After the strongest field of the year competed in a thrilling Genesis Invitational, it’s time for another elite field to head to Mexico City for the WGC Mexico Championship. Unfortunately, a large number of players who qualified for the event have decided to skip it. That’s a real shame but golf in Mexico and beyond can still look forward to a star-studded field which is headlined by Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm.
Any of the biggest names in the field could well go on to claim this title but they’ll each have a very tough job to get past Dustin Johnson. That he is a two time champion of a tournament that’s only been going in its current guise for three years tells you a great deal about just how much he loves Club de Golf Chapultepec and there’s no reason he cannot win again.
The World Golf Championships are supposed to be one step below the four major championships. The fields are smaller than the majors and only include the best of the best on current form so each host course must be of the highest quality. The general consensus from the first three years of Club de Golf Chapultepec hosting the WGC-Mexico Championship is that it is up to the task.
The first thing that catches your eye about Chapultepec is that it is a classical looking layout. The fairways are pretty narrow with tall trees ready waiting for any player who is wayward off the tee. Hitting the fairways would be much more of a challenge were this 7,330 yard layout not set 7,000 feet above sea level. In the midday heat, the effects of altitude can see the ball fly a further 20% through the air so players rarely need to pull their driver out of the bag off the tee which helps keeps the fairways hit percentage respectable.
Hitting greens in regulation is a much tougher task than hitting the fairways. Not only are they small but they run very fast so holding them demands approach shots of the highest calibre. Given that the players will miss the greens so often this week, those with the most reliable short game should find that they have an advantage on the field. Similarly, those who are comfortable putting on tricky greens will fare better than those who lack confidence with the putter as the sloping, Poa Annua putting surfaces are very difficult.
|Club de Golf Chapultepec||Mexico City, Mexico||7,300 Yards||$10,500,000|
Dustin Johnson is perhaps best known for his prodigious power. He utilised that when winning this tournament back in 2015 when it was still played in Florida but he has proven he is verging on the complete player with his two wins in the WGC Mexico Championship. During both wins he hit high quality irons and wedges into the greens, pitched and chipped well and got to grips with the greens better than most.
Phil Mickelson is the other man to have won the tournament in its latest guise. His wildness with his driver often costs him the chance to contend in big events but the ability to throttle back off the tee before taking advantage of his excellence on and around the greens helped him prevail in a playoff against Justin Thomas in 2018.
|Year||Winner||Course||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2019||Dustin Johnson||Club de Golf Chapultepec||-21||5 Strokes|
|2018||Phil Mickelson||Club de Golf Chapultepec||-16||Playoff|
|2017||Dustin Johnson||Club de Golf Chapultepec||-14||1 Stroke|
|2016||Adam Scott||Trump National Doral||-12||1 Stroke|
|2015||Dustin Johnson||Trump National Doral||-9||1 Stroke|
Analysis: Big Hitters Can Thrive Despite the Lack of Distance
In theory, the effects of altitude at Mexico City should make this tournament more of a level playing field between the bigger hitters and the rest. However, the challenge of hitting the small greens negates that a little bit. Holding the greens often demands a towering ball flight which is easier to achieve with higher lofted clubs. The bigger hitters will be hitting the most scorable clubs into the greens which, providing they are confident enough on the greens, should swing the pendulum towards those who possess the most power.
Tough to Bet Against Johnson Again
Dustin Johnson knows exactly what it takes to win around Club de Golf Chapultepec. The former world number one is confident hitting long irons off the tee, is one of the best wedge players in the game and has more than enough experience of putting on Poa Annua greens.
As well as his two wins in Mexico City, Johnson has an excellent record at Pebble Beach which has similar greens to Chapultepec and he generally putted well last week at Riviera. Indeed, it’s his form during the Genesis Invitational that makes Johnson look like such a good option even at a best price of 15/2 with Betfair. It looks for all the world as though he is on the cusp of finding his very best golf which, in the context of the WGC Mexico Championship, is ideal. Johnson looks very much like the man the others all have to beat.
Rested Fleetwood Ready to Pounce
Whilst many of the leading contenders for the WGC Mexico Championship arrive on the back of some top class performances in big recent events, Tommy Fleetwood turns up to Mexico somewhat under the radar.
The 29 year old has stuck to the European Tour so far this season where he secured a runner up finish in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and 11th in the Dubai Desert Classic. Those results come on the back of an excellent end to 2019 where he finished second at the DP World Tour Championship just a week after winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge.
Fleetwood is a truly global golfer who is used to testing himself on all sorts of different courses in very different conditions. He has made sure to play in each edition of the WGC Mexico Championship where his best performance was his first as he finished second in 2017. With his game looking in a very good place recently, a rested and refreshed Fleetwood is an obvious danger at 20/1 with bet365.
Final Verdict: Dustin Johnson to Win
There really is such a thing as horses for courses in top level professional golf as Dustin Johnson could well prove in Mexico City. For whatever reason, Johnson just loves Club de Golf Chapultepec and his recent strong form suggests that he is in line for an incredible seventh World Golf Championship at 15/2 with Betfair.
About the WGC Mexico Championship
The idea behind the World Golf Championships was to allow the best players from around the world to compete against one another more frequently than at just the major championships. The nature of golf has changed significantly since the WGC’s introduction in 1999 with the PGA Tour and European Tours looking more like international tours with every passing year but there is still a clamour for world class golf to be spread wider than its usual heartlands.
The fact that three of the four WGC events took place in America was a bone of contention for many, hence the decision to move the WGC Cadillac Championship from Doral, Florida to the outskirts of Mexico City and rebrand it to the WGC Mexico Championship. It was in many ways a controversial move and certainly contentiously timed.
In June 2016, as Donald Trump was pledging to build a wall between Mexico and the US in his bid to become President, the PGA Tour announced the tournament would be heading south of the boarder. Given Trump owns Doral, the previous host venue, many felt it was a political move by the PGA but Trump accepted it graciously (!), saying “I hope they have kidnapping insurance.”
An International Past
Whilst the Donald may not have been overjoyed, the move to Mexico City was generally greeted positively by golf fans and players as it broadened the horizons of a tournament which used to be routed in internationalism, as per the original hopes of the World Golf Championships.
Originally founded as the WGC American Express Championship, the first two editions of this tournament were held in the highly respected Valderrama Golf Club, which also hosted the 1997 Ryder Cup, in Andalusia, Spain. The 2001 renewal was due to be moved to Bellerive Country Club in Missouri but was cancelled due to the September 11th attacks.
The WGC American Express Championship did finally take place in America when Tiger Woods won in 2003 but not before being hosted by Mount Juliet in Ireland. Mount Juliet hosted again in 2004 before a return to America courtesy of Harding Park, California. The final edition of the tournament before it set up a more permanent home at Doral, Florida, took place in 2006 at The Grove in Hertfordshire, England.
Moving the tournament around different countries every year added an extra level of excitement and intrigue for golf fans but it was another piece of complexity that the world’s best golfers could do without. The chance to set up a routine with the event’s move to Doral was welcomed, especially by players who had become fed up of travelling around the world only to finish behind Tiger Woods.
Woods was really in his pomp during the early stages of the WGC American Express Championship, winning the tournament six times inside its first 10 years. Incredibly those wins each came at a different golf course (see table below) which really hammers home just how dominant Woods was at this point.
Tiger Woods Tournament Record
|Mount Juliet, Ireland||2002|
|Capital City Club, Georgia||2003|
|TPC Harding Park, California||2005|
|The Grove, England||2006|
|Doral, Florida||2007, 2013|
Over the years we have had a number of multiple champions but nobody can get close to Woods’ total of seven wins in this tournament. Ahead of the 2021 event Dustin Johnson, winner in 2015, 2017 and 2019, is the best of the rest.
Reed Ignores the Critics
is never going to be the most popular golfer in the world. The American was already a controversial figure (to put it lightly) with European golf fans for his role as chief antagoniser for the American Ryder Cup team and had even fallen out with members of his own team during that tournament, but his stock was particularly low at the start of the 2020 WGC Mexico Championship.
Just a matter of weeks before the start of the tournament, Reed had been caught improving his lie when in a sand waste area. He denied the allegations of cheating that would come his way but the vast majority of people in the game and golf fans knew what they saw. Even fellow American, Brooks Koepka, said that Reed must have known what he was doing.
Whatever you think of Reed as a character, you cannot help but be impressed by his competitive spirit. Despite all the hullabaloo surrounding him and what must have been constant awkward encounters with his fellow pros, Reed somehow managed to block it all out to win the fourth edition of the WGC Mexico Championship since it moved to the outskirts of Mexico City.
Reed’s win made it four straight wins for American golfers in Mexico and it wasn’t just nationality that he shared with the other winners. Reed, in common with Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, had previously won the tournament when it was hosted at Doral, meaning that we are yet to see a player succeed in Mexico that hadn’t previously won this tournament at Doral.
Who Tees it Up in the WGC Events?
The four WGC events have slightly different structures and qualifying criteria but in order to earn the right to play at the Club de Golf Chapultepec you need to:
- Be in the top 50 in the world rankings
- Or be in the top 30 of the FedEx Cup standings
- Or the top 20 from the European Tour
- Or the top two from the Asian, Sunshine, Australian or Japanese Tours
The highest ranked Mexican player (not otherwise qualified) also gets a spot, with spare places, should there be any, filled by the highest-ranked non-qualified players (based on the Official World Golf Ranking a week before the tournament). Easy, right?
Sudden Death Events
The WGC Mexico is a stroke play event and there is no cut, so all 72 players compete for all 72 holes. A sudden death play-off is used in the event of a tie and despite a huge number of very close tournaments there have been just three play-offs to date.
- 1999 Tiger Woods Wins – beats local favourite Miguel Angel Jimenez in inaugural event
- 2005 Tiger Woods Wins (Again!) – beats John Daly in play-off
- 2018 Phil Mickleson Wins – Justin Thomas the unlucky man
Aside from those three ties, the winning margin has been just one shot with amazing frequency. If you want to bet on the margin of victory the following stats are well worth noting (correct as of 2020, based on 21 editions of this tournament):
- Play-off, 3 Times
- 1 Shot, 10 Times
- 2 Shots, 5 Times
- 4 Shots, 1 Time
- 5 Shots, 1 Time
- 8 Shots, 1 Time