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Across the Pond

WGC-Mexico Championship Preview

by Dave Tindall
Updated On: February 17, 2020, 10:37 am ET

It’s a 3-for-3 American sweep so far at the WGC-Mexico Championship.

Club de Golf Chapultepec has been host since 2017, with Dustin Johnson winning the inaugural edition and adding a second title with a dominant display 2019 while Phil Mickelson hoisted the silverware in 2018.

But the Euros really like it too, saying it reminds them of tracks used on the European Tour. Indeed, breaking down the 17 players who have made the top five here and over half are Europeans. Add in Euro Tour regular Kiradech Aphibarnrat and it’s 11 of 17 with elite, major-winning Americans (DJ twice, Justin Thomas twice and Mickelson) accounting for five of the other six.  

Mickelson didn’t qualify this time and Tiger Woods hasn’t put it on his schedule but just about everyone else you’d expect to see at a WGC is heading to Mexico this week.

 

Some strokes gained stats from the last three years to peruse.

Leading finishers in 2019

-21 Dustin Johnson (OTT: 7, App: 2, ATG: 51, TTG: 2, Putt: 1)
-16 Rory McIlroy (OTT: 3, App: 13, ATG: 9, TTG: 1, Putt: 16)
-11 Kiradech Aphibarnrat (OTT: 11, App: 12, ATG: 39, TTG: 5, Putt: 23)
-11 Paul Casey (OTT: 13, App: 8, ATG: 63, TTG: 11, Putt: 9)
-11 Ian Poulter (OTT: 51, App: 11, ATG: 29, TTG: 20, Putt: 3)

Leading finishers in 2018

-16 Phil Mickelson (OTT: 19, App: 12, ATG: 22, TTG: 12, Putt: 3)
-16 Justin Thomas (OTT: 3, App: 44, ATG: 3, TTG: 3, Putt: 6)
-15 Rafa Cabrera Bello (OTT: 41, App: 14, ATG: 33, TTG: 27, Putt: 1)
-15 Tyrrell Hatton (OTT: 7, App: 23, ATG: 9, TTG: 2, Putt: 11)
-13 Kiradech Aphibarnrat (OTT: 21, App: 17, ATG: 1, TTG: 1, Putt: 23)
-13 Brian Harman (OTT: 40, App: 21, ATG: 37, TTG: 29, Putt: 2)

Leading finishers in 2017

-14 Dustin Johnson (OTT: 27, App: 1, ATG: 9, TTG: 1, Putt: 21)
-13 Tommy Fleetwood (OTT: 14, App: 5, ATG: 7, TTG: 2, Putt: 27)
-12 Ross Fisher (OTT: 47, App: 7, ATG: 21, TTG: 13, Putt: 4)
-12 Jon Rahm (OTT: 4, App: 24, ATG: 54, TTG: 6, Putt: 8)
-11 Thomas Pieters (OTT: 34, App: 3, ATG: 27, TTG: 5, Putt: 14)
-11 Justin Thomas (OTT: 32, App: 16, ATG: 37, TTG: 19, Putt: 5)

Notes: Want some averages for all the top five finishers over the last three years?

OTT (Off The Tee): 20.82
App (Approach): 13.70
ATG (Around The Green): 26.53
TTG (Tee To Green): 9.35
Putt (Putting): 10.41

DJ was in the top two for Tee To Green in both his wins while all three runners-up have finished in the top three in that same category.

The Course

Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City opened in 1928 and is a par 71 measuring in at 7,345 yards. It’s tree-lined fairways, kikuyu and poa/bent greens establish a potential link with Riviera and the reality plays out nicely. DJ and Mickelson are winners at both courses while there’s plenty of other correlating evidence. In 2017, DJ and Thomas Pieters finished 1-2 at Riviera before coming to Chapultepec and taking first and fourth. The three par 5s come at 6 (626 yards), 11 (622 yards) and 15 (575 yards). That seems like a lot of yardage but let’s not forget we’re at altitude in Mexico City so the ball flies far. Johnson played those combined 12 par 5s (3 each day) in 10-under during his first win.

 

Weather

It's sunshine all the way with temperatures in the mid-to-early 80s all week although perhaps a tad cooler on Friday. Winds are gentle, especially on the weekend.

 

Quotes

Justin Thomas (2019): “It's a cool little golf course. It's all right in front of you, there's nothing tricky to it. You can play the course a lot of different ways, I feel like. Off the tee you can be aggressive and take some of the doglegs or kind of hit it to where most of the people hit it and then go from there."

Tiger Woods (2019): “It was a lot tighter than I had thought. The ball was traveling obviously a long way. Some of our numbers on the range were a bit surprising, even on the golf course, how far it was going. The most interesting thing is the ball just doesn't curve up here at altitude, there's just not enough resistance. Shots that I thought I shaped just didn't have any shape to it."

Tommy Fleetwood (2018): “It is a very European layout. Last year it just reminded us of playing in Italy or some of the courses that we play, a bit of an old-school golf course. It's still different, it's still a long way above sea level and the greens are a bit slopy than what we're used to. So there are still differences that we don't get but just the general feel of when you're walking down the fairways and seeing the tee shots, it's tree lined, that is quite a European feel to it.”

Justin Rose (2018): “It's interesting, it's a fun golf course. Obviously with the altitude, there's also those calculations you're trying to figure out, how far is the ball going and there's not just the standard calculations, it's not just 10 percent across the board. It seems to change with different clubs.”

Jon Rahm (2018): “The more I play this golf course, the more I like it.”

Sergio Garcia (2018): “It's the kind of golf course I like. You know, Valderrama is my favorite golf course, small greens. Sawgrass, one of my favorite golf courses, small greens. So I do like these kind of courses better.”

Tiger’s point about the ball not curving is interesting. Bubba Watson almost has to cut and curl every shot so it’s no great surprise to see he has a modest record of 26-9-38.

 

The Leading Contenders

Rory McIlroy

Rory disappointed in Sunday’s final round (73) at Riviera but an 18-footer for birdie at the last secured T5 and took his streak of top fives to five (one of those a win in the most recent WGC, the HSBC in China). He’s had two looks at Chapultepec, finishing T7 on debut in 2017 and finishing runner-up – by five shots admittedly – to Johnson last year. Rory shot a 63 in round one 12 months ago. Hard to see him not being in the hunt again.

Dustin Johnson

Two wins in three starts at the course and last year he was five clear of second and ten in front of third. Six of his 12 rounds have been 66 or lower. DJ loves this place and only Tiger with an absurd 18 can beat Johnson’s tally of six WGC wins (next best has three). Not at his sparkling best yet in 2020 but he’s had three top tens in four worldwide starts and the underlying numbers look good.

Jon Rahm

As noted above, the Spaniard is a big fan of the course although since his impressive third place on debut in 2017, he’s had to settle for T20 in 2018 and a disappointing T45 last year. Rahm rarely has a bad week these days and his 2020 form reads 10-2-9-17. Not at his best from tee-to-green at Riviera but the putter was hot so he should enjoy these similar greens.

Justin Thomas

Thomas has had a strange feast-or-famine start to the decade, winning the Sentry Tournament of Champions, missing the cut at the windy Sony Open, finishing fast to take third in Phoenix and bombing out at halfway at Riviera where nothing worked well. By contrast, his course form here shows high-class consistency – 5-2-9. In that run of three straight top 10s, he’s twice shot 62.

Webb Simpson

Simpson didn’t peg it up at Riviera so this is his first start since he claimed victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Prior to that he was third at the Sony Open and, in his final start of 2019, runner-up at the RSM Classic so form of 1-3-2 makes him one of the very hottest players in the field. Course form? A different type of consistency. He’s started poorly in both events, finishing T37 in 2018 and T39 last year.

Adam Scott

A superb two-shot winner at Riviera on Sunday, a victory made even more impressive by it being the Aussie’s first start of the season after an eight-week break. The victory in the Genesis Invitational took him to 7th in the world rankings, the first time he’s been in the top ten since June 2017. That was the year he played this event for the only time, Scott finishing down in T45 but giving the impression that he worked something out on the weekend (73-76-68-68). Struck it great last week, as he's been doing again for some time.

Xander Schauffele

A runner-up at the last WGC (HSBC Champions, where he was defending), Schauffele has started 2020 with 2-MC-16-23. The long game looks in fine shape but the putter hasn’t been behaving which is a negative here. He’s been solid in his two starts at Chapultepec, with T18 and T14. One poor round cost him each time but it’s a track he can score well on.

Hideki Matsuyama

He can’t quite get the win but the Japanese star has racked up seven top 20s in nine starts on the PGA TOUR this season, finishing second (ZOZO), third (CJ CUP) and tied fifth in last week’s Genesis Invitational. He ranked 1st for SG: Tee To Green at Riviera (12.436) so the missing link is the putter (63rd of the 68 who made the Genesis cut). Has posted T25 (2017) and T19 (2019) in two starts at Chapultepec.

Tommy Fleetwood

The Englishman immediately liked what he saw when ranked a big outsider in the inaugural WGC-Mexico in 2017 and made a mockery of his 200/1 odds (yes, that shows how far he’s come since then) to finish runner-up. He’s backed it up with T14 and T19. Fleetwood ended 2019 with a win (Nedbank) and a second (DP World Tour Championship) and has been fast out of the blocks in 2020 with another second place in Abu Dhabi and T11 in Dubai (closing 75). Should be refreshed and raring to go again.

Bryson DeChambeau

The latest experiment (bulking up and hitting it further) looks to be showing some early results as he was T8 in the European Tour’s Dubai Desert Classic and T5 at Riviera (3rd OTT, 2nd TTG) on Sunday (T52 in Phoenix inbetween). That’s the good news. The bad is that he could only manage T56 on his WGC-Mexico debut 12 months ago, although he did at least show some progression (75-73-73-69).

Dave Tindall
Dave Tindall is former golf editor at Sky Sports.com in the UK and has been writing betting previews for the European Tour since 1997. He can be reached via e-mail on tindall_david@hotmail.com and on Twitter @davetindallgolf.