The PGA Tour continues on this week as it visits El Cardonal at Diamante for the 2023 World Wide Technologies Championship. This year’s event enters uncharted territory, as it left El Camaleón Golf Course, the event’s home for each of the previous 16 editions, for El Cardonal at Diamente, which becomes the first golf course designed by Tiger Woods to host a PGA Tour event.
Playing as a Par 72, 7,452 yard layout this week, El Cardonal at Diamante will challenge those playing it, from elevation changes of over 200 feet, to windy conditions on what is already a firm and fast course on any given day, to the notorious trickiness of Platinum paspalum grass. 132 players are set to tee it up this week, with a field headlined by many great players, including Sahith Theegala, Cameron Young, Lucas Glover, Emiliano Grillo, Beau Hossler, Chris Kirk and Ludvig Aberg.
It’s always difficult to handicap an event when they play it at a new venue, especially on a course that has never hosted a PGA Tour event before. With wide landing areas and greens averaging 8,300 square feet in length, the player who finds success here will need to have great command of their ball striking, be able to navigate the winds if they pick up over the course of the event and have a deft touch with their short game to go low on a course designed by the GOAT of golf.
Last year’s edition was won by Russell Henley, who had a six stroke lead to start the final round and cruised his way to a four stroke victory over Brian Harman. With the victory, Henley ended a five year losing streak, as his most recent win previously was the 2017 Shell Houston Open.
Player to Fade:
Every PGA Tour event has its A-List players, but it also has some “filler” players to round out the field. Enter Hunter Epson. Making his PGA Tour debut this week thanks to playing his way in through the Monday Qualifier, Epson has done little of note in his career, missing both of the cuts in his two Korn Ferry Tour starts and making 3 out of 7 cuts on the PGA Tour Canada. Monday Qualifiers are always chock full of feel-good stories and we are excited to see another young and up-and-coming player make their debut on tour, but Epson has no chance of contending and will certainly miss the cut.
Every once in a while, Vince Whaley finds a groove on tour and goes on a small heater. Two seasons ago, Whaley had a stretch of 9 straight events where he finished between T-15 and T-36 on the leaderboard. We have a suspicion that Whaley is in the midst of another such heater, with 3 straight finishes inside the top 30, mostly recently finishing T-13 at the Shriner’s Childrens Open. Whaley has found success in other tropical PGA Tour events before, with a top 25 finish in this event in 2020, a pair of top 15’s in the Puerto Rico Open, a top 10 at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship and 3 top 30’s at the Corales Puntacana Championship. With his recent form and his past success in these types of events, there’s no reason why Vince Whaley can’t bring home another top 30 finish this week.
The 2022-23 season has been a nice comeback campaign for the Argentinian, who ended an 8 year winless streak earlier this season at the Charles Schwab Challenge. As a whole, this season has been a success for Grillo, with 1 win, 8 top 10’s and 12 top 25’s in 32 events, as well as a top 30 finish in the season-long FedEx Cup. In 7 previous starts in this event, Grillo has 3 top 10’s and 4 top 25 finishes. Grillo ranks 79th on tour in Strokes Gained: Total, but ranks 154th in Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green. Grillo serves as a risky pick this week for that reason, but since he’s coming off a top 10 at the ZOZO Championship and has had past success in this event, albeit not at this venue, we have faith in Grillo to pick up a second straight top 10 finish on the campaign.
The 74th ranked player in the Official World Golf Ranking, Beau Hossler often falls under the radar, as he has yet to find victory on the PGA Tour. However, Hossler has been heating up these past few months, with 8 top 30 finishes over his last 9 starts, including back-to-back top 10 finishes, highlighted by a T-2 finish at the ZOZO Championship. Hossler has not found a ton of success while playing in a tropical paradise, with his lone top 10 finish in this part of the globe coming earlier this season in the Mexican Open at Vidanta. Stats wise, he checks all the boxes, ranking 25th in Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green and inside the top 40 in Scrambling and Putting Average. 3 different times, a player has won this event for their maiden PGA Tour victory, with the most recent to do it being Patton Kizzire in 2017. We predict that Beau Hossler will keep up his recent stretch of success on tour and back it up in a big way by becoming the 4th PGA Tour player to pick up their first career win in the World Wide Technologies Championship!