After the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, the PGA Tour travels to a warmer climate and a very different course for the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. Corales GC, as befits a resort course, has wide fairways and large, slow greens. Expect players to miss very few fairways and greens and to make very few bogeys. The course’s only protection from ultra-low scores is seaside winds.
The formula for success at Corales involves elite iron play and putting. Driving distance and accuracy are muted here, but the ability to hit iron shots close on the big greens can make the difference between a T-20 and a win. The field isn’t strong this week, but full points are available, so a victory could have a massive effect on a player’s career.
Let’s consider who might have a big week in the Dominican Republic:
Thomas Detry $9,400
A 27-year-old pro from Belgium, Detry plays primarily on the European Tour but could gain full-time PGA membership with a win at the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. I have him rated as the third best player in the field, behind Will Zalatoris and Mackenzie Hughes. Detry is a fantastic iron player who has both consistency and the upside to make birdies and contend. Last week, he lingered around the top 20 in the U.S. Open before slipping to T-49 on Sunday. Detry has also done well on the European Tour lately, finishing runner-up twice in fields about as strong as the one at Corales.
Alex Smalley $6,400
While unknown to most golf fans, Smalley has been lighting it up on the minor-league circuit over the past month. On the LOCALiQ Series (a replacement for the Canadian and Latin American developmental tours), he has had three top-nine finishes in his past four events. During the same span, he has posted a 60 (-12) and been in final pairings in two final rounds. This week, with a thin field and a course where high-birdie-rate guys thrive, Smalley is a smart flyer to take.
Last week, I identified Zalatoris as a must-play, and he came through with a sixth-place finish at the U.S. Open. He now heads to Punta Cana in search of a victory that would give him his PGA Tour card for the next two years. The motivation is there, and so is his game. He is the best iron player on the Korn Ferry Tour, and when he moves to the PGA Tour, he’ll probably be the best iron player there, too. Zalatoris has finished 34th or better in all 17 of his starts in 2020 and has been in the top six 10 times.
Hughes has been trending in the right direction over the past few months. He played well in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, finishing 13th and 10th in the first two events and qualifying for the Tour Championship. His excellent form dates back to the restart; since then, he has had two top-six finishes. Add that to the fact that he’s already a PGA Tour winner and that he finished second at the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship last year, and Hughes looks like a great pick for this week.