- Ryan Asselta gives his picks and plays for this week's WGC-Mexico Championship at Golf Club de Chapultec.
The PGA Tour heads south of the border this week for the first World Golf Championship event of 2019, the WGC-Mexico Championship. Forty-six of the top 50 players in the world will compete at Golf Course de Chapultepec in Mexico City, with Justin Rose (No. 1), Jason Day (No. 11), Adam Scott (No. 33) and J.B. Holmes (No. 42) the only top 50 players not in the field. In all, 72 players will compete in the limited field event. There is no cut, meaning everyone gets paid for simply teeing it up.
That field includes Tiger Woods, who makes his third start of 2019 following a T-15 at the Genesis Open. Tiger has won 18 WGC titles over his career, including this one seven times, but he has not teed it up in this event since 2014, and he hasn’t played the tournament since it moved from Miami to Mexico City back in 2017.
Phil Mickelson comes in as the defending champ after defeating Justin Thomas in a playoff in Mexico a year ago. The victory snapped an almost five-year drought for Lefty, who won two weeks ago at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
At an altitude of over 7,500 feet, golfers and caddies will have to do some math to figure out yardages, as the ball tends to fly about 15% further in Mexico City. The high altitude helps balance the field a bit when it comes to distance and since the move to Mexico, it’s been the solid ball strikers and iron players that have consistently fared well.
Nuts and bolts
Course: Golf Course de Chapultepec (7,330 yards, par 71)
Defending champ: Phil Mickelson: (268, -16)
Weather forecast: Mostly sunny, highs in the upper 70’s
Justin Thomas (10/1, $12,000)
Fresh off a disappointing second-place at the Genesis, Thomas returns to the site of another just-miss runner-up finish. JT’s final round 75 at Riviera could be cause for concern, but his post Genesis comments prove he should be ready to rebound this week. “We will be better in the future because of days like today… onward and upward.”
Thomas has the perfect makeup for Mexico City: long off the tee and on point with his irons. He ranks first in strokes gained approach, eighth in proximity to the hole and 10th in greens in regulation percentage. Along with the eye-opening stats, his track record at Golf Course de Chapultepec is nearly perfect with a second in 2018 and T5 in 2017. This is JT’s time of year, as he ran off four consecutive top-10s, including a win from mid February through late March a year ago.
Tommy Fleetwood (37/1 $10,300)
Fleetwood has been tinkering with a few equipment changes (irons, putter) but has still managed to play some steady golf. Coming off a T28 at the Genesis, Fleetwood returns to a course where he’s displayed a high level of comfort. With a second place in 2017 followed by a T14 in 2018, Fleetwood clearly enjoys Golf Course de Chapultepec. He’s also 20th in strokes gained approach, which should bode well this week.
Gary Woodland (37/1 $10,100)
Woodland became a household name during the PGA Championship in 2018 when he was the 54-hole leader, and this season he’s become a regular in the top 10 of leaderboards. Woodland can certainly send it, but it’s actually his iron play that is special; he’s fifth in greens in regulation and sixth in strokes gained approach. His best finish in two years at the WGC Mexico is 38th, but he has already racked up top 10s this season at the Tournament of Champions (second), Farmers (T9) and Waste Management (T7).
Cameron Smith (70/1, $9,700)
The Aussie is one of the best young ball strikers on tour, currently ranking seventh in strokes gained approach along with ranking in the top 40 in strokes gained tee to green. He tallied consecutive top 15’s at the Farmers and Waste Management prior to a T49 at the Genesis.
Patrick Reed (50/1, $9,900)
Just two sub-70 scores in eight at Chapultec. Ranks outside the top 100 in all key approach the green categories.