Mayakoba: Mexico's mysterious land of mangroves, cenotes and championship golf

By Jason DeeganOctober 21, 2013, 8:30 pm

PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Quintana Roo, Mexico – If the mysterious, one-lane road through the jungle or the welcome drink in the beautiful open-air lobby overlooking a lagoon doesn’t leave a lasting first impression about the Rosewood Mayakoba, the boat ride certainly will.

Guests don’t simply walk to their rooms. They’re whisked away by water taxis to explore twisting canals and lagoons cut from the mangroves before reaching a lavish luxury suite.

'We loved the boat to our suite,” said Tim Sperling, a Highland Park, Ill., resident visiting with his wife. 'You saw wildlife, crocodile and exotic birds. That’s a neat first impression...As soon as I walked in the room, I said to my wife, 'This is the first time any hotel room has thoroughly exceeded my expectation.''

Exceeding expectations remains the core mission of this posh 1,600-acre retreat 40 minutes south of the Cancun International Airport along the Riviera Maya. The entire Mayakoba complex, home to three resorts and the El Camaleon Golf Club, is gearing up for the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, Mexico’s only PGA TOUR event, on Nov. 14-17. This year could be Mayakoba’s coming-out party as one of the premier golf destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico.

The OHL Classic at Mayakoba

Mayakoba

For the first time since its inception in 2007, the OHL Classic at Mayakoba has its own date on the schedule. The new date, a purse increased to $6 million, plus an added bonus that the inaugural 2013-14 PGA TOUR schedule brings (500 FedExCup points and a trip to the Masters for the winner), will help erase the stigma of the event being classified as a 'secondary' event.

'The players will be the best ambassadors for us,' said Glenn Preciado, El Camaleon’s new director of golf operations. “We will run a tight ship. The tournament will benefit us as the guys start choosing where they play. A lot of them don’t like the West Coast’s bumpy greens. They will start weighing (going to) Hawaii, too. If you live on the East coast, you don’t need to go to the Sony (Open). They can come here (in November instead). It’s a transition year for this new schedule. We’re not sure how it will play out.'

The El Camaleon Golf Club

El Camaleon

El Camaelon Golf Club winds through mangroves before heading out towards the Caribbean Sea. 

The Greg Norman-designed, 7,024-yard El Camaleon course traverses through three ecosystems: jungle, mangroves and along the beach. The signature par-3s at no. 7 and no. 15 overlook the emerald waters of the Caribbean Sea. All but a couple of the par-4s are sturdy, especially in the crosswinds off the ocean. A giant 'cenote' (meaning sink hole), sits in the middle of the fairway of no. 1, a 554-yard par-5. Nobody but the resort players end up in it, though.

Preciado believes the course will play entirely different coming out of Cancun’s rainy season compared to its previous date in the spring.

“The course will be playing long,” he said. “It has been shorter hitters (like Fred Funk and Mark Wilson) who have won it in the past when the course has been firm and dry. Look out for the bombers.”

A clubhouse makeover in its finishing stages will enhance the player’s locker room and lounge on the lower level. The previously unused upper level will open to become a bar with a pool table next to a movie-theater-sized flat-screen TV and a restaurant with outdoor seating overlooking the 18th hole.


View tee times and stay-and-play packages in Mexico on GolfNow


The Rosewood Mayakoba

Rosewood

Rosewood is one of three luxury resorts in the Mayakoba development on the Riviera Maya. 

Mayakoba’s three resorts (there’s also a Fairmont and Banyan Tree on property) hope to attract golf fans to stay and enjoy their spoils before, during and after the TOUR event. The Rosewood Mayakoba has introduced The Ultimate Golf Package, a $175,000 dream vacation for three golfers during tournament week that includes a private lesson with Jim McLean, a round of golf with Norman at his nearby Playa Mujeres design (with private helicopter transportation to and from the course and tee times in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba Pro-Am, plus lavish accommodations in a the Presidential Suite, V.I.P. access and luxurious meals.

But you don’t have to spend your life savings to stay in this tropical paradise. The 128 suites come stocked with private plunge pools, rooftop sundecks, outdoor garden showers and the finest in-room design and details. The staff, including private butler service for every room, aims to please.

The food is as exemplary as the service. The “Mexican night” at Punta Bonita along the beach goes off-menu for a filling six-taco sampler. The fine-dining Casa del Lago serves a versatile lunch and dinner menu near the main pool. The Agave Azul Sushi & Tequila Bar used to be just a premium tequila-tasting bar until transforming into one of Mayakoba’s most popular (and most romantic) restaurants last year. Call ahead for reservations.

I wisely scheduled a visit to Sense, A Rosewood Spa® for my final night on property. Designed around a cenote, this retreat within a retreat is essentially a private spa island hidden in the jungle. The facilities encourage hours of relaxation in the hot and cold therapeutic plunge pools, a steam grotto, sauna or an individual rain shower with heads spraying in all directions. Every treatment – whether in the 12 treatment rooms or eight island suites – starts with a relaxing foot scrub. My 90-minute signature island massage mixed massage techniques with Mayan chocolate oils to set the world right. Suddenly my 6 a.m. flight back to reality in the morning didn’t seem like such a big deal. I was already flying high.


Video: Matt Ginella checks in from Mayakoba on Morning Drive


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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.


CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.

@tommyfleetwood_1

A post shared by Alex Noren (@alexnoren1) on

The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."


Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."