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Culp's Corner

WGC-Mexico Preview

by Josh Culp
Updated On: February 15, 2019, 9:45 am ET

A field of 65 golfers take their talents to Mexico City, Mexico, ahead of this week's World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship. 

This will be the second edition held in Mexico City at Club de Golf Chapultepec. That means course history will serve very little purpose this week. 

As a reminder, a WGC event means a limited field with no cut. All 65 golfers will play four guaranteed rounds, barring a WD. 

The Course

This week's course is a par 71 that plays to 7,345 yards. It's not so cut and dry, though, since the course sits at roughly 7,800 feet above sea level. Using a conservative estimate, that means the course will play at less than 6,700 adjusted yards. That qualifies it as the shortest course these pros will face all year (Pebble Beach GL the next shortest at 6,814 yards). 

Despite the lack of length and loads of trees lining the fairways, we saw plenty of big hitters line up at the top of last year's leaderboard. That includes the winner, Dustin Johnson. That could have just been a coincidence in year one of a new course with tricky greens or it might be telling in terms of what golfers fit the venue. Too early to tell. 

For grass types, we have kikuyu from tee-to-green with poa annua on the putting surfaces. That is the same combination as we recently saw at the Genesis Open. It's also a common combination seen in South Africa. They had the greens running around 11.5 feet on the stimpmeter last year, pretty standard. 

Like a mentioned briefly, the fairways are tree-lined which explains why the rate of double bogeys was moderate-to-high here last year. At the same time, the rate of eagles ranked 9th among all courses played last year on the PGA TOUR. That signals the course has plenty of risk-reward options. There should be plenty of fantasy scoring but big numbers are also lurking out there. 

Now that the tournament officials have a year of data to look at, there is always the possibility they take feedback from the pros and change a few things in terms of course set up. From that regard, I wouldn't dive too deep into keys to success from last year. 

 

Course Quotes

Sifting through some past quotes over at the Fantasy Golfanac, let's try to break down the courses to see how they will play...

 

Sergio Garcia: "When you are not used to playing at this altitude it’s tough physically, your head hurts, your body doesn’t feel the same. You just try to get used to it as the days go by and you try to play the best you can."

 

Lee Westwood: "It’s a pleasure to play a golf course where your caddie doesn’t hand you the driver walking off the previous green. You’ve got to put in a bit of thought on this golf course, try and hit fairways. It’s not just a tee-up-and-blast-it place. You’ve got to play to certain sections in the greens with flags."

 

Ross Fisher: "So it made my caddie’s job very, very difficult. The caddy’s job this week is extremely difficult, especially for me because I hit the ball so high. Up in the air, sometimes it can be nearer 22 percent."

 

Jordan Spieth: "There are very few courses I’ve seen that have this much risk-reward around it. So you’ll see guys that are hitting drivers versus other guys who are hitting 4-irons off the tee and that will happen multiple times throughout a round."

Jordan Spieth: "The greens are tricky, yeah. They’re poa annua as well, so you’ve got to have some patience because they’re going to get spiked up and one putt may do one thing and you may hit it again and it may do another."

Tommy Fleetwood: "I think definitely myself and the European guys that we talked to, we all love the course. It’s actually a very European course, so for us it was a good sign when we got here, I think, and it’s been a tough test. The course doesn’t play overly long and the best players in the world are here and 14 under’s been the winning total."

 

 

Overview: The biggest buzzword this week will be Altitude. Having previously lived in Denver I know that some vistors handled the altitude better than others. It's not an out-of-shape thing, some people's bodies just react differently. Of course honing in on yardages will be a big task. Perhaps it wasn't a coincidence that the man who is known for loving his TrackMan (DJ) is the man who came out on top last year. Other than altitude, the greens being tricky was a common theme last year. Avoiding the trees was a necessity unless you were Phil Mickelson who found sprinkler heads around every corner. Like Fleetwood mentioned, this course is more similar to one the European Tour would play. Some golfers narrowed it even further to say it reminded them of a Spanish or Italian style course

 

Correlated Courses

Looking at past performance, golfer quotes, and course setup, these five events show up as potential pointers: 

Genesis Open
WGC-HSBC Champions
Pebble Beach Pro-Am
WGC-Bridgestone
Farmers Insurance Open

The first theme that pops up is poa annua greens. The second thing I want to target is looking at other WGC events. Some golfers really like the lack of pressure that comes with playing in a no-cut event with a guaranteed paycheck. 

On the Euro Tour side, it could be worth looking at the following five events that are played in altitude with the South African tournaments also featuring kikuyu. 

Joburg Open
South African Open
Tshwane Open
Omega European Masters
Nedbank Golf Challenge

The Weather

The early forecast calls for temperatures in the upper-70s throughout the week. 

The wind looks to be non-existent this week with the only potential negative being a rain shower or two throughout the week. 

Keep an eye on the precipitation forecast as the week progresses as everything else looks like prime golfing weather. 
 

 

Players to Watch

 

Dustin Johnson
Last year he opened his week with a double bogey. From there on out he posted 22 birdies and an eagle to offset the early blemish and eight other bogeys. He circled birdies on 10-of-12 chances on the par 5s while his lone eagle came at the short, par-4 first. The same hole he double bogeyed in R1. 
 

Justin Thomas
Last week's champion will try to build on his early-season momentum. During last year's WGC-Mexico, JT held sole possession of the 54-hole lead before fading on Sunday (T5). Dripping with confidence, Thomas should continue to rack up birdies in bunches. 

 
Phil Mickelson
Ended the West Coast Swing with finishes of T5-T2-T6 before skipping last week's Honda Classic. Avoiding that carnage might be a good decision as Lefty will still have plenty of confidence and won't have to make adjustments on the greens since he'll be faced with kikuyu and poa annua this week, the same combination that he just saw two weeks ago at Riviera. Last year, Mickelson made waves here at Chapultepec GC since he was spraying the ball everywhere but recovering in typical Mickelson fashion. It certainly helped that he got some favorable ruling in terms of finding sprinkler heads in the middle of nowhere. 

Tony Finau
He ranks just 112th in strokes gained putting but I think that's a bit misleading. Since switching his putting grip back at the Playoffs last year, he has gained strokes putting in 6-of-8 events with ShotLink. Looking at PGA TOUR events with poa annua greens, only Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, and Phil Mickelson have gained more total strokes on courses with poa (since 2014). Should be very popular in all formats this week. 

 

Jordan Spieth
The Texas Longhorn was on the fence about committing to this event but it turns out he'll make an appearance. One of his publicly-stated goals is to pick up a win before Augusta. Of course, that's probably on the mind of every golfer in the field but Spieth usually accomplishes his goals. Dating back to last year's DEAN & DELUCA, Spieth has gained 3 or more strokes over the field in 16-of-17 PGA TOUR events. After an early-season struggle with the flat stick, he picked up 3.6 strokes putting at the Genesis Open. With the golden weapon rounding back into shape, don't be surprised if we see Spieth back on the podium soon, potentially even this week. A great option in all fantasy formats. 
 
Abraham Ancer
Cracked this week's field as the highest ranked golfer from Mexico. Playing in a home game, perhaps we'll finally see Ancer ring the bell in terms of reaching his potential. Looking at my Web Rankings of this year's graduates, Ancer ranked 4th of all graduates in strokes gained across all tours in 2017. The top 8 on that list in 2016 all retained their tour cards this season, meaning we should see Ancer pop eventually. He's not the longest off the tee which puts him at a disadvantage lots of weeks but that won't be the case this week. Consider him a deep sleeper that might pay off in DFS rosters this week. 

Kyle Stanley
Looking at DraftKings ownership, his allure has worn off recently. After being owned on 20%+ rosters at the ToC, Sony, and Farmers he has since dropped to sub-10% ownership for two straight events. He missed the cut in both of those events so I don't think gamers will be lining up to jump back aboard. This week's course should be a much better fit, though, since Stanley pipes fairway after fairway and green after green, not relying on distance. A short course should suit him nicely, making him a good bounce-back candidate in deeper leagues including DFS contests.

 

Rickie Fowler
Imploded last week to miss the cut at the Honda. After the event, he was trying to hold back from talking about the conditions of the greens but you could tell he wasn't a fan. This week he heads back to Mexico City where he gained 8 strokes on approach last year. Him and Francesco Molinari were the only two golfers in last year's top 20 to lose strokes putting on the week (both lost 0.8 strokes over four rounds). That SG:APP of 8 is nothing to sneeze at, so if Fowler can replicate that or even get close to replicating it, then catch fire with the flat stick, he'll be tough to catch. That might be too much to ask, but Fowler should definitely be considered a strong rebound candidate this week. 

Pat Perez
In the same mold as Kyle Stanley above, Perez is someone that should be playing from the fairway all week. Last year he ranked 7th in the field in Strokes Gained Off-the-Tee at this event (+4.3 SG OTT). Unfortunately, he gave all those strokes back and more on the putting greens (-4.8 SGP). Similar to Fowler, if he can correct the putting woes, he should find himself in the mix come Sunday. 

Ranking the Field

1. Dustin Johnson
2. Jordan Spieth
3. Jon Rahm
4. Justin Thomas
5. Phil Mickelson
6. Tommy Fleetwood
7. Alex Noren
8. Branden Grace
9. Justin Rose
10. Paul Casey
11. Rickie Fowler
12. Patrick Cantlay
13. Sergio Garcia
14. Matt Kuchar
15. Marc Leishman
16. Tyrrell Hatton
17. Francesco Molinari
18. Louis Oosthuizen
19. Rafa Cabrera Bello
20. Brendan Steele
21. Patrick Reed
22. Tony Finau
23. Pat Perez
24. Daniel Berger
25. Bubba Watson

 

 
Playing European Tour Fantasy Golf? Give Dave Tindall's WGC-Mexico Championship Preview a look, as it focuses on the European Tour talent in the field. Check back on Tuesday for our Expert Picks and then on Wednesday, I will return for some last-minute DFS tips in the DFS Dish. 

Josh Culp
Josh Culp joined Rotoworld in 2014. The DFS enthusiast from Iowa State can be found on Twitter @futureoffantasy.