Although a few high profile names are skipping the event, a stellar field has still assembled for this week’s WGC Mexico Championship. This is the first World Golf Championship of the calendar year, and those that are playing are no doubt looking to play themselves into some form ahead of Augusta.
There is no exact science on how to prepare for the major championships and with the schedule now bunching the majors closer together, strategies are bound to change. Major preparation aside, this is a high-profile tournament in its own right, and potentially a career-changing event for a lot of the field.
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 the past three renewals that certain players have taken a 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 going to give at least a slender advantage, and is something worth bearing in mind when looking at debutants.
This test is 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 but because having a shorter club in your hands going into these greens is key. Add to that the PoaAnnua/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.
Last year Dustin Johnson ranked 2nd in Scrambling en-route to victory and Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who finished 3rd in the event led the field in that area. A year prior, Phil Mickelson and Justin Thomas who contested the play-off, which the former ultimately won, ranked 2nd and 3rd in Scrambling, whilst Aphibarnrat who finished 5th, again led the field in this department. John Rahm (3rd) and Tommy Fleetwood (2nd) also ranked 1st and 2nd respectively in scrambling at this event.
The formula is very similar to last week, so there will be some clues in last week’s play, and course form has stood up well here, so there should be some decent avenues to explore here.
Xander Schauffele 20/1 (Betfair, SkyBet 7 places 1/5 odds) 1.5pts e/w:
Xander was my headline selection at the Waste Management, but an uncharacteristic final-round saw him play his way out of contention for what feels like the first time in his career. I however am willing to bet if he has another opportunity this week he will convert.
In his relatively short career so far, three of Schauffele’s four wins have come in limited-field, no cut events, one of which was the WGC-HSBC Champions in 2018.
His most recent win came at last year’s Tournament of Champions and he came close to defending this year, losing out in a playoff to Justin Thomas. In fact, Schauffele’s three most runner-up finishes have all come at events he has won before (TOC, HSBC Champions and the Tour Championship), so it’s clear he likes repeat performances in events of this style.
He has played this event twice, and he has only shot worse than 70 in two of his eight rounds (73,74) which have cost him top-10 finishes. Instead he has form figures of 14-18 here, which although not terrible will not live up to his lofty expectations.
He should really have contended in Phoenix, and although he never quite went low enough last week to get into contention, his opening-round 72 was his worst of the week, playing solidly enough for a T23 finish.
Schauffele ranks 2nd in SG: Tee-to-Green on the season and was also 9th in the field last week, so once his short game starts firing, he will find his fifth win quickly.
Schauffele is an elite player and a consistent winner, so at 20/1, I am willing to chance he can win another no-cut, limited field event.
Bryson DeChambeau 28/1 (SkyBet 7 places 1/5 odds) 1.5pts e/w:
Bryson DeChambeau was in excellent form when he teed it up for the first time here last year, but flattered to deceive, finishing in 56th place. This was largely down to an opening-round 75, which he improved on every round (73-73-69) but he was still nowhere near his brilliant best.
This time around, he seems to be a little way off the form that saw him win 4 of his previous 11 events coming in last year, but he’s been adjusting to his new size and swing peed, which has seen him pick up some vital yards off the tee.
He was excellent from tee-to-green last week at Riviera, ranking 2nd in SG: Tee-to-Green and 12th in SG: Approach and he can carry that over this week, to a course where it was really the short stick that let him down 12 months ago.
After he shot the opening-round 75 last year, which saw him make a grand total of ZERO birdies, Bryson went to the putting green to work on his game, and took his frustration out on the practice surface. This landed him in hot water, and although he got an apology out pretty quick, there’s no doubt it would have affected his game.
Vitally though, DeChambeau also ranked 7th in SG: Around-the-Green last week, which will be an important aspect to winning here, so the similar grass types and test should suit him this week.
With a clearer mind and a bit of form under his belt once again, Bryson can find his first win of the season, and also his first since the Dubai Desert Classic last year, which he would have defended three starts ago, were he not to bogey his last four holes. These four bogeys came directly after a warning for slow play, and it appears he cannot play with these sort of distractions on his mind. Hopefully this week, there is no controversy and his ball-striking will be the main story surrounding him here.
Bryson has two top-5 finishes on the PGA Tour this season, including last week, and his T13 at the Shriners was another opportunity that passed him by, as a third-round 76 saw him fall out of contention, so he’s generally been in good form. He’ll be keen to make amends for last year’s showing and there was enough in the final couple of rounds to suggest he could succeed here.
At 28/1, I am happy to bet Bryson in a limited field, especially with some of the biggest names absent from the event.
Sergio Garcia 45/1 (SkyBet 7 places 1/5 odds) 1pt e/w:
Sergio struck the ball nicely at Riviera last week, as he ranked 4th in SG: Off-the-Tee and 10th in SG: Tee-to-Green and if he can bring that and a stellar short game to Mexico this week, he must have a chance.
He has got progressively better in three starts here, finishing 12th on debut, before following that up with 7th and 6th place finishes, so he looks good each-way value with 7 places on offer, at the very least.
It does seem a strange thing to say about someone with 35 professional wins, but there is a niggling concern about his winning upside these days, as he’s never won a WGC event, and since he’s got the major monkey off his back, I do wonder if the same level of motivation is there. With that said, when he really needed to find some form to get into the Ryder Cup in 2018 he did so, and rode those coattails to a victory in his homeland shortly after. He followed that up last year with a win at the KLM Open, so the fire does still clearly burn.
Maybe then, he’ll be keen to get a WGC trophy in his cabinet, as it’s now the only thing eluding him, and this course sets up perfectly for him.
After a tune up at Riviera last week, where he finished T37, Garcia will look to build on his fine European Tour play so far this season, which has seen him finish inside the top-8 in two of this three starts and T23 in the other.
Course form suggests he likes it here and he’s a former winner at altitude on the European Tour (Crans-sur Sierre), so it looks a good fit, especially in his current form. Garcia be looking to find some good form ahead of major season and this would be a great place to start, so 45/1 looks a fair enough price.
Lee Westwood 100/1 (General 7 places 1/5 odds) 0.5pt e/w:
Given the record of long shot European Tour players in this event, I think Lee Westwood is worth chancing, in a season where he has won a high-level event already.
Westwood beat a strong field in Abu Dhabi, with four rounds in the 60’s and whilst he hasn’t done a lot since, I think he can thrive on a course that looks made for him.
Westwood has won and performed very well on multiple occasions at Crans-sur Sierre at altitude and at an event that requires strong iron play and accuracy, the Englishman can thrive.
His short play may come into question at times, and has held him back in situations similar to this, but you do not get to win 44 times as a professional without being able to get got in every area certain weeks.
As for his form here, Westwood has finished 28th and 33rd which on the face of it do not appear that great but he’s shot three rounds of 67 or better out of eight and it if wasn’t for a final-round collapse (78) in 2017, his finish that week could have been substantially better – likely a top-10.
Points staked this week: 9
Profit/Loss for 2020: -21