The Honda Classic opened with a Web.com style leaderboard on Thursday and Friday before some cream rose to the top over the weekend as preferred lies were lifted and the course firmed up a bit. In the end, Fowler found his way back into the winner’s circle while I was still left scratching my head on missed cuts by guys like Russell Knox and Daniel Berger.
This week we head south of the border for the inaugural WGC-Mexico Championship. This slot was previously hosted by Trump Doral so it’s kind of hilarious that the TOUR jumps over the wall to be hosted by Mexico. The odd thing about this event is the scheduling. It breaks up the Florida Swing and will do so again next year. Expect some changes after that, but for now the TOUR pros just have to live with it.
An easy solution (if this course continues to host) would be to slot it directly after Riviera. It would allow a segue to the East Coast while also allowing golfers to use Riviera’s Kikuyu + Poa combination to be a perfect warmup for Club de Golf Chapultepec which uses kiyuyu on the fairways & rough and a combination of poa/bent on the greens. That provides us with first two correlated events due to kikuyu + poa: Genesis Open and Farmers Insurance Open.
The next thing we need to know about this week’s venue is the altitude. According to @alpariente on Twitter, which is a recommended follow for anything and everything course related this week, the elevation is 7,382 feet at the course. That means the listed yardage of 7,330 yards will actually play closer to 6,500 yards in “adjusted yardage.” As a one off, it’s fine to look at the results of the 2014 BMW Championship which was held at Cherry Hills CC in Denver (5,280 feet). Personally, I’m going to head to the Euro Tour for this next course link, which may be my favorite of the week, Crans-Sur-Sierre GC, which is in the Swiss Alps and hosts the Omega European Masters. I will provide a list of course horses later in this article as well as a resident of Crans Montana which could prove to be a nice pointer in terms of comfort level in altitude.
Adding to my love for the Crans-Sur-Sierre link is fact it also uses bent/poa on the greens but also the length of the par 4s. Both Crans and Chapultepec feature SIX par 4s under 410 yards. That means golfers will have plenty of options to club down off the tee and use less than driver. That will likely be the case this week considering the altitude as well as the tree-lined nature of the course. Keeping it between the pipes will likely be a necessity unless you want to test your luck with tree trouble. This gives us our final three correlated events (plenty of short par 4s): AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, CIMB Classic, and WGC-HSBC Champions.
If you look at the typical scores of those last three events, you’ll notice that short par 4s generally lead to scoring fests. I would expect the same this week with the winner likely creeping into the 20-under zone.
To recap the correlated events/courses I am looking at: Genesis Open, Farmers Insurance Open, WGC-HSBC Champions, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, and the CIMB Classic. Also using the 2014 BMW Championship as a one-off link and the Omega European Masters from across the pond.
Players to Watch
Sergio Garcia… The Spaniard gained 5 strokes off-the-tee last week at PGA National, another less-than-driver venue. He gave two strokes back on the greens but if the putter warms up than he’ll surely be in contention. He is also the previously-mentioned Crans Montana resident that should be rather comfy in high altitudes.
Henrik Stenson… Posted a couple top 10s in the Desert Swing and now he heads to a course that will allow him to club down off the tee. I like the sound of that.
Dustin Johnson… Already mentioned the connection to Pebble Beach where DJ has feasted over the years. His performance on poa annua greens is also top class. Just coming off a win at the Genesis and found out he’s having baby boy #2. Life is good for DJ right now, and I expect him to keep rolling.
Emiliano Grillo… Wish he was in better form but I love the course fit here. He’s a fairways-and-greens machine and bent/poa is his preferred surface to putt on.
Jim Furyk… I always have a tough time imagining Furyk keeping pace in a shootout, which is why he dropped out of the top 25 (upside reasons) but more often than not, he should provide a steady finish in the top 20 to 30 range.
Branden Grace… A less-than-driver course with kikuyugrass? Sounds like a great fit for Grace. The only problem is his WD last week after a birdie-free opening round. I wasn’t too worried about the actual performance since I didn’t expect him to contend at PGA National but he tweeted about a strained muscle in his rotator cuff. If that is true, I want no part of him due to WD risk. However, if that is an “alternative fact” and it’s actually not as serious as it sounds, I would love to jump on board Grace this week.
Tyrrell Hatton… He’s a Steady Eddie, which means I prefer him on tougher layouts. That being said, you can’t ignore his form (nine straight top 25s). He might be popular this week after a strong Honda finish, but he will still crack a few of my GPP lineups.
Alex Noren… While Hatton gets priced at $8300 this week on DraftKings, you can scroll down quite a bit and find Noren at just $7,200. The Swede is a two-time winner at Crans-Sur-Sierre GC which tells us altitude is his friend. Noren is also playing even better than Hatton overseas (minus the MC at the Super 6 Perth). I’m not saying Hatton is a bad play, but Noren is an easy pick over Hatton when you factor in price.
Crans-Sur Course Horses… Earlier I talked about my favorite link of the week (Omega European Masters) and here are the top 10 course horses in the field: Danny Willett (2015 winner), Alex Noren (2x winner), Sergio Garcia (2005 winner), Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood (1999 winner), Tyrrell Hatton, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Charl Schwartzel, and Tommy Fleetwood. David Lipsky also won the 2014 edition but didn’t crack the top 10 in terms of overall course history.
Justin Thomas… Has slipped a bit since his torrid start to the season. Now we head outside the Contiguous United States. All four of his wins have come in tournaments that fit that bill, while three of them have been no-cut events. Would be hilariously fitting for him to win another outside the United States.
Rory McIlroy… Making his return from a back/rib injury. Can’t say this is an ideal fit (tree-lined course where distance advantage may be muted on many holes). Still, he’s one of, if not the best, birdie maker on TOUR. That makes him worthy of consideration on DraftKings. I wouldn’t blame you if you took the wait-and-see approach before re-investing though.
Thomas Pieters… If he wants the option to play full-time in the States, this week is a great opportunity to lock that up. Went close at Riviera CC which is one of the initial course links I was looking at this week due to kikuyu tee-to-green and poa on the putting surfaces.
My Top 25 for the 2017 WGC-Mexico Championship
1. Sergio Garcia
2. Dustin Johnson
3. Henrik Stenson
4. Jordan Spieth
5. Adam Scott
6. Hideki Matsuyama
7. Jon Rahm
8. Emiliano Grillo
9. Alex Noren
10. Rory McIlroy
11. Justin Rose
12. Justin Thomas
13. Rickie Fowler
14. Matt Kuchar
15. Paul Casey
16. Tyrrell Hatton
17. Louis Oosthuizen
18. Ryan Moore
19. Patrick Reed
20. Zach Johnson
21. Lee Westwood
22. Thomas Pieters
23. Rafa Cabrera Bello
24. J.B. Holmes
25. Brandt Snedeker