Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship 2024 Tips: Six each-way picks to consider

 | 17th April | 

18 mins read

jamie worsley pga tour

With many of the PGA Tour’s biggest stars at Harbour Town for the RBC Heritage, a good field has assembled in the Dominican Republic for the Corales Puntacana Championship at the Corales Golf Course.

Here are Jamie's selections.

Corales Puntacana Resort Club Championship Tips

  • 1.25 pts Daniel Berger each way (1/5 - 8 places) @ 40/1
  • 1 pt Justin Suh each way (1/5 - 8 places) @ 55/1
  • 1 pt Jhonattan Vegas each way (1/5 - 8 places) @ 60/1
  • 1 pt Joe Highsmith each way (1/5 - 8 places) @ 66/1
  • 1 pt Rico Hoey each way (1/5 - 8 places) @ 70/1
  • 0.75 pts Pierceson Coody each way (1/5 - 6 places) @ 175/1

TOURNAMENT HISTORY

The Corales Puntacana Championship was first staged in 2016 and has taken place every year since; always at Corales Golf Course. It was originally a Korn Ferry Tour event in 2016 and 2017 but was upgraded to the PGA Tour in 2018, as an opposite-field event to the defunct WGC Match Play. It now takes up a similar position opposite this week’s Signature Event in South Carolina.

Dominic Bozzelli won the inaugural event on the KFT in 2016, with a winning score of -24 – the lowest winning score in the event’s history. He was succeeded by Nate Lashley in 2017, who fired -20 to win, on the only other time the winning score finished in the -20s.

Brice Garnett won the first PGA Tour edition of the tournament in 2018, followed by Graeme McDowell in 2019 and Hudson Swafford in 2020.

The last three renewals have gone the way of first-time PGA Tour winners. Joel Dahmen won the most difficult version of the Corales Puntacana Championship in 2021, shooting -12; Chad Ramey took home the title in 2022; and last year, an all-European top 2 saw Matt Wallace claim the victory, beating last week’s long-time Masters contender, Nicolai Hojgaard by one stroke.

Matt Wallace doesn’t defend this week but Hojgaard will be in action in one of the deepest fields I can remember in this event and will be hoping to go one better than last year.

THE COURSE

Corales Golf Course opened for play in 2010 and was designed by Tom Fazio. It shares coastline with and offers spectacular views of both the Caribbean Sea and Atlantic Ocean, with the final holes of each nine the most memorable, running along the cliff’s edge.

This resort course is a lengthy par 72, measuring 7670 yards and will play to every bit of that yardage with typically little run-out on paspalum. It possesses 10x par 4s (387-501 yards), 4x par 5s (515-626 yards) and 4x par 3s (204-265 yards).

After the first two editions were won in the -20s under par on the Korn Ferry Tour, the event has provided more of a challenge since receiving PGA Tour status, averaging a winning score of -17 since 2018.

This flat and exposed course has some of the widest fairways on the PGA Tour, possessing the 5th-highest driving accuracy percentage over the last five years. The rough is a bit of a non-event, with large and intimidating strategically-placed bunkers offering the protection.

The undulating paspalum greens are average-large in size, though are usually pretty difficult to hit. Many are angled and most shallow/narrow in shape; whilst some are raised and protected by run-offs and further strong bunkering. With several open-fronted, they encourage play along the ground, which is ideal for a course where wind can play such a prominent part.

There is water in-play on six holes but no more striking than those cliffside holes that close out each nine.

The front nine finishes on the 399-yard par 4 8th and the 204-yard par 3 9th. With those tropical waters to the left of both holes, players will be required to hit both their drive on the 8th and approach shots on 8 and 9 over the cliff drop; nervy enough shots to execute on their own but if the wind plays a role, they can become scorecard destroyers.

After heading back inland, the field will return to the coast for the final two holes, this time with the ocean on the right-hand side.

The 214-yard par 3 17th has plenty of room to the left but players could be faced with a very tough up-and-down over a greenside bunker if bailing out; however that is of course better then sending your ball deep into the water on the right.

The 18th is a potentially brutal 501-yard par 4. The fairway severely doglegs from left-to-right and tempts players into taking on the corner of the cliff edge to give themselves a shorter approach into a dangerous green; with a large bunker and ocean waters to the right and a tricky chip from the left. If the wind is up, we could see all kinds of carnage at this closing hole.

THE WEATHER

There are some light showers forecast before the start of the event that could carry over into tournament play; otherwise it looks largely dry and warm.

With only mild winds predicted in the first two rounds, players should be playing in reasonably comfortable conditions; though, it is scheduled to pick up over the weekend, where we could see gusts of 25mph+.

KEY STATS

  • SG: Approach
  • Greens-in-Regulation
  • Proximity 200+ yards
  • Proximity 100-125 yards

We don’t have the benefit of strokes-gained data for this event but there’s enough evidence to suggest we need strong iron players on board this week.

Going into last year’s renewal, each of the top-4 finishers had been in good form in approach, with winner Wallace gaining strokes in his previous four starts in a row.

Other players to go well in recent years include strong irons players such as Joel Dahmen, Alex Smalley and Sam Ryder.

With all of the par 3s above 200 yards, the four par 5s requiring approaches of 200+ yards to hit in two and a couple of lengthy par 4s, those who excel with their long irons are of added interest.

Having said that, there are four shorter par 4s that can be got at with strong wedge play and on the two 600+ yard par 5s on the back nine, many players will lay up to wedge distance. Meaning the 100-125 yard range could also prove important this week.

  • Scrambling

The windy weekend conditions will see plenty of greens missed and players will need to demonstrate a good scrambling ability to contend.

Several winners, such as Matt Wallace, Graeme McDowell and Brice Garnett are at least solid in this area; as are other Corales performers, Denny McCarthy and Mackenzie Hughes.

  • Driving Distance

Leaderboards here usually feature a mixture of length-dependent and accuracy-dependent players. However, as a lengthy course with generous fairways and non-penal rough it really does scream big hitters, with those longer players off-the-tee able to take driver out of the bag on most holes.

Last year’s leaderboard was more bomber-heavy than previous years, with Matt Wallace, Nicolai Hojgaard, Sam Stevens and Wyndham Clark finishing inside the top 6.

CORRELATING EVENTS (COURSES)

Puerto Rico Open (Grand Reserve Country Club)

The similarly long, coastal and paspalum-covered Grand Reserve Country Club is always one of the first ports of call when looking at comp events for the Corales Puntacana Championship. The two courses rank especially close to one another in GIR percentages and short-game difficulty.

Notable correlating form:

Brice Garnett:

Corales (1st) / Puerto Rico (1st)

Nate Lashley:

Corales (1st) / Puerto Rico (3rd)

Chad Ramey:

Corales (1st) / Puerto Rico (5th)

Ben Martin:

Corales (2nd) / Puerto Rico (3rd)

Rafael Campos:

Corales (2nd, 3rd) / Puerto Rico (3rd)

Sam Ryder:

Corales (2nd, 2nd) / Puerto Rico (3rd)

Chris Stroud:

Corales (2nd) / Puerto Rico (8th, 9th)

Blake Adams:

Corales (2nd) / Puerto Rico (9th)

Cameron Percy:

Corales (4th, 8th) / Puerto Rico (7th, 7th)

RSM Classic (Sea Island Resort)

Though much shorter, the generous fairways, similarly demanding short-game challenge and coastal location of the Sea Island Resort has meant many players have carried form between the RSM Classic and Corales Puntacana.

Notable correlating form:

Graeme McDowell:

Corales (1st) / RSM (3rd)

Joel Dahmen:

Corales (1st) / RSM (5th)

Mackenzie Hughes:

Corales (2nd, 3rd) / RSM (1st, 2nd, 2nd)

Tyler Duncan:

Corales (3rd, 3rd) / RSM (1st, 3rd)

Tyler McCumber:

Corales (2nd) / RSM (4th)

Alex Smalley:

Corales (2nd) / RSM (5th)

Chris Stroud:

Corales (2nd) / RSM (5th)

John Deere Classic (TPC Deere Run)

There are some striking form-ties between the John Deere Classic and Corales Puntacana, with both courses featuring generous fairways that are appealing for the longer hitters but also featuring leaderboards with many shorter, more accurate players.

Notable correlating form:

Joel Dahmen:

Corales (1st) / John Deere (2nd)

Ben Martin:

Corales (2nd) / John Deere (2nd)

Alex Smalley:

Corales (2nd) / John Deere (2nd)

Sam Ryder:

Corales (2nd, 2nd) / John Deere (2nd)

Chris Stroud:

Corales (2nd) / John Deere (4th, 5th)

Kelly Kraft:

Corales (3rd, 5th) / John Deere (5th)

Cameron Percy:

Corales (4th, 8th) / John Deere (7th)

Panama Championship (Panama Golf Club)

There are a few courses to consider when looking at events on the Korn Ferry Tour, with the two events in The Bahamas at the start of the year both played on paspalum.

However, as another lengthy 7500+ yard course, with two par 5s above 600 yards and 3/4 par 3s above 200, as well as generous fairways and an abundance of water in-play, no course produced as compelling a collection of comp form as Panama Golf Club.

Notable correlating form:

Rafael Campos:

Corales (2nd) / Panama (2nd)

Roberto Diaz:

Corales (2nd) / Panama (2nd)

Sam Ryder:

Corales (2nd, 2nd) / Panama (3rd)

Tyler McCumber:

Corales (2nd) / Panama (7th)

Michael Gligic:

Corales (4th) / Panama (1st)

Cameron Percy:

Corales (4th, 8th) / Panama (2nd)

Xinjun Zhang:

Corales (5th) / Panama (2nd)

Other Events

Finally, whilst not offering up much comp form as yet, I felt it was worth mentioning three courses in Mexico which have been used on tour: Mexico Open host, Vidanta Vallarta; former host of the World Wide Technology Championship, El Camaleon and the new home of that event, El Cardonal.

Each of those courses are situated by the coast and use paspalum grass; whilst in the case of Vidanta Vallarta and El Cardonal, feature generously wide fairways.

THE FIELD

This Corales Puntacana Championship field is headed by world #34, Nicolai Hojgaard, who will be hoping to take confidence from his strong Masters debut last week and make up for his narrow runner-up finish here last year.

The Dane is one of nine players from inside the world’s top 100, joined by #67 Alex Noren, #74 Mark Hubbard, #77 Aaron Rai, #84 Billy Horschel, #91 Ben Griffin, #92 K.H Lee, #93 Victor Perez and #95 Thriston Lawrence; Lawrence getting a sponsors exemption into the field.

Though we don’t have a defending champion this week, we do have three former winners teeing it up in the Caribbean: Chad Ramey (2022), Joel Dahmen (2021) and Nate Lashley (2017).

Other sponsors exemptions include Alex Fitzpatrick and talented Norwegian amateur, Herman Sekne, who currently ranks inside the top 15 in the World Amateur Golf Rankings.

SELECTIONS

Market leaders: Nicolai Hojgaard 12/1, Alex Noren 12/1, Billy Horschel 20/1, Aaron Rai 25/1, Doug Ghim 25/1, Nate Lashley 25/1, Kevin Yu 25/1

This field might carry a little more strength than usual but it is still a very winnable tournament for most players teeing it up.

Whilst it represents a golden opportunity for those without a win at this level to claim their first victory, I start my selections in the Dominican with a player who is a four-time tour winner, Daniel Berger, who looks an extremely attractive price against this field.

1.25 pts Daniel Berger each way (1/5 - 8 places) @ 40/1

After returning from a back injury at the start of the year that had kept him out for the previous eighteen months, Berger immediately caught the eye, finishing 39th at The AmEx and 28th in Phoenix. This level of performance was enough to see him go off at 18/1 in a slightly weaker but similar field than this in the Puerto Rico Open three starts ago.

He played poorly and missed the cut there but has continued to hit the ball well in subsequent starts, ranking 17th off-the-tee and 25th in greens-in-regulation when we last saw him finishing 45th in the Houston Open. Priced much less likely to win this event than the likes of Doug Ghim and Kevin Yu – themselves having not produced their best golf over recent starts – he looked a clear standout value wise, from that top end of the betting.

His good ball-striking this year is further emphasised by rankings of 34th OTT, 43rd in GIR and 67th in approach, whilst he’s also been rock solid with the long irons, ranking 57th in proximity from over 200 yards. The putter has been a struggle at times but he did produce his 2nd-best putting display of the season last time out in Texas.

Berger now comes to a course that he has yet to experience but that hasn’t stopped the last two winners here taking the title. We can take confidence from his 2nd-place finish in Puerto Rico in 2019, as we can a 3rd in Panama and a top 5 in the John Deere, showing his potential suitability to Corales.

1 pt Justin Suh each way (1/5 - 8 places) @ 55/1

Justin Suh added some length to his game at the end of last year and has continued to hit it further than previous seasons in 2024. Whilst his approach play was wildly unpredictable at the start of the year, he’s been much more consistent in this area over his last couple of starts and if finding further improvements in this area he can add to an already promising record in this event.

The former star amateur’s rookie season on the PGA Tour in 2023 can definitely go down as a success, as he missed just two cuts in twenty-seven starts and recorded four top 10s; even impressively finishing inside the top 30 on his two major appearances in the US Open and PGA Championship. When added to his amateur pedigree it felt like he would have a big year in 2024.

Things haven’t quite worked out as he’d have hoped this year, missing seven of ten cuts and recording just the one top 25 when finishing 22nd in the Phoenix Open.

He has had some really poor approach performances, however he appears to have got that under control over his most recent starts and whilst missing more fairways this year than he ever has in search of greater length, he should be more comfortable into these forgiving and generous fairways.

Suh has been well in contention at the halfway point on both of his previous visits to Corales, sitting 2nd in 2020 before finishing 14th and was tied for the lead after 36 holes in 2021 before eventually slipping to 28th. A 4th-place finish at the similarly wide open El Cardonal at the end of last year – his highest ever finish on the PGA Tour – offers further proof as to what he can do at this course and as a player with a higher ceiling than many in this field, he looks a good price to go well this week.

1 pt Jhonattan Vegas each way (1/5 - 8 places) @ 60/1

Jhonny Vegas has been the 4th-best ball-striker in this field over his last twenty rounds and with as much course/comp course form as just about anyone in this field, he was an easy selection this week.

Some short-game struggles for Vegas this year have meant that he hasn’t been able to quite capitalise on that outstanding ball-striking – that sees him rank 15th in GIR, 21st in approach and 26th OTT for the season overall – so far, missing five of eight cuts and hitting the top 25 just once. However, this big-hitter does have enough form on paspalum that gives me confidence he can turn that around this week.

He has played at Corales four times, recording a 26th-place finish on debut in 2019 and after missing the cut in 2020 he improved on each of his last two starts, finishing 18th in 2021 and he was 4th in 2022.

Vegas’ strong paspalum play took him to a 2nd-place finish in Puerto Rico in 2021 and a top 10 at El Camaleon. His 3rd-place finish in the 2014 John Deere Classic strengthens his case and when we combine this book of form with his high-class ball-striking, he looks the ideal course fit.

1 pt Joe Highsmith each way (1/5 - 8 places) @ 66/1

In an event that has often favoured first-time tour winners I’m going to turn to a trio of rookies to finish, starting with Joe Highsmith.

Highsmith turned pro halfway through 2022, as a stellar amateur career took him to as high as #11 in the amateur rankings. Then making his way on the Korn Ferry Tour last year, he ended the season excellently, finishing 2nd in the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship and then 3rd in the Korn Ferry Tour Championship to earn him an instant upgrade to the PGA Tour in 2024.

He has shown promise right from the off, finishing 34th in The AmEx and 33rd in the Farmers Insurance Open over the course of his first three starts. However, he’s stepped that up a level over his last four events, recording a season’s best of 6th in the Puerto Rico Open four starts ago and two starts ago a top-10 ball-striking performance took him to a 21st-place finish in the Houston Open.

His touch around-the-greens has been most impressive this year, an area in which he ranks 27th and may come in handy this week if those strong winds materialise. He has largely struggled with his ball-striking but that has improved over recent starts and he is a strong long iron player, ranking 32nd in proximity over 200 yards this season.

Finishes of 4th in last year’s Panama Championship and that 6th in this year’s Puerto Rico Open suggest that this test should suit and I’m expecting Highsmith to again go well in an opposite-field event this week.

1 pt Rico Hoey each way (1/5 - 8 places) @ 70/1

The big-hitting Rico Hoey has hit the ball excellently all season long and with recent results starting to improve thanks to him finally getting his short game to behave, he will fancy his chances at this venue.

Hoey was also a top-level amateur, hitting the top 10 in the rankings but his assent to the PGA Tour has been a much steadier one after turning pro in 2017 at just 21-years-old.

He finally made his way to the PGA Tour after an excellent opening spell on the Korn Ferry Tour last season; winning in Knoxville, recording three additional top 3s and a further two top 10s across his first eleven starts of the year. All which helped massively in him finishing 4th on the regular season points list.

Hoey has been hitting the ball well from the off this season and is especially strong OTT, ranking 9th and is top 25 in driving distance. Rankings of 44th in approach and 58th in GIR show his iron-play credentials, where he excels with his wedge play in particular, ranking 21st from 100-125 yards.

This ball-striking prowess didn’t translate to results in the early part of the year as he’d struggled on the greens, resulting in him missing his first four cuts. Although, as his putter has improved he has made four of his last five cuts and comes into this week after his best result of the year last time out, when he finished 14th in the Texas Open.

Hoey is making his debut this week but his 8th in Panama last year bodes well and if able to keep those recent gains on the greens up, he has the long game to make him a serious contender this week.

0.75 pts Pierceson Coody each way (1/5 - 6 places) @ 175/1

Former #1 amateur, Pierceson Coody was all the rage when turning pro in 2022, going on to win the Maine Open on the Korn Ferry Tour on his third professional start. Two more wins followed on that tour last year, earning him this step up to the PGA Tour. After an initially sticky start to his rookie season, he looks to be finally finding his feet and can go well at this suitable setup in the Caribbean.

Coody missed four of his first five cuts this year and withdrew from his other start, failing to strike a blow due to some erratic ball-striking. However, he’s been much more controlled with the long game in recent weeks, especially the driver, where he’s started to find more fairways, and with that, it’s been no surprise to see him start to make some cuts.

He’s made the weekend in three of his last four starts and whilst the putter has been doing most of the heavy lifting, he did have his best approach performance of the season two starts ago in Houston, gaining strokes in each of his first three rounds.

Despite his relative struggles in that area across the season, he’s produced solid numbers with his wedges, ranking top 50 from 100-125 yards and marries that with some also decent numbers from 200-250. Combined with his length OTT, he makes plenty of sense for this challenge.

Coody is making his debut here but he did win the Panama Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour last year and with his best finish of this season coming when 32nd in Puerto Rico, it does feel that he’ll enjoy what he finds at Corales Golf Course this week.

You can find all Jamie's latest Golf Betting Tips over on our dedicated golf Insights hub.

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