viktor hovland worldwidepr1694

Collin Morikawa, Jason Day and former champions Harris English (2013) and Matt Kuchar (2018) will be among the notables reviewed in Draws and Fades.

Hovland is embarking on a goal that the previous 12 two-time defending champions have failed to fulfill – win three consecutive editions of the same tournament. It hasn’t been accomplished since Steve Stricker triumphed at the John Deere Classic in 2009, 2010 and 2011. Hovland was 13 years old when Stricker converted the threepeat.

It already was unusual when Hovland took the title at El Camaleón the first time. A cursory glance at the champions on the course suggest that only ball-strikers of a certain age prevail. They found what Ponce de León never did – the Fountain of Youth.

When Hovland was crowned the winner in 2020, he lowered the average age of the winners to 34. Granted, the tournament has evolved from an additional event in late winter (2007-2012) into a stand-alone competition in the fall (since 2013) but given how the peak years of talent have been getting younger, that’s still one for the old guard. When Hovland successfully defended, the emphasis on average age of the winners contributed more to the historical narrative than the overall direction of guys expected to be lifting the limestone chameleon trophy on Sunday. That said, the Norwegian, who turned just 25 in September, fulfills the archetype that has been rewarded time and again in the tournament.

El Camaleón is a par 71. Paspalum blankets the property. In part because Mayakoba is a resort but also because winds off the Gulf of Mexico can be unforgiving, greens are managed to release no longer than 11 feet on the Stimpmeter. So, when the breezes are light and because the routing tips at just 7,034 yards (which reflects an increase of 17 yards from last year, all on the par-5 seventh hole), the tournament becomes a green-light special. Primary rough remains trimmed to just over two inches.

In his title defense, Hovland established the tournament record by completing 72 holes in 23-under 261. The field’s scoring average of 69.097 also was a new mark. With largely favorable conditions forecast this week, at least after the opening round during which rain and storms are promised to threaten, that’s a fair target for the field of 132. Wind will affect a few shots at times, but it won’t be a primary challenge.

Neither will be the par 3s. Once again, they were the easiest set of 50 courses all of last season. Hovland average 2.75 on them, but he also paced the field in par-5 scoring at a tidy 4.08. Although tee-to-green proficiency is priority A in every shootout, capitalizing on the par 5s will be necessary to linger on the leaderboard.

NOTE: ShotLink is not utilized for this tournament.


ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE

PGATOUR.com’s Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous perspectives. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.

MONDAY: Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Draws & Fades
WEDNESDAY: Pick ‘Em Preview
SUNDAY: Payouts and Points, Medical Extensions, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Rookie Ranking

* – Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.

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