WGC – Mexico Championship
For the third week running Sunday proved a frustrating day for us at the Honda, with both of our men in the hunt, Noren and Fleetwood, coming up marginally short.
Still, we again made a nice e/w profit on the week so it certainly wasn’t all bad news!
Our 350-1 shot Bozzelli also played really nicely to finish 13th. Unfortunately though in this game a ‘miss is as good as a mile’…!
The less said about our trader Ben Silverman though the better. After a solid first few holes on Thursday he fell victim to the Bear Trap and it was all down hill from there on in for him.
Congratulations to Justin Thomas who outlasted the field in what was a gruelling week to notch up his 6th win since the start of the 2017 calendar year. That’s quite a strike rate!
After a couple of weeks in Florida the PGA Tour now heads to Mexico for the first WGC of the year.
Up until 2016 this event was played in Miami at Doral, however the decision was made to move the event across the border in to Mexico for the 2017 edition and this proved to be a great success.
The top 50 in the OWGR gain automatic entry. The field is then topped up through Fedex Cup & Euro tour ranking positions from both last year and this, with players who have finished inside the top 2 on the Japan, Australasian, Sunshine and Asian Tour Order of Merits in 2017 then added.
Finally the top ranked Mexican player in the OWGR who is currently Abraham Ancer receives an invite.
Notable absentees from the field whether through injury or preference are Rory, Jason Day, Matsuyama, Koepka and Henrik Stenson.
As noted above Club Du Golf Chapultepec was introduced as the host course last year when the event moved to Mexico.
The course was designed by Willie & Alex Smith in the early 1920’s and then underwent a significant redesign from Percy Clifford in 1972. Further changes were then made before it’s introduction to the WGC roster.
The course is a par 71 playing to just over 7300 yds.
The main point to note though, both in general and with regards to the length of the track, is that the course is ‘at altitude’ at over 7000 feet above sea level. This will make the ball fly further than normal so distance of the tee in theory is not an issue here.
The course can be described as a classical test as it features narrow, tree lined fairways and smaller than average greens.
It may well pay to look at players who have form on other courses/events played at altitude and these would include the Barracuda Championship & the CJ Cup from last year on the PGA Tour.
The rough is Kikuyu and the greens are Bent/Poa as found on the West Coast Swing.
As the event has only been at it’s present home for one year it seems pointless to look back further than the 2017 edition.
Last years event was won by world No 1 Dustin Johnson when he was in the middle of his ‘tear up’, during which he won on three consecutive starts. To be honest the way DJ was playing at the time he would have won on any course anywhere in the world so I don’t think you can read too much in to the course suiting his style of game etc.
His winning total was -14. It’s worth noting that the top 6 were only separated by 3 shots at the end of the week, so if you are someone who likes to trade in running it may well be that as time goes on this proves to be a course that is favourable for this with a tendency for tightly packed leaderboards.
Whilst we only have one years course history to go on if we look back to the recent history of WGC events as a whole it is clear to see that the roll of honour is dominated by the leading players in the game.
In the last 5 yrs DJ has five WGC’s to his name, Rory two, Hideki two, Tiger two and Jason Day two, with others being won by Scott, Bubba, Rose, Reed and Kuchar.
Indeed the only two winners of WGC’s over the past 5 years who could be seen as more left field would be Shane Lowry & Russell Knox.
On the flip side of this because the betting market is so heavily dominated by the big names if you do fancy a lesser name to go well you can get some fancy e/w prices and indeed this time last year we benefited from a stellar performance from an in form Tommy Fleetwood to grab a place at 200-1.
As I write the forecast for the week up to and through the event looks dry with only a slight possibility of showers on Sunday. We should therefore be set for yet another week of firm and fast conditions.
The wind doesn’t look to be too significant although there could be some gusts of 10-15 mph through the week.
I have gone with 4 players this week as follows;
JUSTIN THOMAS – 8-1 - 3pts Win FINISHED 2nd
It’s always a tricky business finding the right strategy in these WGC events.
As highlighted above the winner is most likely to come from one of the elite players in the field, however from a betting point of view the limited field size, coupled with the fact that a chunk of the participants who have qualified via world wide order of merit finishes can’t realistically be considered as winners, means you aren’t going to be getting any favours from the bookies on the market leaders prices.
The decision therefore is do we hunt for big e/w value [like we found with Fleetwood last year] or do we stick to the top ends of the market? Well on this occasion I’ve decided to stick with the latter.
We start therefore with an unapologetic pick of last week’s winner Justin Thomas.
JT’s credentials don’t really need much explanation however there are two things to highlight that draw me to him this week rather than to say DJ the defending champion and other market leader.
Firstly, if you look at JT’s record since the start of 2017 on two of the occasions he won, he either won again the next week or two starts later. In fact the only time he didn’t back a win up pretty much straight away over the past 15 months was at the CJ Cup after which he basically put his clubs away for the year saying he was ‘running on empty’.
In other words we have a world class player who, as tends to be the pattern with a lot of the games elite at the moment, can become unstoppable when there confidence is up and they get on a roll.
The second thing to like about JT this week is as well as finishing 5th here last year he showed by winning the CJ Cup at the back end of last year that he has the necessary skills required to play at altitude.
Whilst of course defending champion Dustin Johnson has shown what it takes to get it done round here as well, I just feel that after last week JT is the one with the momentum at the moment and I’m happy to give him the nod.
JORDAN SPIETH – 14-1 - 2pts E/W – ¼ odds 1st 5 FINISHED 14th
The next player I like from a price point of view out of the market leaders is Jordan Spieth.
Spieth’s troubles which have been mainly on the greens this season have been well documented.
However last time out at the Genesis Open there were definite signs of encouragement in a performance which saw him finish 9th and register 17th on the strokes gained putting stats for the week.
If you look at Jordan’s record since the start of last year it clearly shows that when he does post a top 10s after a relative barren spell a top 5 or a win is not normally far away.
I’m sure Jordan will have been working hard since his 9th place at Riviera to make the further improvements required and I’m also sure his good friend JT’s win at the weekend will give him a little extra spur on to make a big challenge this week.
Jordan showed last year with a 3rd round 63 that he can adapt to the track and I’m more than happy to have him on side at a backable e/w price.
PHIL MICKELSON – 25-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/4 odds 1st 5 FINISHED 1st!!!
So here we are again back with Phil…
There isn’t really much to add to what I’ve said in my previews regarding him over the recent weeks!
He is motivated, on a roll and has notched 3 top 6 finishes in his last 3 starts [carrying our money to a nice e/w profit on two of them.]
Having had a weeks rest I can see Phil being ready to now go again.
He showed last year with a 7th place finish when in nowhere near the form he is now that he can handle the track.
This does not come as a surprise to me for two reasons. Firstly of course he loves the Poa greens. Secondly Phil is exactly the sort of player you would image would take to the challenge of having to be creative and adjust your distances when playing at altitude.
Watching Phil over recent weeks I feel like I’ve been watching a loop of a tape where his putts keep hanging on the edge or burning the edges and if he can just get one or two more to drop this could at last be his week.
PATRICK CANTLAY – 40-1 - 1pts E/W - 1/4 odds 1st 5 FINISHED 30th
My final pick of the week goes to a major champion in the making in the form of Patrick Cantlay.
Those of you who read my ‘players to follow’ blog for 2018 will know that I highlighted Cantlay as a player to back in WGC’s or even Majors this year as I felt winning one of these was certainly within his compass and that in these events initially at least we would potentially be getting some more ‘juice’ in his price.
Sticking to my word I’m therefore happy to side with the UCLA grad this week at what I see as a more than fare 40-1.
Other than the price there are sound reasons for liking Patrick this week.
Firstly of course he finished 4th last time out at Genesis Open and whilst not quite managing to get the job done he showed that his game is in good shape [ as indeed it has been consistently for the past year since he came back on tour].
In addition to this whilst Patrick doesn’t have a previous outing on the course as a native Californian he will be comfortable on the Poa greens.
Furthermore Cantlay has proven that he can play at altitude when winning at TPC Summerlin last year and, as the icing on the cake, he has a second win at altitude to his name, which came in South America at the Colombia Championship on the Web.com tour.
Patrick therefore should be relishing the challenge that Club De Golf Chapultepec will offer up this week.
UPDATED 27th FEB
TRADER - KIRADECH APHIBARNRAT FINISHED 5th - TRADED SINGLE FIGURES!!
I'm going to be honest of the bat here and say there was no one player in the 200+ bracket on the exchanges who leapt straight out at me when looking to pick this weeks 'trader'.
In the end I have settled on Kiradech for a couple of reasons. Firstly I just feel that his level is improving all the time and I just have a hunch that he is ready to step up and seriously figure in one of these WGC events and I would rather have a player on side that If they difd go well could hang around right to the end on Sunday.
In addition whilst there is no concrete course form to go on at this track, he strikes me as the sort of player who would take to the shot making challenge that playing at altitude brings. To back this up slightly he did finish top 20 at the Omega European Masters at Crans last year.
Finally of course he is in decent form this year and should still be buoyed by his recent win.
Currently trading at 200+