Hurricane Maria tragically tore through Puerto Rico last year and canceled this event. The TOUR was able to piece together a charity event in it's place but the course was in no condition to hold a PGA TOUR event.
It will be back in action this week as a field of 132 golfers try their hand at the coastal track.
This event provides an outlet for some lesser-known talents to be the star of the show since the superstars are over at the WGC-Mexico Championship this week.
Coco Beach Golf and Country Club will be prepped as a par 72 that plays at 7,500 yards. That's definitely on the long side but a little misleading in terms of overall length. There are no par 4s over 465 yards and two of the four par 5s are under 550 yards. It's a very unique setup in that regard especially when you factor in the strategy off the tee.
Off the tee, golfers will have plenty of hazards to deal with. Across the course there are eight water hazards and 62 bunkers to navigate. That means despite the longer layout, golfers will need to club down frequently to avoid trouble. Add in four par 3s at 192 yards or longer and it becomes apparent that long-iron play is useful this week.
When looking at past contenders here, it's been lead-in form in the Off-the-Tee and Around-the-Green departments that has been most useful. The latter (around-the-green) comes in handy when the winds pick up here which is a common occurrence as the course sits right on the Northeastern coast of Puerto Rico.
Looking at grass types, they will deal with wall-to-wall paspalum this week which is common in these tropical climates. We've historically seen paspalum at the CIMB Classic (until this year), the Mayakoba Golf Classic, and the Corales. The greens will be targeted to stimp at just 11.5 feet but they may be prepped even slower this week with heavy winds in the forecast.
Sifting through some past quotes over at the Fantasy Golfanac, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play...
Mark Hubbard: "I always putt well on bermuda-type greens, grainy greens. But yeah, it’s really pretty. There’s a good mix of long, tough holes where you got four, five, 6-irons in and then a good mix of holes where you can be aggressive and bomb driver down there."
Rafa Cabrera Bello: "You definitely need to drive it well. There’s lots of water hazards around. There’s not much rough, at least not that I’ve seen so far. It might be growing relatively quickly because of the heat. The greens are nice and tricky. Some of them are really, really small. Others are bigger, but most of them you can find a pattern of pretty wrinkled, lots of slopes, and then definitely some tough run-outs with some tight up-and-downs to tricky pins."
Luke Donald: "The main factor here is the wind, it's usually pretty windy throughout the week from what I've heard. Scoring was tough last year, the wind must have been up, but it gives you some opportunities to make some birdies here. But you've got to control your golf ball in the wind and I don't think it's necessarily a course that you have to hit a lot of drivers on."
Sam Saunders: "I think it’s just a great layout for the predominant wind you get here off the ocean, you get a lot of crosswinds and I tend to play well in the wind so I think that’s kind of why it fits my game."
J.J. Spaun: "Out here, you know, coming from Bay Hill where the greens were like super fast and slopy, out here they’re a little bit slower so you can be more aggressive and, you know, just play firm with your putts nd be aggressive. If it goes a foot past, you’re not worrying about three-putting."
Overview: Golfers like to talk about the wind and the grainy greens. Anyone that grew up on grainy bermuda are generally pretty comfy here. When Luke Donald says you don't need to hit a lot of drivers then you know it's a less-than-driver type of layout. Spaun mentions the speed of the greens which is helpful for some of the less-accomplished putters that sometimes struggle with the knee-knockers.
Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week:
Mayakoba Golf Classic
Most of these are courses with grainy greens, coastal conditions, or less-than-driver strategies off the tee.
Thursday: A chance of light showers then sunny and a high of 79 degrees. Winds East at 20 MPH.
Friday: A chance of morning showers the cloudy with a high of 79 degrees. Winds E at 20 MPH.
Weekend: The forecast remains similar with winds around 20 MPH and sporadic rain.
None of the rain looks serious this week so they should be able to play through any showers that do arrive. Overall, it looks like a windy one this week, as you'd expect.