PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico – Shawn Stefani feels right at home at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba.
A native of Houston, Stefani is used to the hot and humid temperatures facing players this week. The paspalum greens, perhaps the trickiest aspect of the layout at El Camaleon, are reminiscent of the Bermuda surfaces he grew up playing.
Stefani’s record here reinforces his comfort level. A runner-up last year in his tournament debut, he opened with a 6-under 65 Thursday to grab a share of the early lead.
“It just kind of has a hometown feel for me, even though we’re down in Mexico,” Stefani said. “I love it here, I loved it here last year and we’ll probably come back here every year.”
Stefani got off to a blistering start in the opening round, which began on the back nine, playing his first four holes in 5 under. That stretch was capped by an eagle on the par-5 13th, and Stefani didn’t drop a shot until No. 9, his final hole of the day.
“I think that’s the best start I’ve ever gotten off to on the PGA Tour,” he said. “I would like to start off like that every day, but we know it doesn’t happen. When things are going like that, you just kind of ride it until it stops.”
Stefani has struggled out of the gates in the new season, and he missed the cut last week at the Sanderson Farms Championship after a ball-striking effort he described as “awful.” He flew to this week’s venue eager to get back on track, and he discovered a fix during practice upon arrival.
“I just got sick and tired of being sick and tired,” he said. “I knew I needed to get through the ball better, and I found something. It was nice to go out there today and hit the ball kind of where I was looking.”