MAYAKOBA, Mexico – The LIV Golf League’s 2023 season opener at Mayakoba is at a course familiar to several of the 48 players in the field, with El Camaleon hosting professional tournaments since 2007. Two of its previous winners are LIV Golf members Graeme McDowell and Pat Perez.
The 7,062-yard par-71 layout – designed by LIV Golf Commissioner & CEO Greg Norman – puts a premium on accuracy and shot-making.
“It kind of suits everybody, but you have to be in the fairway,” said Mexico’s Abraham Ancer of Fireballs GC. “It can be a little intimidating off the tee. If you’re not hitting it straight, you’re going to definitely struggle. But once you’re there, it’s very scoreable.”
It may be less scoreable this week than in previous golf events at El Camaleon that were generally played in November.
"I actually think it's a lot different," said Ancer's teammate and fellow countryman Carlos Ortiz. "It's probably the best shape I've seen it. The rough is high. The greens are firmer and faster. The wind is a little bit stronger. I think overall the golf course plays faster. I think it's going to be a good challenge. I'm excited. I think it's the first time it's going to be a little bit more challenging."
With that in mind, here are the Power Rankings for this week’s LIV Golf Mayakoba. Reminder that three scores count in every round toward the team scores.
FULL SEASON POWER RANKINGS: Teams | Individual
1. JOAQUIN NIEMANN (Torque GC) – Two starts, two top-10 finishes thus far in 2023, including a T5 at the International Series Oman two weeks ago. Has experience at El Camaleon with four career starts, including a T5 in his last appearance in 2021. And with a revamped Torque lineup, he’d no doubt like to set an early positive tone.
2. CARLOS ORTIZ (Fireballs GC) – Just can’t ignore his recent track record here: T2 in 2019, T8 in 2020 and a solo 2nd in 2021. However, a couple of caveats – 1) Those results came in November, when the course wasn’t as firm or fast (he says that won't be an issue), and 2) he's been slow out of the gate in 2023, with a missed cut and a T43 in his two Middle East starts.
3. ABRAHAM ANCER (Fireballs GC) – Hasn’t been as close to winning on this course as his fellow countryman, although Ancer does have four top-12 finishes in his last five starts at El Camaleon. Perhaps of more importance is that he’s in form, as evidenced by his victory earlier this month at the PIF Saudi International.
4. PATRICK REED (4Aces GC) – Already has made three starts in 2023, including a solo second in Dubai. So no rust here. He doesn’t have experience at El Camaleon, but he does have a past winner in Perez (who has made 10 starts here) as a teammate. That should help accelerate the learning process.
5. PAUL CASEY (Crushers GC) – He’s generally a fast starter. In the last five years, he has one win, two seconds and four other top 10s within the first seven weeks of the calendar year. Already this year, he finished solo fifth at the PIF Saudi International. Plus, his game fits El Camaleon.
OTHERS TO CONSIDER: Dustin Johnson (4Aces GC) and Cameron Smith (Ripper GC) because they’re my top two picks for the season-long Individual Champion race … Newcomer Mito Pereira (Torque GC) has started off strong in 2023 but missed the cut in his only start on this course … Charles Howell III (Crushers GC) and Pat Perez (4Aces GC) have the most starts at El Camaleon.
1. FIREBALLS GC. It’s essentially a home game for the Spanish-speaking Fireballs. Ortiz and Ancer will get plenty of support from their home crowd in Mexico, and captain Sergio Garcia has shown good form after returning from offseason knee surgery. And we already know Eugenio Chacarra, now entering his second pro year, is capable of winning.
2. TORQUE GC. Niemann is the top individual pick, and Pereria is in good form. Sebastian Munoz has made four starts at El Camaleon but has never contended. If young David Puig can contribute, Torque should make a push for its first podium finish.
3. 4ACES GC. With DJ and Reed at the top of the lineup, the 4Aces will always be in contention. But there are still a few things they’ve yet to prove, such as winning on international soil (all five wins last year came in the U.S.) and failing to win either of the two regular-season events with three counting scores per round.
4. RIPPER GC. Last time we saw them, Captain Smith’s team was playing under another name. Now they have a new identity, a revamped lineup (the addition of Jed Morgan) and a higher confidence level. Going to be fun to watch the Aussies in 2023.
OTHERS TO CONSIDER: The all-South African Stinger GC won the season opener last year, and newcomer Dean Burmester will stabilize the No. 4 slot … RangeGoats GC will should play well with Talor Gooch, Harold Varner III and just-arrived Thomas Pieters. But captain Bubba Watson may still be rusty coming back from knee surgery … Crushers GC was consistent last year, and Charles Howell III certainly has plenty of course knowledge he can impart to his teammates.