WGC MEXICO CHAMPIONSHIP: The world’s best golfers descend upon Mexico City this week, where they’ll be met by beautiful weather and one of the region’s most iconic courses– not to mention a $9.75 million purse– at the WGC Mexico Championship.
The first of the year’s four World Gold Championship events, this tournament has been known as the WGC Cadillac Championship since 2011 and has been staged at Doral’s Blue Monster course since 2007. The PGA Tour got swept up in politics last year, however, and decided to disassociate themselves from the Donald Trump-owned Doral (file that away as one of those “why Trump won” things). Mexico City’s Club de Golf Chapultepec is the new host venue, and though it’s unfamiliar to most European and American golf fans, it has a rich history that dates back nearly 100 years and includes 18 stagings of the country’s premier tournament, the Mexican Open.
Chapultepec is a par-71 that measures a robust 7,330 yards, but the high altitude means it will play far less than that, so it’s not a demanding course from a length perspective. There’s a lot of guesswork involved this week: we don’t know what the setup will be in terms of green speed, firmness, and rough length, but we do know that Oscar Alvarez of Colombia got it to 17-under in the 2014 Mexican Open, the last significant event to be held at Chapultepec, so low scores can be expected (it played as a par-72 for Alvarez, but still…). The greens are a poa annua blend, much like some of the courses on the recently-completed West Coast Swing, and the fairways are said to be narrow and tree-lined. Other than that, we really don’t know too much about Chapultepec, and the fact that no one in the field has any history at the course complicates our task a bit this week.
There’s plenty of red meat to choose from, however, and our confidence is still high after hitting on two winners in the past three weeks. Here’s what I have in mind:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Jordan Spieth (9.6)- Given what we’ve seen out of him lately, I think it’s awful tough to stay away from Spieth on any course where length isn’t really an issue. And with the aforementioned altitude situation in Mexico City, Chapultepec certainly qualifies. As a reminder: in Speith’s past eleven worldwide starts, he has two victories, two other top-3 finishes, eight top-10s, and has finished no worse than 22nd. He has carded 72 or better in 50 consecutive competitive rounds and is a combined 95-under par in his last seven events. He blew away the field at Pebble Beach a couple of weeks ago, winning by four shots, and based on his putting performance that week I think it’s safe to say that he feels very comfortable on poa annua-influenced greens. Plus, Speith has shown the ability to excel all over the world, on all different types of courses. His most recent international triumph came at November’s Australian Open, but whether it’s Europe, America, Asia, or anywhere in between, Speith has proven repeatedly that his game travels. He’s the favorite this week and is fairly priced at 9.6.
Martin Kaymer (60.0)- Kaymer is another guy who has had success all over the world, and he certainly has a history of playing his best in the biggest events. Though he hasn’t won since 2014, he’s been close to breaking through, logging six top-6 finishes in just 15 European Tour starts last year and finding the top-10 at the PGA Championship after a brilliant final-round 66. Most importantly, he’s off to a great start in 2017, finishing just two shots off the pace in a T4 showing in Abu Dhabi and then picking up another 4th-place finish at last week’s Honda Classic. Since nobody will have a “course knowledge” advantage this week, the edge might go to the great ball-strikers, and when Kaymer’s in a rhythm he can be machine-like from tee to green. His victory drought has made him somewhat of an under-the-radar play, but at the current price I think he’s well worth a bet.
Brandt Snedeker (74.0)- Now that the nagging health issues are behind him, Snedeker is once again a weekly presence on Tour and has played himself back into shape, logging four top-15 finishes in his past six starts. His 4th-place showing at Pebble Beach was especially encouraging, as he struck the ball beautifully all week and played himself into the final group on Sunday. Pebble, of course, features greens that are a poa annua blend, very similar to what the players will see this week, and Snedeker has been an absolute demon on poa annua throughout his career, winning multiple times at places like Torrey Pines, Pebble, and in Hawaii. If the driver cooperates, Snedeker can make birdies with the best of them, and for this reason I think he’s an excellent choice if you’re looking for value a little further down the board.
TOURNAMENT MATCH BETS
Hideki Matsuyama (1.91) vs. Henrik Stenson (1.91)
These guys have been two of the world’s best players over the past few months, so it’s no surprise that they both sit near the top of the overall market. There are slight concerns, though, as Matsuyama is coming off a missed cut at the Genesis Open while Stenson has played only four times since last October due to recurring injury issues. These are different types of “concerns”, of course, and in Matsuyama’s case we’re really only talking about one round: he shot 80 on Friday at Riviera after a 68 on Thursday, but that can be forgiven considering his win the previous week, in Phoenix, was his third victory in his past seven starts. He feels like a more dependable option than Stenson right now. Recommendation: Matsuyama at 1.91
Jon Rahm (1.86) vs. Sergio Garcia (1.91)
I was very tempted to back Rahm in the overall market and would’ve done so if his price had been just a bit more attractive. The young Spaniard is one of the world’s top players, and he knows it– a fact that becomes more and more obvious every time you see him step on the course. For the past year he’s been beating guys on courses that were unfamiliar to him but very familiar to his competitors, and now, finally, all things are equal: nobody has played or seen the course. Advantage, Rahm. Sergio is a world-class player, but he was rusty at Riviera a couple of weeks ago and seemed frustrated on the greens at last week’s Honda Classic despite finishing 14th. Rahm is in the process of passing him by, I believe, and would be a good heads-up bet on a weekly basis going forward. Recommendation: Rahm at 1.86