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OHL Classic at Mayakoba draws talent to Mexico

(Photo by Matt Roberts/Getty Images)

There are a lot of worse places to be this time of year than along the Yucatan Peninsula's Riviera Maya playing golf on the shores of the Caribbean Sea.

The warm, tropical weather and the apres-golf benefits are just part of what's drawn some of the best golfers in the world to Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico and the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. The tournament begins Thursday at the Greg Norman-designed El Camaleon Golf Club.

The field of 132 players is highlighted by last year's winner Pat Perez, fellow Americans Rickie Fowler, Patrick Reed, Charley Hoffman, and Kevin Chappell and International stalwarts Emiliano Grillo of Argentina, Jhonattan Vegas of Venezuela, India's Anirban Lahiri and Si Woo Kim of South Korea.

The roster of players will be competing for a total purse of $7.1 million, with $1.26 million and 500 FedExCup points going to the winner after 72 holes of stroke play through Sunday.

The par-71, 6,987-yard layout is unique, not just to Mexico but to the entire world of golf. The course bends through three distinct landscapes: mangrove jungles, limestone canals and stunning, oceanfront stretches of sand.

The course opened in 2004 and first hosted the PGA Tour three years later, playing its first six editions opposite the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play until getting its own fall date in 2013. Last year, El Camaleon also served as one of two hosts for the World Amateur Team Championships.

Perez will defend his title just four weeks after winning again at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia.

Last year Perez, who was playing on a major medical extension, carded five birdies and one bogey on the way to posting a four-day total of 21-under-par 263 and a two-stroke victory over 54-hole leader Gary Woodland. Perez tied Harris English's 2014 tournament-record low 72-hole total.

"I don't really have expectations -- I would like to defend, but obviously it's very tough," Perez said. "It's not something that happens every year to anybody. I'm just going to try to play well and hit some good shots, try to make some putts and see what happens."

Fowler at No. 7 in the world is the highest ranked golfer in the field. He is playing in this event for the first time.

"I like the golf course," Fowler said. "It's a fun layout. I enjoy playing in windy conditions, so I know it can get fairly windy down here. I've only been around it once now, but very much demanding of the tee ball.

"You have to hit the ball pretty straight to stay out of the native area, whatever you want to call it, don't go into it. You have to hit the ball straight off the tee to have a chance this week."

Seven past champions of this event are in the field, including Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland and Americans John Huh, Johnson Wagner, Mark Wilson and Brian Gay. Six major champions will also tee it up -- Ernie Els and Retief Goosen of South Africa, Zach Johnson, Stewart Cink, Geoff Ogilvy of Australia and McDowell.

Oscar Fraustro, who finished 13th last year after a closing 66, and PGA Tour member Abraham Ancer headline a group of five Mexican pros in the field.

Chris Stroud is the only player in the field who has competed in each OHL Classic at Mayakoba.

The OHL Classic at Mayakoba, which will be conducted for the 11th time this year, made golf history when it became the first PGA Tour co-sanctioned event to be contested outside of the United States and Canada.

This tournament is the seventh of eight events in the fall portion of the PGA Tour's wraparound schedule that bridges two years with 45 official events. After a break, the season will resume in January with the traditional swing through Hawaii before moving to the West Coast.

Updated November 9, 2017

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