The Club de Golf Chapultepec makes its PGA Tour debut this weekend as it hosts the WGC-Mexico Championship. The top players in the world gather in Mexico City for a no-cut, big-money event and an elevation of more than 7,500 feet above sea level.
The first World Golf Championships tournament of 2017 is upon us, and these events are always very compelling because the field is limited to only the very best players. There are 74 players in the field this week and of the Top 74 in the world, the only player missing is Australia's Jason Day, who pulled out of the competition last week with a bad ear infection and the flu.
It is the WGC-Mexico Championship at Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City, and what I am really excited about is to see a new venue making its way onto the Tour schedule. The course looks like it is going to be very interesting combined with the fact that we are headed more than 7,500 feet above sea level. It's the highest elevation ever for a PGA Tour event. This event will be staged here for the next seven years.
The fairways are tree-lined and pretty thickly so at that. Nearly every hole has at least a slight dogleg. We say hello again to Kikuyu grass fairways which was the topic of discussion two weeks ago at the Genesis Open at Riviera. And speaking of Riviera, we will see similar greens as well. Although the greens will feature more undulation at Chapultepec, the turf species is the same mixture of Poa Annua and Bent grass seen just two weeks ago when Dustin Johnson went on to win and capture the No. 1 ranking in the world.
So who is going to flourish at this new golf course? Who knows. There is no course form to go off of as nobody in the field has played a competitive round at Chapultepec except for Mexico's Roberto Diaz. What we can look at are some of the characteristics of the golf course and where we find similarities. First of all, at anywhere from 7.500-7,800 feet in elevation, the sea level translation is that this par 71 will play more like 6,600-6,900 yards, a very short track by Tour standards. With the tree-lined fairways and doglegs bends, you could equate this to Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth. That's a place where players must throttle back the driver and work the ball around corners. As far as the grasses and surfaces the players will face this week, Chapultepec is nearly identical to Riviera. There are a few events we can turn to when looking at who plays well high in the sky. On the European Tour, the European Masters is played in the Swiss Alps at roughly 5,000 feet. The Barracuda Championship in Reno, a PGA Tour event is played at around 5,500 feet, and the 2014 BMW Championship was staged at Cherry Hills right outside of Denver.
Dustin Johnson (+7910 Pinnacle): This will be the first event that DJ tees it up as the No. 1 player in the world. He has three victories in WGC events.
Jordan Spieth (+9810 Pinnacle): Spieth has been solid at Riviera and just won on Poa Annua greens at Pebble Beach. His short game and ability to hit greens in regulation could carry him a long way this week. Spieth has also done very well at Colonial, including a win last season.
Rory McIlroy (+13710 Pinnacle): This will be McIlroy's first tournament since a rib injury suffered in mid-January. At altitude, he has three Top-10 finishes at The European Masters.
Henrik Stenson (+1400 5Dimes): One of the best ball strikers and most accurate drivers of the golf ball in the world, Stenson would figure to do well at this layout. In his last event, Stenson took 2nd in Dubai nearly one month ago.
Rickie Fowler (+2214 Bookmaker): Fowler is coming off of a commanding win last week at the Honda Classic and is in very good form. He finished 4th in altitude at the 2014 BMW
Justin Rose (+2430 Pinnacle): Like Stenson, Rose is another player who has the driving and ball-striking game to fare well at Chapultepec. He is off to a great start this season with three Top-5 finishes in his first four starts of 2017.
The Long Shots
Thomas Pieters (+7500 5Dimes): The tall Belgian missed the cut last week at the Honda but took 2nd at Riviera the week prior. I see this as another course at which he ought to do very well.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello (+96100 Pinnacle): He too has the game to handle this course and has two Top-10 finishes along with an 11th-place in the last three months.
Charl Schwartzel (+14500 5Dimes): Schwartzel did not do well in the weather this year at Riviera but has had excellent success at that course overall. Kikuyu grass is native to his South African home and he has played very well in WGC events.
Adam Scott (+27460 Pinnacle): The Australian is a premier ball-striker and is off to an excellent start in 2017 with an 11th at Riviera and a 14th last week at the Honda. He is technically your defending champion here even though this year is at a new venue. He finished 2nd at Riviera in 2016 and won there in 2006. Scott has also done very well at Colonial, winning the tournament three years ago. With the way he is playing coming in and his history at similar courses, I think the 7th ranked player in the world is a pretty good bet at better than 27/1.