WGC Mexico Championship: Preview and picks

Tommy Fleetwood

 

The PGA Tour travels south to Mexico this week for the WGC Mexico Championship at the Club De Golf Chaputepec. 65 golfers make up the field in this no cut 72 hole event.
This is the second consecutive year the WGC event is held just ten miles from the heart of Mexico City.

The par 71, 7,345 yard course is a tough test for the PGA Tour demanding precise drives to avoid the trees lining the fairways. The grass is kikuyu and the greens are poa annua, which the players have played on a good bit on the west coast swing.

Altitude plays a big roll in distance and stamina this week. Although the course is listed at 7,345 yards, with a high altitude this yardage adjusts to an actual 6,700 yards.

Many players will leave their driver in the bag on reachable holes due to the altitude and bombers off the tee will not have their usual advantage this week although distance never hurts.

This event was 9th on the PGA Tour in 2017 in total eagles made. It also was one of the highest ranked in total double bogeys. As Jordan Spieth said, “This is a perfect example of a course of risk and reward.”

“It’s a pleasure to play a golf course where your caddie doesn’t hand you the driver walking off the previous green. You’ve got to put in a bit of thought on this golf course, try and hit fairways. It’s not just a tee-up-and-blast-it place. You’ve got to play to certain sections in the greens with flags.” – Lee Westwood

Sergio Garcia said the altitude was hard to get used to, causing him headaches and exhaustion which takes a couple of days to recover from. “When you are not used to playing at this altitude it’s tough physically, your head hurts, your body doesn’t feel the same,” said Garcia.

2017
Making his first start since taking over the No. 1 spot in the Official World Golf Ranking following his win at the 2017 Genesis Open, Dustin Johnson earned his 14th career PGA TOUR win at the World Golf Championship-Mexico Championship in his 207th TOUR start.

Johnson shot 14-under 270 to beat England’s Tommy Fleetwood by one stroke.
After beginning the back nine of his final round par-eagle-par-par-birdie-birdie, Jon Rahm briefly held the solo-lead before bogeys at Nos. 16 and 17 resulted in a T3 in his World Golf Championships debut.

With the win at Chapultepec, Johnson became the fifth player, and first since Adam Scott in 2014, to win his first PGA TOUR start as the No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Johnson is a five-time World Golf Championships winner with victories at the HSBC Champions (2013), the Mexico Championship (2015, 2017), the Dell Technologies Match Play (2017) and the Bridgestone Invitational (2016)

When he defeated Jon Rahm in the Match Play final at Austin CC, Johnson became the first player to win all four different WGC events.
Johnson joins Tiger Woods (18) as the only two players with five or more World Golf Championships victories.
Johnson has four top-10 finishes in WGC-Mexico Championship tournament history – 2nd/2011, T4/2014, 1st/2015, 1st/2017.

The Field
Six of the top 10 in the Official World Golf Rankings.
45 of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings.
19 different countries represented.

Rory McIlroy, Jason Day, and Henrik Stenson have withdrawn from the event.
Jordan Spieth originally was not going to play this event but changed his mind at the last minute.

Brooks Koepka is still recovering from a wrist injury, and Hideki Matsuyama is recovering from an injured thumb.

19 players are playing in their first WGC-Mexico event this week. Six players are playing in their first ever WGC event.

Picks
Normally Dustin Johnson would be a favorite to defend his victory of 2017 but his play in his last event was not he norm for DJ as he finished T-16 at the Genesis Open.

Tommy Fleetwood– The 11th ranked player in the Official World Golf Rankings finished second last year, one shot back of Dustin Johnson.

Finishing fourth last week at the Honda Classic Fleetwood had a chance to win till near the end but showed his game is in top form.

He ranks 6th in strokes gained off the tee, 12th strokes gained around the green, second in strokes gained tee to green, and fourth strokes gained total. He is third in scoring average for the PGA Tour this season.

“I think definitely myself and the European guys that we talked to, we all love the course. It’s actually a very European course, so for us it was a good sign when we got here, I think, and it’s been a tough test. The course doesn’t play overly long and the best players in the world are here and 14 under’s been the winning total,” said Fleetwood.

Jon Rahm-The second ranked player in the world golf rankings finished T-3 last year in this event. Although long drives are not required on this short course but when kept between the trees they can be a big advantage.

Rahm is having a break out year with a win at the Career Builder Challenge, a second place finish at Sentry Tournament of Champions, and a T-11 at the Waste Management Open. He currently is ranked fourth in Fed Ex Cup points.

At this event last year, Jon Rahm reached 14-under and owned the solo lead for a short time after beginning the back nine par-eagle-par-par-birdie-birdie. Rahm eventually finished T3 in his first World Golf Championships event.

Bubba Watson– The 41st ranked player in the world golf rankings has a good record in this event, finishing second in 2016, T-second in 2014, and second in 2012.
Watson shares the tournament record 18-hole score of 62 with Retief Goosen (2002), Sergio Garcia (2002) and J.B. Holmes (2015). Watson recorded a 62 in the 2012 tournament.

2017 was a disappointing year for Watson, dropping out of the top 100 in the OWGR. He turned that around with a win at the Genesis Open and thus qualified for this event by way of making the top 50 in OWGR.

Watson’s game suits this course. His ability to hit a variety of shots, some saying he has the best hands in the game today, this is a course Watson could dominate this weekend.
He has his motivation back, wants very badly to earn a spot on the US Ryder Cup team, and winning this week would put him in the hunt for one of those coveted spots in Paris.

Sleeper-Phil Mickelson
Mickelson has 15 starts in this event, a win in 2009, and two top 5’s.
He worked hard on his game in the off season and it has shown, with four top 5’s, 3 consecutive in the last 3 starts.

He has been near the top of the leaderboard in the last four events, but his putter has let him down in the stretch. He says his game is very close and we agree. If he keeps knocking on the door, he will get his first win since 2013. This could be the week.

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