WGC – Mexico Championship
Yet again Sunday proved a frustrating day for us at Riviera, with three of our players, Matsuyama, Finau & Cantlay finishing either one or two shots out of the place money.
Hopefully we are saving our Sunday fortune up for the weeks ahead!
Our trader Homa also played nicely all week but with the way the draw panned out, coupled with the way JT & Scott initially pulled away from the field, he was unable to get close enough to trade at our target price.
So moving on and after four weeks on the West Coast the Tour now heads to Mexico for the first WGC of the year.
Up until 2016 this event was played in Miami at Doral, however the decision was made to move the event across the border in to Mexico for the 2017 edition and this proved to be a great success.
The top 50 in the OWGR gain automatic entry. The field is then topped up through Fedex Cup & Euro tour ranking positions from both last year and this, with players who have finished inside the top 2 on the Japan, Australasian, Sunshine and Asian Tour Order of Merits in 2017 then added.
Finally the top ranked Mexican player in the OWGR who is currently Abraham Ancer receives an invite.
The notable absentees are Justin Rose & Jason Day.
As noted above Club Du Golf Chapultepec was introduced as the host course in 2017 when the event moved to Mexico.
The course was designed by Willie & Alex Smith in the early 1920’s and then underwent a significant redesign from Percy Clifford in 1972. Further changes were then made before it’s introduction to the WGC roster.
The course is a par 71 playing to just over 7300 yds.
The rough is Kikuyu and the greens are Bent/Poa as found on the West Coast Swing.
The main point to note though, both in general and with regards to the length of the track, is that the course is ‘at altitude’ at over 7000 feet above sea level. This makes the ball fly further than normal so distance of the tee in theory is not an issue here.
For reference other events on the PGA Tour where altitude is a factor to differing degrees are the Barracuda Championship, The Shriners Hospital For Children Open and the CJ Cup.
Meanwhile the event on the European Tour to look to for ‘altitude specialists’ is the Omega European Masters played at Crans-Sur-Sierre in the Swiss mountains.
Club Du Golf Chapultepec can be described as a classical test as it features narrow, tree lined fairways and smaller than average greens.
As the event has only been at it’s present home for two years it seems pointless to look back further than the 2017 edition.
In 2017 the event was won by world No 1 Dustin Johnson when he was in the middle of his ‘tear up’, during which he won on three consecutive starts. To be honest the way DJ was playing at the time he would have won on any course anywhere in the world so I don’t necessarily think you can read too much in to the course suiting his style of game etc.
Meanwhile in 2018 the event was won by Phil Mickelson, who at the time of winning was also in a purple patch of form having finished 5th, 2nd & 6th in his previous three starts.
With only two years of history to go on at this course it is obviously dangerous to start jumping to conclusions but looking at these two results it could just be that as the course offers an all round test of the game, that a player coming in to the week ‘with the ball on a string’ can just keep the momentum going and control his irons well in the conditions.
From a point of view of course correlation, again it is obviously dangerous to try to connect too many dots after just two years, however it hasn’t escaped my attention that both of the winners here to date, DJ and Phil could be seen as specialists at Pebble Beach, another course that features smaller than average greens so this may well be something to keep an eye on as the years go by.
Whilst we only have two years course history to go on if we look back to the recent history of WGC events as a whole it is clear to see that the roll of honour is dominated by the leading players in the game.
In the last 6 yrs DJ has five WGC’s to his name, Rory two, Hideki two, Tiger two, Bubba two and Jason Day two, with others being won by JT, Scott, Rose, Reed, Kuchar, Phil and Xander.
Indeed the only two winners of WGC’s over the past 6 years who could be seen as more left field would be Shane Lowry & Russell Knox.
On the flip side of this because the betting market is so heavily dominated by the big names if you do fancy a lesser name to go well you can get some fancy e/w prices and indeed two years ago we benefited from a stellar performance from an in form Tommy Fleetwood to grab a place at 200-1.
After two weeks of rain and wind the players in Mexico this week can expect conditions to be far more to their liking.
All four days look set to be dry and sunny with temperatures set to stay around 80.
Wind does not look to be an issue either with nothing above 10mph forecast all week.
As I always say though this could all change!
I have gone with 3 players this week as follows;
JUSTIN THOMAS – 10-1 - 4pts Win FINISHED 9th
It’s always a tricky business finding the right strategy in these WGC events.
As highlighted above the winner is most likely to come from one of the elite players in the field, however from a betting point of view the limited field size, coupled with the fact that a chunk of the participants who have qualified via world wide order of merit finishes can’t realistically be considered as winners, means you aren’t going to be getting any favours from the bookies on the market leaders prices.
The decision therefore is do we hunt for big e/w value or do we stick to the top ends of the market? Well on this occasion I’ve decided to mix players from both ends of the spectrum.
We start therefore with the top end of the market and last week’s nearly man Justin Thomas.
I backed JT in this event last year on the back of his win at the Honda and he was [understandably in hindsight] slow out of the blocks, before catching fire over the weekend and losing out in a play off to Phil [who I am pleased to say we were also on].
This year however I expect a different JT, one who will be smarting from his loss to JB Holmes on Sunday and who will be desperate to set things right by winning this week.
JT’s credentials for this week don’t really need much explanation.
In two visits to Club Du Golf Chapultepec he has finished 5th and 2nd so the course clearly fits his eye.
Last week at Riviera prior to his final round struggles he was imperious in all areas of his game and despite his Sunday issues he still finished the week 6th in putting, 4th in SGTTG and 2nd in in GIR, an area that will be important this week allowing for the small greens.
One other point I like about JT this week is as well as having finished 5th and 2nd here in the past two years he showed by winning the CJ Cup in 2017 that he has the necessary skills required to play at altitude.
JT will no doubt be smarting from what happened on Sunday at Riviera, however rather than be knocked back by it he strikes me as the sort of character who will be determined to put things right in the best possible way this week ,and I am confident he can add another trophy to his cabinet in Mexico.
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA – 28-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 19th
The one player who makes the team from last week is Hideki Matsuyama.
The Japanese star already has two WGC titles to his name and there are sound reasons for thinking he can add a third one this week.
Firstly like our other two picks so far, and the two previous winners in Mexico to date, Hideki has been in really solid form leading in to this week with finishes of 9th, 15th & 3rd in his last three starts on the West Coast.
What particularly caught my eye at Riviera is that once again Hideki’s tee to green game was looking really solid and he finished the week 6th SGTTG.
The area that let Hideki down over the week in LA was his putting as he finished the week 45th in SGP, however it was noticeable that he had his best day on the greens in the firmer conditions on Sunday and the hope is that he can take that forward to this week.
Hideki has made one previous start in this event back in 2017 as he missed last year’s edition through injury.
In this previous visit he didn’t pull any trees up however he finished a solid 25th, which included a round of 66, so he can clearly handle the course.
It’s also worth noting that this appearance came on the back of a round of 80, which saw him miss the cut at Riviera in his previous start and his ‘bubble’ from the rich vein of form he had been in had basically burst at this point, in effect he was on a downward curve at the time rather than trending towards a win which he surely is now.
AARON RAI – 150-1 - 1pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 51st
Long term followers may remember that we had great success here in 2017 when backing straight hitting Englishman Tommy Fleetwood at 200-1 and I am going to finish the week by trying to repeat the trick with Aaron Rai.
Rai has proven in his short time on tour that he is the real deal as having first gained promotion from the Challenge Tour to the European Tour with three wins in 2017, he then made it to the Dubai World Tour Championship in his first full year on tour, and then the following week won the first event of the 18/19 season in Hong Kong to land his first European Tour Title.
That win in Hong Kong on a tight track showed us again what we already knew, that the biggest strength in Aaron’s game is his tee to green game and on that basis this weeks test should be right up his street.
Since his victory in Hong Kong Rai has started 2019 steadily but unspectacularly, however you have to think that this will be a challenge far more to his liking than Desert golf in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
Rai is a young man destined it would seem for the top echelons of the game, however as befits someone who ranked 123rd in DD on the European Tour last season you have pick his spots, and at the juicy price on offer for seven places E/W I am happy to roll the dice on him this week.
UPDATED 20th FEBRUARY
TRADER - SHUBHANKAR SHARMA FINISHED 60th - LOWEST PRICE TRADED 350
For these weeks trader I am going to take a chance that lightning can strike twice and go with last years surprise package in this event Shubhankar Sharma.
Sharma arrived here last year on the back of two early season wins, including one at altitude in the Joburg Open, to produce an excellent display, which lead to him holding the lead after three rounds.
Not unsurprisingly Shubhankar faded on the Sunday with a 74, which left him with a final share of 9th place.
12 months down the line and the talented 22yr old returns to Mexico in, on the face of it, far worse form than this time last year.
Encouragingly however he did perform well to finish 2nd in a lower level event in India last weekend and he was 29th in Dubai a couple of weeks ago.
In addition we should note that Sharma reminded us again that he performs well on a tighter track when 6th in Hong Kong last autumn when again in no great form coming in.
We have seen many cases over the years of players being inspired to perform well again at a venue that they previously turned in a great performance at, and on the price available this week I am happy to take the chance that that will be the case with Shubhankar this year.
CURRENTLY TRADING @ 540