If you are going to be an also ran, not in the top 64 in the world golf rankings, the Riviera Maya-Cancun area is a magnificent place to spend some time with your underachieving buddies. I’m not sure of the numbers but these nobodies playing at El Camaleon, the 14th toughest track on tour, are pretty impressive. There are at least 4-5 Major winners – Lehman, Toms, Daly, Jansen – a bunch of Ryder Cuppers, a couple of U.S. Amateur champs at least – Mayfair and Verplank – a TPC winner, Fred Funk and a Tour Championship winner or two.
Greg Norman’s design entices a challenge of the hazards lining the fairways and crooked numbers lurk on every hole along with some brightly colored slithering creatures with short legs, long tongues and tails, hanging from the mangroves.
When I first walked the course I found out quickly leaving the fairway was hazardous to my health and our score. Sitting luxuriously among those thickets and swamp critters is a wonderful resort hotel, Riviera Maya, pampering the players, and most importantly their wives, making this first south of the border tournament a popular tour stop. Five years ago they couldn’t fill the field. This year a lot of good players were left on the alternate list.
The caddies are stuck down the road in Playa del Carmen, a quaint little fishing village with adequate night life, and bussed to the course every day. We have no complaints, the locals treat us well, the beer is on ice and there is plenty of scenery on the beach. Plus, there’s an adequate supply of just about anything you need peddled by the local “street merchants”.
The hot humid weather poses a bit of an issue and one alcohol infused evening the conversation centered on the proper treatment of “Monkey Butt”, a rare caddie disease caused by heavy perspiration, usually from a late night out. There were various remedies for the malady, handfuls of cornstarch/baby powder in the shorts, Vaseline applied to the thighs, cut-off women’s nylons worn discreetly and shaving the inflicted area prior to the tournament. I won’t go into any details; you get the picture I hope.
Watch out for those guys who haven’t quite made a name for themselves and the old farts showing they can still play with the youngsters.
I like Alejandro Canizares, Jarrod Lyle, Josh Teater and Spencer Levin in that first category. In the overly mature group I’m going with Funk, Lehman, Billy Mayfair, and Tom Pernice, Jr.
I watched young Canizares hit balls with his father fifteen years ago and knew he was going to be special. Jarrod Lyle has battled severe health issues since childhood and is ready to break out and we played with Josh Teater a few years ago I Q-School, good kid, great ball striker and sneaky long.
You know about all the old guys and this short demanding track with large undulating greens needs a bit of maturity to navigate. You don’t want to take any chances off the tee and must maintain your composure in the gusting winds off the Gulf of Mexico. They should be able to manage the shot angles better than the youth. One more guy to watch who is always dangerous in the wind, Chad Campbell, he falls exactly in middle of the age groups.
You northerners will enjoy viewing the warm breezes, blue languid gulf waters, sunny skies, and laidback lifestyle on the Mayan coast. The players will enjoy the challenging course while their wives are soaking up sun.
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