Out of the Rough: World Wide Technology Championship (2023)
As the PGA Tour’s Fall Swing continues on, it makes a stop in Mexico for the World Wide Technology Championship.
Although the event itself is not new to the Tour’s schedule, this year’s host course is.
For the first time, the PGA Tour will be playing an event on a course designed by 82-time winner, Tiger Woods.
This event was previously staged at El Camaleon in Mayakoba but due to the venue being added to the LIV roster for 2023, the PGA Tour has made the move to the Woods’ designed El Cardonal at Diamante Cabo San Lucas.
This event is the fifth-of-seven events in the FedEx Cup Fall Series and time is running out for some Tour hopefuls to secure exemption for the 2024 season and additionally, plant themselves within the rankings for invitations to signature events and majors.
There are 500 FedEx Cup points up for grabs for the winner.
In previous years, this would be the first event of the season where we would see some of the bigger names of the Tour.
We’ve seen players such as Scottie Scheffler, Viktor Hovland, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and others make an appearance at this event but without any form of incentive for those already secured for the upcoming season, they’ll remain idle.
This week’s field may be lacking the top tier names of the Tour but it does include five golfers within the top 50 of the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) and seven within the top 50 of the current FedEx Cup Standings.
The field is led by Cameron Young who continues to seek his maiden PGA Tour victory. With the way this course plays, there may not be a better fit all season for Young to win.
Another notable name teeing it up this week is Ludvig Aberg who continues to make the push to enter the top 50 of the OWGR in hopes to play in his first major next season.
Other notable names playing this week include Sahith Theegala, Chris Kirk, Lucas Glover, Matt Kuchar and Emiliano Grillo.
Michael Block, the PGA Professional who made himself an online golf celebrity with his impressive showing at last year’s PGA Championship at Oak Hill, too will be playing this week.
Russell Henley is the defending champion of this event, although at El Camaleon in Mayakoba, he will not be playing this week.
El Cardonal at Diamante Cabo San Lucas in Mexico plays as a Par 72 at 7,452 yards on the scorecard.
As previously mentioned, this was the first golf course designed by Woods and in turn, will be the first course designed by Woods to make an appearance on the PGA Tour schedule.
This course was opened in 2014 and was designed by Woods in hopes to mirror some of the courses he played in Southern California as a child.
It sits on a stunning piece of property as it is positioned atop a hill overlooking the deep-blue Pacific Ocean.
The course plays linear to the Pacific Ocean as almost every hole plays downhill towards the ocean or uphill away from it.
The land the course sits on is naturally uneven and undulating. Due to this, there won’t be many flat lies to be found on this course. The ball too can go either direction once it hits the ground.
The course is wall-to-wall Paspalum and is described to play firm and fast. However, with the course being Paspalum, which is arguably the most grippy grass golfers will see, there won’t be many opportunities for rollouts and additional distance from shots, even on downhill lies.
El Cardonal does come in at 7,452 yards on the scorecard as previously mentioned but due to the up-and-down hilly nature of the course, the distance on the scorecard is far from what it’ll actually play at.
There is a 228 foot difference in elevation from the highest point of the golf course to the lowest.
The fairways are very wide on this course as Tiger kept the typical resort guest in mind. These fairways average about 60 feet in width.
Although wide, the fairways do feature many in-play bunkers, including centerline ones, that are in the landing zones for long-bombers off the tee.
It is also important for golfers to find the correct area of the fairways to allow them to go pin hunting. If golfers find themselves on the wrong side of the fairway, they'll be forced to aim towards the fat parts of the green, well away from the pin.
Additionally, trouble can be found if a golfer is to miss the fairways. There is no rough featured here this week but instead, the fairways are flanked by the desert arroyo. Some areas, mostly on the front nine, are mostly sandy waste areas without much desert vegetation. Other areas, mainly on the back nine, are full of thick cactus bushes and other desert vegetation that could very well cause unplayable lies.
Along with the wide fairways, the greens are also very large as they average 8,300 square feet in area.
The greens are also Pasplaum and are both very undulating and contoured which makes them very difficult to putt on.
The greenside surroundings may be the strongest line of defense this course has to offer. They are very difficult to get up-and-down from.
The greenside bunkers are boldly edged and sit well below the putting surface as well. Additionally, these greens are surrounded by short grass with mounds, hallows and collection areas.
In terms of approach shots, it is expected that 22.2-percent will come from 125-150 yards, 27.8-percent from 175-200 and 16.7% from 225-plus yards.
As of the time of writing this, there is a zero-percent chance of precipitation across all four days. Temperatures will begin at 83-degrees on Thursday before increasing by a degree every day before peaking at 86-degrees on Sunday. Winds will remain limited as well in the high single digits in terms of miles-per-hour. In all, an ideal four days for golf this week.
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Strokes Gained: Off the Tee / Average Driving Distance
Sand Saves Percentage
Strokes Gained: Putting
Strokes Gained: Around the Green
Proximity to the Hole from 125-150 Yards
Proximity to the Hole from 175+ Yards
Birdie or Better Percentage
My overall favorite this week per my model is Stephan Jaeger ($10,200.) When it comes to this unknown course, being played on the PGA Tour for the first time, there is a lot of anticipation about what to expect. Either way for what I developed as key stats for this week, Jaeger is above average in all ten of them. He is currently seventh on Tour in SG: ATG, 29th in proximity to the hole from 175-plus yards, 36th in SG: OTT, 40th in both scrambling and birdie or better percentage, 50th in average driving distance, 59th in SG: APP, 65th in sand saves percentage, 75th in proximity to the hole from 125-150 yards and 110th in SG: PUTT. The concern for Jaeger definitely comes on the greens as he has lost strokes in his previous two Fall Swing events. He is still an average putter on Tour so I’m hoping a spike week this week will put him over the top. He has played in two previous Fall Swing events placing T25th at the Sanderson Farms Championship and T45th at the Fortinet Championship. I’m playing two units on him at +2500. Also consider Sahith Theegala ($10,700.) Theegala is the third most expensive golfer on DraftKings this week and I think that’s ideal value, even at $10,700. He is currently 15th on the PGA Tour in SG: PUTT, 18th in birdie or better percentage, 23rd in SG: ATG, 43rd in sand saves percentage, 60th in average driving distance, 69th in both SG: APP and proximity to the hole from 175-plus yards, 75th in proximity to the hole from 125-150 yards, 96th in scrambling and 130th in SG: OTT. This just seems like an ideal fit for Theegala. He’s decently long off the tee but what gets him in trouble is his accuracy. With these very wide fairways he shouldn’t find himself in too much trouble. He of course got his maiden PGA Tour victory a few weeks back at the Fortinet Championship and followed that up with a T19th at the ZOZO Championship. He’s playing the best golf of his career so conquering this weaker field is not out of the question. I’m playing two units on him at +1600.
Both of my suggestions in this price range come with some red flags, namely on the greens. First up we have Akshay Bhatia ($9,200.) Bhatia opened the Fall Swing by missing the cut at the Fortinet Championship but has since been trending in the right direction. He placed T43rd at the Sanderson Farms, T35th at the Shriners Children’s Open and T21st at the ZOZO Championship. He claimed his maiden PGA Tour victory back in July with a victory at the Barracuda Championship. He is currently 15th on Tour in proximity to the hole from 125-150 yards, 22nd in birdie or better percentage, 30th in both SG: APP and SG: OTT, 39th in proximity to the hole from 175-plus yards, 53rd in sand saves percentage and 54th in average driving distance. Now, for the downfalls. He’s currently 121st in scrambling, 136th in SG: ATG and 174th in SG: PUTT. However, Bhatia did gain 0.046 strokes on the green at the Sanderson Farms and 0.329 at the Shriners Children’s Open. If he can remain even on the greens this week, he has a great shot in winning. I’m playing a unit on him at +3500. Also consider J.J. Spaun ($9,400.) Spaun is in some rather good form coming into this week. He’s fresh off a T6th at the ZOZO Championship. He also placed T46th at the Shriners Children’s Open and T11th at the Fortinet Championship during this Fall Swing as well. He is also second on Tour in scrambling, 29th in sand saves percentage, 34th in SG: ATG, 41st in SG: OTT, 47th in proximity to the hole from 125-150 yards, 55th in both SG: APP and proximity to the hole from 175-plus yards, 104th in birdie or better percentage and 107th in average driving distance. The downfall for Spaun, like Bhatia, comes on the greens. He’s currently 146th in SG: PUTT. He did lose strokes on the greens at the Shriners Children’s Open but did gain 1.301 strokes at the Fortinet Championship. A spike week like that at the Fortinet will put Spaun in contention this week. I’m playing a unit on him at +3300.
Once again, this isn’t a price range I enjoy this week and would rather skip it all together. But for the sake of this article, the two suggestions I have are no slouches by any means. First up we have Mark Hubbard ($8,500.) Hubbard is currently 13th on Tour in SG: APP, 41st in SG: ATG, 63rd in proximity to the hole from 175-plus yards, 70th in sand saves percentage, 71st in proximity to the hole from 125-150 yards, 73rd in scrambling, 89th in birdie or better percentage and 91st in SG: PUTT. Hubbard’s downfalls come off the tee where he ranks 142nd in SG: OTT and 160th in average driving distance. Although he’s not long off the tee, the strong long iron play should help him there. He has played in each of the previous four Fall Swing events where he placed T31st at the ZOZO Championship, missed cut at the Shriners Children’s Open, T6th at the Sanderson Farms Championship and T17th at the Fortinet Championship. Also consider Andrew Putnam ($8,100.) Putnam is currently 11th in SG: PUTT, 15th in sand saves percentage, 16th in scrambling, 24th in SG: APP, 69th in SG: ATG and 87th in proximity to the hole from 125-150 yards. Now, for the downfalls. He’s 132nd in birdie or better percentage, 141st in proximity to the hole from 175-plus yards, 171st in SG: OTT and 180th in average driving distance. I don’t think Putnam has the ability to win this week with the lack of distance off the tee and with the long irons but I think he’s a safe bet to make the cut with elite scrambling, around the green work and putting. He also is not in great form, which plays in part to the good value this week, as he has missed both cuts at his previous two Fall Swing events (Fortinet and Shriners.)
Both of my suggestions in this price range play a very similar game. First up we have Chesson Hadley (+8000.) Hadley comes into this week in some rather good form. In his last outing at the Shriners Children’s Open he placed T7th. He placed T35th at the Sanderson Farmers Championship and T62nd at the Fortinet Championship in this Fall Swing as well. He is also currently 17th on Tour in proximity to the hole from 125-150 yards, 29th in SG: PUTT, 39th in SG: APP, 45th in sand saves percentage, 48th in birdie or better percentage, 86th in scrambling and 102nd in average driving distance. His downfalls come in the form of a 125th placement in proximity to the hole from 175-plus yards, 134th in SG: OTT and 178th in SG: ATG. We can only hope he doesn’t require much around-the-green work as he’s one of the worst on the entire Tour there. Hadley is also just on the inside of the top 125 in the FedEx Cup Standings to keep his card for the 2024 season. A big week this week will all but secure it. I’m playing a unit on him at +8000. Also consider Sam Ryder ($7,600.) Ryder has played in all four of the previous Fall Swing events, making the cut in each of them. This run of form is highlighted by a T14th at the Fortinet Championship and T28th at the Shriners Children's’ Open. He is currently 12th on Tour in SG: PUTT, 26th in SG: APP, 28th in birdie or better percentage, 55th in proximity to the hole from 125-150 yards, 82nd in scrambling, 92nd in proximity to the hole from 175-plus yards and 118th in SG: ATG. His downfalls come off the tee where he ranks 144th in average driving distance and 169th in SG: OTT. He is also 135th in sand saves percentage. I’m playing a unit at +8000 on Ryder as well.
Now to find some value. My first suggestion here is Charley Hoffman ($6,600.) Hoffman is currently fourth on the entire Tour in proximity to the hole from 125-150 yards, 33rd in SG: APP, 45th in average driving distance, 58th in proximity to the hole from 175-plus yards, 74th in sand saves percentage, 106th in SG: ATG, 113th in scrambling and 116th in SG: OTT. His downfalls come with a 141st placement in birdie or better percentage and 180th in SG: PUTT, placing him among the absolute worst on the greens on the entire Tour. He is also not in good form by any means, missing the cut in each of his three previous stops on the Fall Swing. I’m looking for a bounce back this week with elite iron play and above average distance off the tee. Also consider Robby Shelton ($6,900.) Shelton is currently seventh on Tour in sand saves percentage, 31st in proximity to the hole from 125-150 yards, 36th in SG: ATG, 71st in scrambling, 77th in proximity to the hole from 175-plus yards, 82nd in SG: APP, 104th in SG: PUTT and 110th in birdie or better percentage. His downfalls come off the tee as he ranks 151st in average driving distance and 157th in SG: OTT. Shelton is fresh off a T4th at the ZOZO Championship. He did miss the cut at the Shriners Children’s Open and Sanderson Farms Championship but also placed T19th at the Fortinet Championship.
Sahith Theegala (+1600) - 2u
Stephan Jaeger (+2500) - 2u
J.J. Spaun (+3300) - 1u
Akshay Bhatia (+3500) - 1u
Chesson Hadley (+8000) - 1u
Sam Ryder (+8000) - 1u