- Forty-six of the top 50 players in the world are set to compete this week at Golf Club de Chapultec. Here's everything you need to know.
After an eventful West Coast swing that saw Phil Mickelson turn back the clock only for J.B. Holmes to completely disregard it, the PGA Tour shifts south of the border this week for the WGC-Mexico Championship.
The event, which is hosted at the Golf Club de Chapultepec just outside Mexico City, is the first WGC of the calendar year but the second of the season (Xander Schauffele won the first one, in China, back in October). As is the case with all the WGCs, this week features an elite field—just four of the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Rankings won't be there. There are only 72 guys in the field this week, meaning there will be no cut. Simply finish 72 holes and get paid.
Mickelson returns to Chapultepec as the defending champion—last year, he defeated Justin Thomas in a playoff to win his first tournament in nearly five years. Tiger Woods is also set to compete for the second straight week, and while he's officially a seven-time winner of this event (which has moved around quite a bit), he hasn't played since it shifted to Mexico back in 2017.
A big story this week will be the altitude, as Chapultepec sits at roughly 7,800 feet above sea level. That means the ball will travel somewhere between 10% and 15% farther than it does normally, and probably up to 20% farther than last week at cold, damp Riviera. There will be 230 yard 6-irons and 360 yard drives aplenty.
This is also the last event before proceedings move east and the Florida swing gets underway.
Golf Club de Chapultepec, which was designed by Scottish transplant Willie Smith in 1921, is technically located in Naucalpan de Juarez, just barely west of the Mexico City border line. On the card, the par 71 private course plays roughly 7,300 hundred yards, but it'll play as one of the shortest courses on Tour this year due to the altitude. Design-wise, it looks like a traditional American course—treelined fairways, water hazards, etc. The course is relatively straightforward but it does present a number of different options, particularly off tees. You'll see a lot of guys hitting a lot of irons for position, as it's critical to approach the greens from the correct side of the fairways. In terms of difficulty, the two winning scores since the event moved to Chapultepec are 14 and 16 under...so about average for the Tour.
We could list every notable player who is teeing it up this week, but it's far more efficient to discuss who is not playing: Justin Rose (world No. 1), Jason Day (No. 11), Adam Scott (No. 30) and J.B. Holmes (No. 42). No word on why the other three are skipping—though it's safe to assume it's in anticipation of a marathon Florida swing—Holmes said after his win at Riviera that he will be taking a planned family vacation. Only nine of the 72 players competing this week rank outside the top 100 (there are other routes besides world ranking into the WGCs, such as certain standings on the European/Asian tours).
Heck, we'll go ahead and list some of the stars: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler...you get the picture.
One more field-related thing: keep an eye on Matt Kuchar this week, who makes his return to Mexico after he famously stiffed a fill-in Mexican caddie after winning the Mayakoba Golf Classic.
Virtually every group this week would qualify as a marquee group for most Tour events, but here are some particularly tasty ones. Here's a full list of tee times, if that's more your jam.
All times EST.
Tiger Woods, Bryson DeChambeau, Abraham Ancer — 2:03 p.m. Thursday/12:51 p.m.* Friday
Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Phil Mickelson — 12:51 p.m.*/2:03 p.m.
Rickie Fowler, Jon Rahm, Patrick Reed — 1:51 p.m./12:39 p.m.*
Bubba Watson, Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy — 12:39 p.m.*/1:51 p.m.
* denotes 10th-tee start.
All times EST
Thursday, Friday — 2-7 p.m. on Golf Channel
Saturday — 12-2:30 p.m. on Golf Channel, 2:30-6 p.m. on NBC
Sunday — Noon-1:30 p.m. on Golf Channel, 1:30-6 p.m. on NBC
Streaming available all week on NBC Sports' online platform.
Justin Thomas +900
Dustin Johnson +1000
Rory McIlroy +1100
Bryson DeChambeau +1600
Jon Rahm +1600
Rickie Fowler +1600
Brooks Koepka +1800
Tiger Woods +1800
Xander Schauffele +2000
Hideki Matsuyama +2800
Jordan Spieth +2800
Phil Mickelson +2800
Bubba Watson +3300
Gary Woodland +3300
Marc Leishman +3300
Patrick Cantlay +3300
Paul Casey +3300
Tommy Fleetwood +3300
Tony Finau +3300
Webb Simpson +3300
Sergio Garcia +4000
Francesco Molinari +4500
Patrick Reed +4500
Matt Kuchar +5000
Rafael Cabrera Bello +5000
This is one of the harder weeks to pick all season, as there are a solid 50 guys who could take the title. Thomas is a worthy favorite given his second-place finish last year and the first 54 holes at Riviera, when he was dominant. I can get behind throwing some money on him, but I'm more excited about Tommy Fleetwood at 33-1. Fleetwood hasn't really gotten it going yet in 2019—T42, T16, T45, T28 in his four starts—but the issues have mostly been with the putter. He ranks solidly in strokes gained off the tee (28th), approaching the green (20th) and around the green (35th), but he's a putrid 163rd in strokes gained putting. He's an elite iron player when he's on, and that's what will be key this week, with distance advantages virtually nullified by the altitude. Fleetwood finished second at Chapultepec in 2017 and T14 last year, so there are some good course vibes in play as well. I'm banking on him finding his 2018 form with the putter and picking up his first victory on this side of the pond.