The venue for this week’s WGC-Mexico is marked at 7,330 yards, but will play significantly less than that due to the high altitude at which the course is located. It’s hard to make this exact calculation, but the true yardage will be well under 7,000 yards. That tends to even the field in terms of distance, and the tree-lined fairways further skew this course towards short, accurate hitters. I have several comp courses that I’ll list later, many of which are applicable to the European Tour players in this field. The GC at Chapultepec features kikuyu fairways and rough – which we’ve seen recently at Torrey Pines and Riviera – and poa annua greens. We want to look at some putting splits, but pay extra attention to players who performed well at those tracks on the California swing. Digging further into the scorecard here, I noticed that the par-5s are very long, which again may mitigate the advantage of the bombers. Par-4 scoring is going to be critical this week, since we have 11 par-4s this week, some of which are extremely short. It should be a birdie fest, and I think the winner will be the player who wins par-4 scoring for the week.
In terms of stats I feel are important, birdie or better percentage, SG:Tee-to-Green, SG:Off-the-Tee, and par-4 scoring seem to be good targets. Of course, this is all a crapshoot since we are at a new venue this year. Correlating courses that I’ll take a small look at this week are Riviera and Torrey Pines (due to similar grass types), TPC Kuala Lumpur (CIMB Classic), and three European Tour venues: Crans Sur Sierre (Omega European Masters – this is at a very high altitude, as well), Wentworth (BMW PGA Championship), and Woburn (British Masters rotation).
1) Driving Accuracy
3) Birdie or Better %
4) Par-4 Scoring
Let’s look at my favorite plays this week:
Henrik Stenson ($10,300) – The only reason I consider Stenson a sleeper is because we haven’t seen him in a few weeks. He’ll be less popular than Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth, given their recent form. But in his past two starts, Stenson had finished 8th and 2nd, and comes to a course that should suit him exceptionally well. He’s deadly accurate off the tee and with his irons, and obviously won’t be intimidated by anybody in this field.
Justin Rose ($9,600) – Rose has two runner-up finishes at the BMW PGA Championship, and has won a British Masters at Woburn. When we look for accurate ball-strikers, he always comes to the forefront. Rose has three top-4 finishes in his past four starts, and I believe a win is coming. With all the top players in the world here, Rose could go slightly overlooked in all fantasy formats. Playing a course that should look like woodland courses back in England, Rose is a strong play.
Martin Kaymer ($7,500) – Kaymer finished 7th at last year’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, and has posted a runner-up finish at the Omega European Masters as well. He comes into this event in strong form, including a great 4th place finish at the Honda Classic. Kaymer tends to peak this time of year, especially in strong fields and majors. If his putter gets hot, that and his elite ball-striking makes him a strong contender this week in Mexico.
Sergio Garcia ($8,500) – Garcia had another solid week at the Honda Classic, but made too many mistakes to contend. He comes to Mexico and a course that should suit him perfectly: birdies, accuracy, and ball-striking. Garcia was excellent off-the-tee last week, but struggled mightily on the greens. He should be in for some positive regression this week. When looking at our European Tour comp courses, Garcia fits. He’s especially fond of Crans Sur Sierre, home of the Omega European Masters.
Matthew Fitzpatrick ($7,300) – Fitzpatrick has had minimal success at Wentworth, but did win the 2015 British Masters at Woburn. He also posted a top-5 finish at the Omega European Masters last year, and has great history there overall He fits the mold of a short and accurate player who can strive on tree-lined fairways. Although he disappointed a bit last week at Honda, it was a Saturday 76 that ruined his chances. I can overlook one bad round on a tough course for somebody who fits this course to a tee.
Alex Noren ($7,200) – Noren quietly broke into the top-10 in the official world golf rankings, thanks to his four wins last season. He’s an accurate player with a great short game, and should suit this track very well. At Crans Sur Sierre, one of our comp courses, Noren is a two-time winner (including last season). Although he may get more popular as some of the DFS sharps talk him up, he’s still a sub-5% player who could win the event.
Bernd Wiesberger ($7,100) – Wiesberger finished 15th at last year’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, and has had success at other comp courses as well. Although he can rip it off the tee, Wiesberger has shown his ability to contend on some of the shorter, trickier European Tour layouts. He’s also overdue for a win, with three recent top-4 finishes on Tour. My concern with Wiesberger is that he’s usually better suited for tournaments where par is a good score, and we have a birdie fest here in Mexico. However, in his last event, he posted a round with 11 birdies, including a record nine in a row.
Lee Westwood ($6,800) – Way too cheap of a price for Westwood, who has made his last eight cuts worldwide with several top-10 finishes. This course should fit his game to a tee, and looks like many courses in England. When looking at our comp courses, Westwood fits the bill: past winner at the Omega European Masters and runner-up at the BMW PGA Championship. He’s a savvy veteran who won’t be intimidated by the field, and we saw that he’s can still contend in these events when he nearly won last year’s U.S. Open.
Danny Willett ($6,700) – Willett finished 3rd at last year’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, and won the 2015 Omega European Masters (he also has a runner-up at the OEM). Although he missed the cut at the Honda Classic, he showed plenty of signs that have me bullish on him this week. Willett made an eagle and six birdies, but a couple of double bogies ended his week early. Sticking with my English angle, Willett fits the same mold as Matthew Fitzpatrick and Lee Westwood.
Chris Wood ($6,600) – Wood won the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth last season after finishing 4th there in 2015. He also finished 9th at Woburn in the 2015 British Masters, showing his moxie on these shorter, tree-lined venues. Wood had a couple of top-25s on the European Tour recently, after fighting some nagging injuries over the past few months. His wife just had a baby, so he should be happy to be back out of the house playing golf. Add Wood to the list of English players I’ve mentioned: Rose, Fitzpatrick, Willett, and Westwood.
Fabrizio Zanotti ($6,900) – The Paraguay should be comfortable in a World Golf Championship environment, having competed in last summer’s Olympic Tournament in Rio. He didn’t’ fare well, but this course suits his short and straight game much better. Zanotti comes to Mexico in great form, having won the Maybank Malaysian Open in his last start after a final round 63 (included an eagle on the 18th hole). Zanotti finished 7th at last year’s BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, 2nd at the 2015 British Masters at Wobum, and 24th at the Omega European Masters, showing his elite form on my comp courses.
Bonus picks for the Tshwane Open:
George Coetzee, Dean Burmester, Jaco Ahlers, Justin Hicks, Haydn Porteous, Dylan Frittelli.
Good luck this week!