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Friday, 18 January, 2019

Cook can serve up a treat to his Mayakoba followers

Rookie should take shine to the course

Austin Cook chips on to the green during the Sanderson Farms Championship
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Palmer's top tip
Austin Cook 80-1

The first six tournaments of the new US Tour season have gone to players with some previous experience of the circuit, but a rookie can land first prize in the OHL Classic this week.

Austin Cook earned his US Tour card when finishing eighth in the Tour Championship in the first week of October and the accurate 26-year-old has played solidly in his two subsequent outings alongside the big boys. A share of 25th spot in the Sanderson Farms was followed by 20th in the Shriners Open on Sunday.

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Cook, a bright prospect since Monday-qualifying for a US Tour debut in the 2014 St Jude Classic and finishing 13th, looks made for the higher grade. The tougher tracks found on the US Tour should provide greater reward for his precision.

The El Camaleon course is fresh domain for Cook this week, but his driving prowess means he can make a serious title tilt on his OHL Classic debut. Finding fairways is the key to success at Mayakoba and Cook is formidable off the tee.

The Arkansas boy has played in 12 US Tour events, starting with that fine St Jude effort, and he has posted eight top-25 finishes. That is impressive consistency for one so inexperienced, and fairly rapid career progression can be expected.

Cook appears a comfortable competing away from America. His first tournament outside his homeland was the 2016 Panama Championship on the Web, in which he finished fifth, and he was third in the Mexico Championship in April despite opening with a 73.

Next best
Ryan Armour 70-1

Another straight driver to follow along this fiddly little layout is Ryan Armour, who showcased his talents with a maiden US Tour triumph in the Sanderson Farms Championship. Armour's relentless accuracy left the rest of the Sanderson field playing for second, and he cruised to a five-shot success.

Armour has become a force since ditching attempts to gain length off the tee, instead relying on his trademark precision. El Camaleon is perfect terrain for the 41-year-old to grind another fat cheque through his fairway-finding ability. His only previous Mayakoba appearance was as a US Tour rookie in 2007 and he finished fourth, his best result of the season.

Armour followed his Sanderson success with 20th place in the Shriners Open on Sunday, and he has been playing great golf from late-summer onwards. He travels well, too, and his 2016 Tour victory came in Panama.

Other selections
Emiliano Grillo 60-1
Andrew Landry 150-1

Putting frustration has led to various grip changes for Emiliano Grillo, who has endured a poor year by his standards. When the Argentinian clicks on the greens, he is world class, due to a textbook swing and rock-solid ball-striking.

Grillo's OHL Classic price is sufficiently juicy to merit taking a chance that he finds some flat-stick form among Spanish-speaking cousins this week. The course suits him down to the ground and he finished tenth on his debut last year, enjoying a nine-under-par weekend. A winner on the Tour and the US Tour, he is a class above most of this field.

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Complete a four-pronged attack with Andrew Landry, another accurate sort who can handle the dimensions of Mayakoba. Landry was first-round leader in the US Open last year, before finishing 15th, and tough tee-to-green assignments suit him best.

It is a surprise to see such big prices against the name of Landry given he was seventh in the Safeway Open just a month ago. The graduate also made an explosive start in the Sanderson Farms before fading away.

His Mayakoba missed cut in 2015 can be seen as a positive, providing course experience. He was in terrible form prior to that visit.

Landry has won twice on the Tour and both of those victories came outside of America – the 2015 Karibana Championship in Colombia and the 2017 Bahamas Classic. Both were by emphatic margins and the 30-year-old clearly has a lot to offer.

Others to note
Rickie Fowler
The world number ten is the class of the field, but he is making his Mayakoba debut and may be in vacation mood in a pleasant location rather than busting a gut for the trophy.

Zach Johnson
The dual Major champion is another quality debutant. The accurate veteran is well worth considering on a layout which suits, but he has not won since the 2015 Open.

Chris Stroud
The Barracuda Championship victor is the only man who has played in every Mayakoba gathering. Has twice made the each-way places.

Alex Cejka
The precise German was a playoff loser in the Shriners Open on Sunday and could be a factor again if carrying that form to Mexico.

Chesson Hadley
The improving Carolinian has finished third, second and fourth in his last three US Tour events, and he was 1-2-46 for his final three starts. Missed the cut in his only previous OHL.

Charley Hoffman
The 40-year-old Californian won the third of his four US Tour titles in the 2014 OHL. Has been consistently producing sound golf and is an obvious dangerman.

Staking plan
A Cook
1pt each-way 80-1 Betfred
R Armour
1pt each-way 70-1 Betfred
E Grillo
1pt each-way 60-1 Betfred
A Landry
0.5pt each-way 150-1 Hills

The lowdown

Course El Camaleon Golf Club, Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Prize money $7.1m ($1.26m to the winner)

Length 6,987 yards Par 71 Field 132

Course records – 72 holes 263 Harris English (2013), Pat Perez (2016) 18 holes 61 Roland Thatcher (2008)

Course winners taking part Brian Gay, Mark Wilson, Johnson Wagner, John Huh, Harris English, Charley Hoffman, Graeme McDowell, Pat Perez

Last week – Shriners Hospitals for Children Open 1 P Cantlay (20-1), T2 A Cejka (200-1), W Kim (100-1), T4 P Kizzire (100-1), JT Poston (300-1), C Hadley (25-1).

Course overview The Mayakoba US Tour gathering takes place on the stunning Greg Norman-designed El Camaleon. This tournament, which started in 2007, was previously staged in February, running alongside the Accenture Match Play, until getting its own autumn date in 2013.

One minute on this layout, the competitors are working their way through holes deep in tropical jungle and the next they emerge to oceanside holes where bare-chested spectators watch the action from the beach.

El Camaleon is a quirky, fiddly track with limestone canals bisecting some holes and there is even a cave which splits the first fairway into two sections.

Sound course management is required, although scores in the low 60s have been recorded regularly by players with fairway-finding ability.

The story of last year Pat Perez triumphed in just his third start after an eight-month layoff for shoulder surgery, a 13-under-par weekend seeing him beat Gary Woodland by two shots.

Weather forecast Hot and humid, with sporadic showers and light breezes.

Type of player suited to challenge The Mayakoba honours board is filled with accurate drivers and it appears the only way to compete at El Camaleon is from the fairway.

With peculiar troublespots waiting to punish the errant, precision operators Fred Funk, Brian Gay, Mark Wilson, John Huh, Graeme McDowell and Pat Perez have relished the challenge.

Key attribute Accuracy

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It is a surprise to see such big prices against the name of Landry
E.W. Terms
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