to hit, it seemed like. You get these crosswinds out there. Even though we’re playing ball-in-hand, I don’t think anybody was going crazy because of that.”

Russell Knox has also solved the layout during his career, earning nearly $1.4 million in eight starts.

“I mean, this course is all about just drive it in play and then attack. The greens are relatively easy to putt on if you’re in the right little area. So, I mean, for me and whoever’s going to win this event, you’ve got to drive the ball in play. Then, because of the soft conditions, dead aim pretty much. Keep it between the mangroves.”

The front nine is slightly easier than the back and the cut has ranged from 4 over in 2012 to 3 under in 2019, settling on even par each of the last two years. There are four pars between 450-500 yards and the greens are slightly easier to hit than the average Tour event and yield few 3 putts (.395 per round compared to .565 per round as the Tour standard).

Bargain Bin

  • Brice Garnett, Doug Ghim, Graeme McDowell, Chez Reavie, Kyle Stanley, Adam Svensson

A clerical error here at the headquarters produced an extra pick for you, fine readers, this week. Consider it a treat, a couple days late. As always, good luck.

Golfer power rankings

26. Adam Long – Giving him a nod due to remarkable course history (T-3 and T-2 the last two years) and glimpses that his game might be returning to form (top 30 in two of last three outings). Accurate driver who needs to tighten up the iron play.

25. Kevin Streelman – Has made the cut in four of six appearances at Mayakoba, taking advantage of his fairway finding tee balls. Riding a streak of seven consecutive cuts made and should be well rested after two weeks at home.

24. Guido Migliozzi – Small sample size in North America but proved in 2021 he’s unafraid to compete against the best, finishing T-4 at the U.S. Open, T-13 at the Travelers and recording three runner-ups on the European Tour.

23. Tom Hoge – T-14 Shriners, T-32 CJ Cup and T-17 at Zozo in last three outings and been on target with his tee shots. Top 10 in the field in proximity over the last 50 rounds. Had a chance to snag first Tour title on Sunday at El Camaleon last year, settling for a T-3.

22. Talor Gooch – Good wind player is sizzling like a flank steak on a flat top grill at the outset of the 2021-22 season, finishing 11th or better in each of his three starts with a pair of top 5s. Gained 8.8, 8.8 and 5.1 shots Tee-to-Green in those events. T-55 and T-41 in his two trips to Mayakoba.

21. Carlos Ortiz – Playing in front of supportive fans in his native Mexico, the former North Texas Mean Green star landed in the top 10 here the last two years. Gained 6.1 shots Tee-to-Green in his most recent start, a T-25 at Shriners.

20. Adam Hadwin – Mixed bag at Mayakoba with two top 10s and three missed cuts. Driver has been an asset in recent weeks and hit 9.5 more greens than the field average in a T-46 last week in Bermuda. 45-6-46 in three starts this fall.

19. Sergio Garcia – Not many have driven it better over the last two decades. Last three results on the PGA Tour are T-6 at BMW, 10th at Tour Championship (72 hole scores) and T-25 in defense of his Sanderson Farms trophy. Ranks third in the field in SG: Tee-to-Green over the last 50 rounds. Mayakoba debut.

18. Tyrrell Hatton – I’ve been on the wrong side of the surly Englishman for years, either missing out when he plays well or he goes missing over the weekend when I include him in these rankings. That changes Sunday! Finished T-18 at the CJ Cup and perhaps he’ll fancy El Camaeleon on his first look at the course.

17. Joel Dahmen – A trio of top 20s in his last four starts here. He’s 10th in the field in proximity, 21st in fairways gained and possesses a reputable record at Harbour Town, a comparable course. His caddie Geno Bonnalie is excited about spending the week at the all-inclusive resort and those good vibes could go a long way on the weekend.

16. Russell Knox – Russell Stripe Show Knox is his new name, according to former PGA Tour player Will Wilcox, who was on the bag in Bermuda last week as Knox tied for 12th in the blustery conditions, leading the field in greens in regulation and tying for sixth in fairways hit. He’s 8-for-8 making the cut at El Camaleon, posting three top-10s and never worse than 37th.

15. Harold Varner III – Top-20 streak ended after four tournaments in a T-32 at The CJ Cup but only because of an abysmal week on the greens (4.9 shots lost). Tied for fifth here in 2015 and tied for sixth in 2018. Gained 6.6 shots Tee-to-Green at the CJ, marking the third time he’s gained at least six in the last eight starts.

14. Maverick McNealy – He’s going to win this season and considering he finished T-12 and T-26 in his two previous stabs at the Mayakoba crown, it could occur this week. Would be a heckuva field to outlast for the maiden victory. Finished T-25 at the Zozo.

13. Scottie Scheffler – The talented young Texan feels like the junior version of Brooks Koepka – without the four major trophies of course. He only shows up at the biggest tournaments. His last top 10 in a ‘regular’ PGA Tour event (not a major, WGC or invitational) was a T-7 in Scottsdale in February. Maybe this field will get his attention. Uncharacteristic poor ballstriking in two starts this fall.

12. Jhonattan Vegas – Fair price for a pro who has a pair of top 20s in his last five starts and has been playing steady solid golf for the better part of eight months. Finished runner up on the paspalum in Puerto Rico in February.

11. Keegan Bradley – He’s fourth in the field in SG: Ballstriking over the last 12 rounds, slotting top 15 with the driver and the irons. Can handle the wind if it blows as a pair of top 15s here proves. Made five of the last six cuts with a seventh at ZoZo (which didn’t have Strokes Gained data).

10. Russell Henley – Started the 2021-22 season with consecutive top 25s, gaining more than seven shots Tee-to-Green in each tournament. Also has strong scrambling numbers over his last 24 rounds.

9. Mito Pereira – Could this be the week he just pure flushes his way to victory? Excellent in every area with the first 13 clubs. It’s the shortest one that gives him the most problems. But these are simple greens to putt and he’s eighth in the field in SG: OTT and 22nd in SG: Proximity.

8. Aaron Wise – Finished 10th and second here in the last three years. Was top 10 in greens in regulation and putting a year ago. Another player in the midst of a solid run and beginning to become more comfortable on the PGA Tour. Gained at least 5.6 shots Tee-to-Green in his last three outings and been T-26 or better in the last five.

7. Viktor Hovland – Can the Norwegian Forest Cat strike twice? The defending champ does love this grass, the wide bladed, minimal grain paspalum, which appears on the PGA Tour schedule yet again. Last time out he gained 5.5 shots on the greens – his best putting effort as a professional. We know how he can attack the rest of the course.

6. Justin Thomas – His fall prowess is well documented – He’s earned eight of 14 PGA Tour titles during the final four months of the year. In two trips here he’s landed in the top 25 each time. Despite losing three shots on the greens at the CJ Cup, he still produced a T-18. Leads the field in SG: Tee-to-Green over the last 50 rounds. Needs to find fairways.

5. Emiliano Grillo – Opened 66-63 a year ago and sprinted to the 36-hole lead. Faded on the weekend to finish in the top 15 for the fourth time in five years. He’s 61 under on this layout in that span. A steal in most fantasy formats and certain to be a popular play. Classic iron player leads the field in proximity to the hole over the last 50 rounds.

4. Seamus Power – What we’re seeing here is a talented player brimming with confidence, no longer worried about Tour status, riding the wave he created last summer when he won the Barbasol. Power has eight top 25s in his last 11 starts. At Mayakoba, he’s finished T-28 with two MCs – but his game is clicking on a higher level right now.

3. Billy Horschel – Has four top 25s at Mayakoba, including a T-5 last year and has broken 70 in nine of his last 12 rounds at El Camaleon. Making his first start on the U.S. PGA Tour in the 2021-22 season but won the BMW PGA in Europe in September.

2. Abraham Ancer – Would desperately love to add his second Tour trophy in his native country. Visually and analytically, the course and his game make an ideal pairing. Top 20 in the field in SG: Tee-to-Green, Fairways Gained and Proximity. He’s 52 under at El Camaleon the last four years with nothing worse than a T-21.

1. Tony Finau – Often overlooked on the shorter courses, however he ranks fifth in the field in SG: Total on layouts measuring less than 7,200 yards. That prowess has been on display with two top 10s and a T-16 in five trips to the resort. Also won in Puerto Rico on paspalum greens. Expecting a breakout season from Finau in 2021-22. Game looks sharp if he can just produce an average putting week.

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