After another weather-affected event in California, the players will be relieved to make the trip south of the border, to Naucalpan, Mexico for the WGC-Mexico Championship.
Club de Golf Chapeultepec has been the host course of this event for the past two years, after a 9-year stint at Trump National in Miami. Prior to its move to Mexico in 2017, this WGC was known as the WGC-Cadillac Championship (2011-2017), the WGC-CA Championship (2007-2010) and originally WGC-American Express Championship (1999-2006), and was played across Europe and the United States, before settling in Doral.
Tiger Woods dominated this event in the early years, winning exactly 50% of the renewals (7) from 1999-2013, and he’s one of four players that have won this event more than once. Ernie Els won it twice in 2004 and 2010, Dustin Johnson was twice the winner, firstly in California in 2015 and then again in its inaugural staging in Mexico in 2017. Phil Mickelson also doubled up his win tally in this event 12 months ago, winning it for the first time since his triumph in 2009.
Mickelson’s win here last year came courtesy of a play-off against a red-hot, Justin Thomas, who shot 62-64 over the weekend, to combat a disappointing first two days (72-70). A year prior, Johnson only edged out Tommy Fleetwood by one stroke, which suggests there may not be a runaway winner this week.
The Course and what it will take to win here
Club de Golf Chapultepec, 7,345 yards, par 71.
Whilst this event as a prospect in Mexico alone is still in its infancy, we have already seen over two renewals that certain players have taken a particular liking to this course already, and course experience and form here will be vital as the years go on. It’s not every week players and caddies have to take altitude into the equation, so playing here before is clearly going to give at least a slender advantage based on that alone.
This test is eerily similar to last week’s event at Riviera, in the sense that power off the tee holds an advantage, not because the course plays long, thanks to the altitude, but because having a shorter club in your hands going into these greens is key. Add to that the Poa Annua/Bentgrass putting surfaces, and Kikuya rough and it becomes clearer what is required here.
Shorter hitters can compete here, as they do on all the courses where we believe power players dominate, however they will need to make shots up on and around the greens to stand out, with scrambling another key focus this week.
This is not the type of event where you are going to find form, especially if this is your first look at the course, so those that are hitting the ball well tee-to-green, and are comfortable on these putting surfaces will be the order of the day here.
Justin Thomas 10/1 (General) 4pts win:
The case is very simple, so I won’t ramble too much.
Two stars here have yielded finishes of 5th and 2nd, with the latter a play-off loss to Mickelson 12 months ago.
Thomas should have won last week, but five bogeys and a double in round 4 alone became too much to overcome, and in the end he surrendered to J.B. Holmes.
This week will go one of two ways, he’ll either bounce back from the disappointment of last week, and his play-off last year, and win this week in style, or last week’s less-than-stellar closing round will play on his mind.
Thomas doesn’t seem the type to dwell, and even if he tried to, the team around him wouldn’t let him, and his current form of three top-3’s in his last four starts, and four top-5’s in seven total starts, this season gives him the edge over Johnson for me here.
1st in SG: Tee-to-Green and SG:Approach, Thomas is clearly striking the ball at a high level, and whilst his scrambling could be better, it’s good enough, especially considering he barely misses greens (10th in Greens in Regulation)
I normally steer clear of the favourites, but I can’t ignore Thomas’ credentials here, where he shot a course record and tied the event record with a round of 62 in round 3 last year.
Bubba Watson 40/1 (Boylesports, 7 places 1/5 odds) 1pt e/w:
No one hit the ball better tee-to-green than Bubba Watson in Phoenix, where he finished 4th, and he’s ranked 4th and 13th in Phoenix and Riviera for greens hit.
His putting isn’t where it needs to be, but that changes week-to-week with Bubba, and Poa Annua is still his favoured surface.
Watson finished middle of the pack on debut in 2017, but clearly learned a lot from his first visit, as he finished 9th last year.
An over-par round on moving day last year (72) cost him a shot of a top-5 finish, as it was an otherwise stellar week. 69-66 to open the week and a 67 to close, it’s fair to say he found a formula for success last year.
Considering he’s a player that topically plays poorly when defending, it was encouraging to see him finish T15 last week, especially when a four-putt on the 72nd hole cost him a T8 finish.
A two-time major winner and two-time WGC winner, Watson feels overpriced at 40/1 in a limited field, on a course he’s played well before.
Tommy Fleetwood 40/1 (WilliamHill 6 places 1/5 odds) 1pt e/w:
It is very clear Tommy Fleetwood is a good putting week away from contending again, as he ranks 9th in SG: Tee-to-Green and 24th in Scrambling so far on the PGA Tour.
Of course this is a small sample size as Fleetwood has only played three PGA Tour events this season, but at Riviera last week he ranked 7th in SG: Tee-to-Green and 14th in Scrambling en-route to a T28 finish.
Solid throughout the week at the Genesis where he shot par of better in all four rounds, Fleetwood needed to make more birdies to make any advance up the leaderboard, something his putter wouldn’t allow. The Englishman ranked 67th out of the 76 players to make the cut in SG: Putting, averaging -.590 strokes lost over the week.
Clearly a fan of the putting surfaces at this course, where he has finished 2nd and 14th, Fleetwood will hope a return to this course will be enough to see an uptick with the putter.
Closing with a pair of 66’s in 2017 and then 66-67 in 2018, Fleetwood has shot 67 or better in four of his eight rounds here, and were it not for a slow start last year, he’d have been in contention again.
Whilst his form coming into this event over the past two years has been better than it is this week, with his Abu Dhabi wins fresh in the memory, I think the 40/1 for him to find a hot putting week is an overreaction, as he is still striking the ball at a typically elite level.
Tyrrell Hatton 66/1 (General 6 places) 1pt e/w:
Like his countryman, Fleetwood, I feel there has been an overreaction to some middling form from Tyrrell Hatton, who has an equally impressive record here.
10th on debut, Hatton followed that up by finishing 3rd last year, and the European Tour star has shot five rounds of 68 or better here, out of a possible 8 and has broken par in the other three.
Players just take to certain courses and Hatton has certainly done that here, so I see him finishing inside the top-10 for the first time, since blowing the Dunhill Links in October.
His game isn’t at the level we’ve come to expect from one of Europe’s best, but he clearly enjoys the course, and his game is perhaps in better shape than it looks.
He opened with a 66 and closed with a 68 in Phoenix, en-route to a T15 finish on a new course. This was what he could do without his best stuff, but a familiar venue where the memories are good, I think he’s worth chancing at 66/1, or 70’s if you want to sacrifice a place.
Total points staked this week: 10
Profit/Loss for 2019: -45.3