We take a short break from The Florida Swing this week and welcome in the year’s first World Golf Championship. For the second straight season, the players will head to Mexico City and Club de Golf Chapultepec for The WGC Mexico Championship. This is typically a field of the top 70-players in the world but we will only have 65 in this edition as Rory McIlroy, Henrik Stenson, and Jason Day have decided to skip the event this year and Hideki Matsuyama and Brooks Koepka are out with injury.
This World Golf Championship had been held in Florida in years past, at The Blue Monster Course at Doral in Miami. It fit nicely into the ongoing Florida Swing. The Tour however has moved on and signed a seven year deal to keep the championship at Chapultepec through 2023.
There is no cut in the event. All players will play all four rounds and they will do so at over 7500-feet in elevation. At its highest point, the golf course reaches 7835 feet above sea level. This makes for not only an interesting golf tournament but also an interesting handicap. Chapultepec stretches to 7330-yards but when you figure in the elevation and how much farther the ball will travel, it translates into a very short golf course by Tour standards. The big hitters made up the majority of the Top 10 on the leaderboard here last year but they did not necessarily do it by bombing the driver. The fairways are heavily tree-lined so it was common to see irons and 3-woods used off of the tee, still providing a great deal of length in the thin Mexico City air but also giving the players more accuracy and ability to keep their ball in the fairway. The fairways are Kikuyu Grass and the greens are a combination of Poa Annua and Bent – which is exactly what we saw two weeks ago at Riviera Country Club where Bubba Watson won The Genesis Open. Dustin Johnson won The Genesis in 2017 and followed it up with a win here in Mexico as well.
To win this week many of the same skill sets will be needed that are key at Riviera; efficiency off of the tee, greens in regulation, and scrambling from the kikuyu. One element that is different however is scoring on the Par 5’s. Chapultepec is a Par 71 course and there are three Par 5 holes among the eighteen. Dustin Johnson overpowered the Par 5’s last year, going 10-under par on just these holes. His winning score was 14-under par, one shot better than England’s Tommy Fleetwood.
Dustin Johnson (+6.62 Pinnacle) DJ took last week off after two straight weeks that had to leave him disappointed, narrowly missing at Pebble Beach and finishing 2nd, followed up by a less than stellar 16th place finish in his defense at The Genesis. He returns to action to defend his title this week and looks to capture his 6th career World Golf Championship.
Justin Thomas (+887 Bookmaker) Since The Sony Open in Hawaii, Thomas has finished 14-17-9-and 1st last week at The Honda. He has moved into first place in The FedEx Cup Standings, to 3rd in the world golf rankings, and returns to Chapultepec where he took 5th last year.
Jon Rahm (+12.31 Pinnacle) Rahm made his WGC debut at this event last season and made the most of it, finishing 3rd. He won The Career Builder in La Quinta back in January but has not teed it up in three weeks since finishing 26th at Pebble Beach.
Justin Rose (+21.78 Pinnacle) Rosey won the final WGC event of 2017 in October and followed that up with two more wins overseas to close out the year. His 2018 debut stateside was at Torrey Pines where he finished 8th – on Poa Annua greens. He comes in very hot to a place at which he finished 38th last year.
Phil Mickelson (+2713 Bookmaker) A couple of top performers at The Masters, both Rose and Mickelson are currently in excellent form. Phil took 5th in Phoenix and then on similar putting surfaces to Chapultepec, finished 2nd at Pebble Beach and 6th at Riviera. He was 7th here last year.
Alex Noren (+3095 Bookmaker) And maybe neither of them are as hot as Alex Noren. Noren lost in a 6-hole playoff to Jason Day at Torrey Pines, was 21st in Phoenix, 16th at Riviera, and missed getting into a playoff last week at The Honda Classic by one shot. He finished 55th in Mexico last year.
The Long Shots
Bubba Watson (+3622 Bookmaker) Bubba finished 38th here last season in what was a very down year for him. He did however rank 8th in the field in Par 5 Scoring. Maybe most important though is the fact that he has won three times at Riviera Country Club.
Gary Woodland (+5500 5Dimes) Your Phoenix Open winner does a lot of things well that fit at this course. He’s very good off of the tee and in approaching the greens. He putts well on this surface too as evidenced by a 12th place finish this year at Torrey Pines. He was 38th here in Mexico last year.
Kevin Chappell (+5500 5Dimes) Same with Kevin Chappell as he checks many of the Chapultepec boxes. Very efficient off of the tee, 10th on Tour in Scrambling, and just two weeks ago he recorded a Top 20 finish at Riviera after taking 8th at Pebble. Growing up in California and going to school at UCLA, Chappell is very familiar with the common grasses/playing surfaces that exist at Pebble, Riviera, and here in Mexico this week.
Tony Finau (+38.82 Pinnacle) Back in October of 2017, Finau took 11th at The WGC-HSBC in China, so we know that he can compete with the very best players in the world and do so at an international venue. He is an absolute bomber off of the tee and ranks 16th on Tour in Par 5 Scoring. He finished 6th at Torrey Pines in January and took 2nd at Riviera just two weeks ago at The Genesis Open. It’s an awful nice price for a guy that ought to be right there on Sunday.
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