WGC Mexico Championship ⏤ Expert's Picks & Analysis

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The players will be confronted with a unique challenge this week as the PGA Tour heads south of the border to the Club de Golf Chapultepec in the mountains just outside of Mexico City. The host site for this week’s WGC Mexico Championship plays at an elevation of nearly 8000 feet above sea level — requiring players to make complex calculations as to how far the ball will travel in the thinner mountain air. Moreover, the undulating terrain on which the course sits further complicates the arithmetic on nearly every shot. Those who can control their distance and drive the ball accurately down the tree-lined fairways will likely find themselves sniffing around the lead come Sunday.

The combination of this tournament’s status as one of the World Golf Championships as well as its sizable check for first place ($1.89 million) annually brings out a strong field. Seven of the top ten players in the world will be competing—with only Brooks Koepka (#2), Patrick Cantlay (#6) and Tiger Woods (#9) choosing to rest this week before the TOUR heads back east for the Florida Swing. In addition to the top 50 in the world, tournament invitations went out to top players on nearly every major world tour—including the European Tour, Japanese Tour, Australian Tour, Sunshine Tour and the Asian PGA Tour.

Dustin Johnson dominated the field in the 2019 edition of this event. He fired rounds of 64-67-66-66 (-21) to take the title by five over Rory McIlroy and ten over the trio of international players (Paul Casey, Ian Poulter and Kiradech Aphibarnrat) who split third at eleven under par. Johnson drove the ball exceptionally well that week (he missed just nine fairways across the four days) and we’d expect him to be a threat to win again this week.

Group A 

It’s tough to pick against Dustin Johnson in the superstar group for this week. He played reasonably well last week at Riviera (T10) and put together some good rounds early at Pebble Beach (69-65) before a rough Sunday (78) dropped him out of the top ten. He seems to have good golf in him as of late but hasn’t been able to put together four rounds good enough to win. He finished runner-up at the Saudi International as well as T7 in the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Add this display of recent form on top of an obvious comfort with the venue and we wouldn’t fault anyone for going with DJ this week.

Nevertheless, we’re going to press ahead with Rory McIlroy. He seems to have developed much more consistency to his game over the last eighteen months and competes to win nearly every week. He hasn’t finished outside of the top five since the Alfred Dunhill Links back in September—a stretch that also includes a win at the WGC-HSBC Champions. He nearly won last week at Riviera—finishing tied for fifth on the heels of a disappointing Sunday. He started the day in a three-way tie for the lead before a devastating triple-bogey seven at the fifth hole knocked him out of the hunt early. Nevertheless, his ability to show up and contend with less than his best has looked Woods-eseque as of late and it seems safe to keep picking him until he cools off.

Group B 

This group features a crop of players all ranked inside the top 25 in the world. The highest ranked of the bunch is Xander Schauffele (10th), but his results to kick off the 2020 campaign haven’t been terribly impressive. He’s only made two cuts in the three events he’s played since the start of the new year (at Riviera and Torrey Pines) and didn’t crack the top-ten in either of those two tournaments. His T23 finish at Riviera and T16 finish at the Waste Management Phoenix Open included five rounds in the sixties—but a loose round of 74 on the final day at TPC Scottsdale both cost him a chance to win as well as a high finish out in the desert.

For us, the decision in this group appears to be between Fleetwood (ranked 11th in the world) and Matsuyama (ranked 21st in the world). Both players have shown some form early in the season, but this will be Fleetwood’s first start on the PGA TOUR since the calendar year. His results on the European Tour have been pretty strong—he finished T2 at Abu Dhabi and T11 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic—and his driving accuracy and iron play would make him a prime candidate for success at this golf course.

Still, we’re going to go with Hideki Matsuyama. He was brilliant over last weekend—firing rounds of 64-69 on a golf course at Riviera that kept getting harder as the weekend progressed. He went from making the cut right on the number to rocketing himself into contention late as everyone struggled the tough track. He has solid results to start the year—with finishes of T12 in the Sony Open, T16 in Phoenix and T5 last week in Los Angeles. He struggled a bit in San Diego (T45 at Torrey Pines), but his form looked so strong these past two rounds that we’re going to ride the hot hand and pick him over the five other strong contenders in Group B.

Group C 

On spec, it would seem like a golf course with the kinds of twists and turns these fairways have would play right into the hands of a shotmaker like Bubba Watson. However, Watson’s form has been a bit erratic to start the year. He played very well both in San Diego (T6) and Phoenix (T3) but struggled with rounds of 72-72 to miss the cut last week at Riviera. He played reasonably well here last year (T27) and the year prior (T9) so we wouldn’t totally warn you off of him—but after the missed cut last week we’re exploring other options.

We can’t ignore the consistent play of our pick in this group — Webb Simpson. He’s been an absolute machine as of late with just two finishes outside of the top 25 since last year’s Masters. That stretch has included nine top-ten finishes of which seven have been top-five finishes including his win in his last start out in Phoenix at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. This week rewards accuracy and it’s hard to visualize how he won’t have a solid week at a course that really puts a premium on precision. He may not have the most firepower of all the guys in this group—but we can’t imagine you’ll be too upset taking his 72-hole score this week.

Group D 

This group features six players all of whom look like relatively strong contenders for the European Ryder Cup team. Beyond that, it’s a difficult group to figure out as many of the players have some hodgepodge of good and poor starts to kick off their 2020. McDowell won the Saudi International just a few weeks ago and finished T4 at the Sony Open a few weeks before that—but alternated those strong weeks with missed cuts at Pebble Beach and the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. Westwood won his first start of the year at Abu Dhabi but has missed one cut and finished T50 in his other two outings.

We think you can definitely fade both Shane Lowry and Rafa Cabrera-Bello. Lowry hasn’t been terribly impressive since his win at the Open Championship (just one top-ten finish since then) and seems to be still more in celebratory mode in the wake of that career triumph. Cabrera-Bello has been on something of a slide—failing to post a top-ten finish so far this year and missing two cuts in five events.

We’re going to go with Sergio Garcia out of this group. He’s posted two top-ten finishes in his four calendar-year starts so far and his ability to drive the ball long and with shape should be quite an asset around this particular golf course.

Group E 

This group has shown next to no form so far in 2020 and picking among them is no easy task. All six of the listed players in this group have missed at least one cut in 2020 and strong cases can be to pass on each of the six listed players.

Lucas Glover has been brutal of late — with just one top-25 finish in his last ten starts (a T9 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open back in the fall) and his best finish in 2020 has been a T49 at the Farmers Insurance Open. Billy Horschel got off to a rough start at the beginning of the year—a missed cut at the American Express and a T68 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open. However, Horschel’s T9 finish in Phoenix does leave some cause for optimism. Kevin Na has alternated decent and poor starts—finishing T14 and T17 at Pebble Beach and in Palm Springs but missing the cuts at Riviera and TPC Scottsdale. This pattern might suggest a decent start this week—but this golf course seems to favor players who pack slightly more punch than the somewhat diminutive Na.  

We’re going to go with Brandt Snedeker as his accurate driving and streaky putter might make for a good mix at this particular golf course. He was good early in the West Coast swing—finishing T12 at the Sony Open and T3 at the Farmers Insurance Open. He looked on his way to yet another good run on the West Coast to start the year, but took steps backwards with missed cuts in Phoenix and at Pebble Beach. Nevertheless, we think there is still some of that early form in him and think he’s a good pick to emerge from the shaky group E.

Group F 

This group features six international players with a wide range of resumes. Jazz Janewattananond you may recall from his brief appearance around the top of the leaderboard at the PGA Championship—but his results since then haven’t been much to write home about. He’s played relatively well on the Asian and Japanese Tours, but it’s hard to give those finishes much credibility coming into a World Golf Championship with a field as deep as this one. Ryo Ishikawa is another blast from the past—once considered a phenom in the making but having disappointed most of his fans since his appearance on the International President’s Cup team a few years ago.

Branden Grace has showed a little bit of form early in the year, but we’re going to pick Louis Oosthuizen in this group. He’s a great ball-striker and when his putter cooperates, he’s got the potential to threaten the top of the board—but more than anything else he has by far the most pedigree of anyone in Group F. We think he’s a smart bet here, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see a good week from Abraham Ancer either.

Winning Score Prediction: -20