There’s a certain intrigue to the ‘opposite field’ events that are held the week of WGCs on the PGA Tour.
Almost all the resources of the media and the Tour itself are focussed on the matchplay this week in Texas but there are some compelling stories to be had in the Dominican Republic at the Corales Puntacana Championship.
The fields are always an eclectic mix at these secondary events though there is invariably no shortage of talent on show as some of the game’s emerging stars get a chance to step out of the shadows.
Similarly, some of the game’s most experienced veterans tend to show up at this level and there are four former major winners adding interest to the field this week.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Joel Dahmen held off a fast finishing Sam Ryder to claim his maiden Tour victory a year ago and is back to defend the title this week.
RIGHT: Joel Dahmen took home his first PGA Tour win and a unique hat and jacket in 2021. PHOTO: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.
While that must give him a certain level of satisfaction there would also be a part of him disappointed not to have qualified for the 64-man matchplay field in Austin.
It was a hard fought win last year. After a brilliant four-under front nine Sunday, Dahmen faltered with two bogeys on the inward journey but rallied to hold on for a one shot victory.
COURSE: In PGA Tour terms the Corales Puntacana resort course is a beast and at a tick over 7,000 metres is among the longest the players face all year.
However, length does little to deter scoring in the modern era and prior to Dahmen’s 12-under winning total last year the three winning scores had been 18-under-par.
Wind and tricky greens are the course’s main defence where wide fairways mean lots of approaches from the short grass but to targets which are difficult to get close to.
Opened in 2010, the Tom Fazio design features six oceanside holes that attract plenty of attention, especially the par-3 17th and par-4 18th.
The 18th is a particularly dramatic affair, a cape hole running left to right around the oceans edge where players choose how much of the water they wish to challenge.
Disaster awaits the golfer who tries for too much, but bravery is rewarded with a shorter second shot.
Given the seaside location the prevailing wind will often dictate the strategy of this particular hole though two and three shot swings are not out of the question at the finale.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Conditions will likely test both mental and physical aspects of the game this week meaning there is no great advantage to either youth or experience.
A veteran who has the patience and smarts to handle strong winds gives up little to a younger golfer with greater distance but perhaps less discipline.
However, there are some exciting young players in the field this week and none more than the Danish twins Nicolai and Rasmus Hojgaard.
Both are winners on the DP World Tour already and while both have played limited U.S. events this is the first time they will tee up in the same PGA Tour tournament together.
At the other end of the experience scale is 2010 U.S. Open winner and champion at this event in 2019 Graeme McDowell.
The Northern Irishman has a chequered history at the course with two missed cuts, a win and T4 in four starts.
Windy conditions suit the 42-year-old’s game and if the breeze is up this week he will likely be among the contenders.
The defending champion Joel Dahmen played decent golf for a mid-field finish at last week’s Valspar and is not without a chance this week.
His victory last year came on the back of a T12 and T13 in the previous two editions so he has a liking for the course.
Finally, popular rookie Sahith Theegala comes into the week off a top-10 finish in Florida and is the type of player who often excels in these opposite field events.
A rising star who had a taste of being in contention earlier this year there is no question he has the tools required to win.
The only unknown for him this week is the course but at this level that is rarely a major hurdle.
72-HOLE RECORD: 270 (-18, Brice Garnett, 2018; Graeme McDowell, 2019; Hudson Swafford, 2020)
18-HOLE RECORD: 63 (Brice Garnett, 2018; Chip McDaniel, 2019)
PAST AUSSIE WINNERS: No Australian has won the event.
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: Cameron Percy, Brett Drewitt, Aaron Baddeley and Greg Chalmers.
Round 1: Friday (Fox Sports 503 1.30am –4.30am)
Round 2: Saturday (Fox Sports 503 1.30am – 4.30am)
Round 3: Sunday (Fox Sports 503 5am – 8am)
Round 4: Monday (Fox Sports 503 5am – 8am)
*AEDT, check local guides