They only came because they didnt earn a spot in the Accenture Match Play Championship.
Yet as far as consolation prizes go, this resort along the Riviera Maya is a darn good one. Just ask David Toms, who has more reason to gripe than anyone.
Toms is No. 65 in the world rankings and a former Match Play winner. He wouldve been in the event for the 10th straight year if any of the 64 guys ahead of him backed out, but for the first time in the tournaments 11-year history, not a single one did.
I see why guys are raving about it, Toms said Wednesday, following his first time around the Greg Norman-designed course. Ive heard from guys that have been down here before and they really like it. From a golf course and a tournament standpoint, I thought they were right on. It was well worth the trip.
Toms is among 16 of the next 64 players from the world rankings. The start list also features recognizable names such as Ryder Cup captain Corey Pavin, former Ryder Cup captain Tom Lehman and two-time U.S. Open winner Lee Janzen.
This is the third straight year the PGA Tour has visited south of the border, always opposite the Match Play. Those whove come have returned home as goodwill ambassadors, praising the course as challenging enough and the accommodations as being first class. Bob Tway is a perfect example, having returned with his family for a vacation last year; the Tways will do so again next month during spring break, along with Scott Verplank and his family.
Were pretty spoiled and go to some beautiful places, but this ranks right up there with any resorts that we go to, said Billy Andrade, another first-time Mayakoba entrant. You dont have to leave here if you dont want to. Thats whats so neat about it. Theyve got all the amenities you want. Its just a fantastic place.
The resort features a private beach facing the Caribbean Sea, but the course offers other natural wonders, from exotic trees and animals to an underground cavern that starts on the first fairway and comes out behind the second green. Its called the Devils Mouth and few of the millionaire players are willing to do more than look into it.
I saw some little lizards and some other alligator-looking things, Toms said. Im going to stay out of there.
The 6,923-yard, par-70 course is tight and can get tricky depending on how the wind blows. It has holes facing the sea and two others that last year ranked among the 50 toughest on the PGA Tour, both of them long par-4s.
Its deceiving, said Paul Goydos, yet another first-timer here. Youre going to walk away saying, God, why didnt I shoot three or four shots better? You shoot 70 and you felt like you shouldve shot 66.
While the purse ($3.6 million; $648,000 for the winner) is on the small side, other rewards make this a good fallback to the match play.
The top four spots here are worth as many points in the world ratings as the top four spots in the match play event. And the winner here gets 250 FedEx Cup points, more than the 250 for third-place at the match play; the second- and third-place finishers here get about as many FedEx Cup points and the third- and fourth-place finishers there.
Id love to move up and be in the match play, but we love coming here, defending champion Brian Gay said. I think either way its good for me. Eventually, though, hopefully if a date opens up, this tournament might move to a better date so its not opposite.
Thats certainly the goal.
Tournament director Larson Segerdahl said the PGA Tour used this overshadowed spot on the schedule as a chance for the Mayakoba Classic to prove itself. Now, organizers are hoping for a weekend of their own as soon as next year. Considering the economy, theres a decent chance something might open up. Segerdahl added that sponsor OHL, of Spain, is ready to receive that call and is prepared to upgrade the purse.
I think now its a matter of being patient and waiting for that opportunity to come up, he said. If were able to step in and fill a spot on the PGA Tour, FedEx Cup schedule, wed be ready to do that tomorrow.