The PGA Tour heads south of the border for the first time in its history, abandoning the cozy confines of Doral and the now-defunct WGC-Cadillac Championship for the WGC-Mexico from just outside Mexico City.
Course: Club de Golf Chapultepec: Par 71, 7,330 yards
1899 U.S. Open winner Willie Smith and his brother Alex designed the Club de Golf in 1928. The course has served as the host venue for the Mexican Open numerous times, most recently in 2014. Players will see kikuyu grass fairways and poa annua, bentgrass mix on the greens.
It's worth noting that the course, located just outside Mexico City, is at an elevation of more than 7,000 feet above sea level. Nearly nobody in the field has teed it up at the venue before, which presents a challenge from the “horses for courses" standpoint.
On the subject of elevation, elevation changes off the tee will play a factor this week, so players who excel in course management ought to be favored. Greens are reported as similar to the bumpy, undulating surfaces at Torrey Pines South Course, which many in the field saw a few weeks ago.
Finding the fairway shouldn't be difficult, and the rough doesn't look to be overly penal. With no shortage of length aided by the elevation, players will likely play positionally off the tee. And with putting being negated by what appear to be subtle, undulating poa annua surfaces, approach play should be the deciding factor this week.
Creme de la creme
Jordan Spieth: $11,500
Here's the thought: The caddie-player pairing of Greller and Spieth > (Austin) Johnson and (Dustin) Johnson at a new track featuring an abundance of elevation-related calculations. A winner at Pebble Beach, Spieth is currently the tour leader in strokes gained: approach-the-green. DJ's ownership will be insane, and I think you need to back off him expecting the Johnson-Johnson brain trust to fail to record a top-five finish.
Henrik Stenson: $10,300
Stenson has turned in top-10 performances in his last three starts. An adept ball striker, Stenson picked up 1.243 strokes on the field last year with his approach play. At $400 less than Matsuyama, who will likely be more widely owned, the globe-trotting Swede is the play at the new venue.
Phil Mickelson: $7,600
Mickelson's ability to make birdies always makes him a GPP consideration. And while his reputation is as a great scrambler and putter, Mickelson was fifth on tour in strokes gained: approach the green last year. He's sixth on tour in birdie average this season. And certainly, the veteran's ability to navigate a new course (with his trusty sidekick, Bones) makes him an attractive play.
Martin Kaymer: $7,500
Coming off a fifth-place showing at the Honda Classic, Kaymer looks to be in form. He's picking up .936 strokes on the field average with his approach play as well. Like Mickelson, he's a lot of golfer for $7,500. And averaging 3.75 birdies per round, Kaymer can fill it up. Definitely the biggest upside of anyone in the $7,400-$7,500 range.
Danny Willett: $6,700
Willett faltered at the Honda Classic where he missed the cut (only by a stroke). He finished fifth at the Maybank Championship on the European Tour prior to that start and seems to be showing signs of his 2016 form (which saw him priced about $2,000 higher). Good work off the tee and approach play are the strengths of Willet's game. Roster him at this price.
Jhonny Vegas: $6,600
Native of Latin America, nearly minimum-priced Jhonny Vegas may be one of the few players who has teed it up at the venue before. He's also coming off a strong showing at the Honda Classic, where he finished tied for fourth and a top-20 showing at the Genesis Open. At $6,600 he's a massively better play than anyone in the range. Vegas was 37th on Tour in strokes gained: total last year and 10th in greens in regulation, so he's no slouch.