Paul Williams

Paul Williams' WGC Mexico Championship Tips 2019

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Despite bagging three 50/1 each-way places from last week’s preview at the ISPS Handa World Super 6, I’m still a little disappointed not to have walked away with the winner with both Paul Dunne and Adrian Otaegui making it through to Sunday’s semi-finals in Perth. Otaegui looked the most likely winner and played some excellent golf right up until the final against Ryan Fox, whereas Paul Dunne showed enough to suggest that he warrants further support in the coming weeks when the course and conditions suit. Dunne also had a 2-shot lead on Saturday in the 54-hole leader market before a late bogey meant he finished 2nd in a week that wasn’t quite meant to be.

Profit is profit though as we turn our attention to this week in confident mood. The first WGC event of the season is upon us already and we return for the third of what’s planned to be seven WGC Mexico Championships that will be held here at the Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City over the next few years. An elite field of 72 players with no cut is our task this week and with all of the World’s top-50 here in attendance with the exception of Justin Rose, Jason Day and Adam Scott, we’re in for some fun on an entertaining course played at altitude and in glorious weather.

Before we talk through my WGC Mexico Championship tips, the number of new visitors to Golf Betting System is increasing in the inevitable build-up to The Masters. Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published Tuesday) our Golf Betting Show on YouTube and our hugely popular private group on Facebook – you can Join Here. Masters lovers will also enjoy our Ante-post Masters Podcast.

Club de Golf Chapultepec. Designer: Willie & Alex Smith, 1921. Course Type: Classical, Altitude; Par: 71; Length: 7,330 yards; Fairways/Rough: Kikuyu; Greens: Poa Annua, 12-13 on the stimpmeter.

Course Overview. The course has a classical, old-style feel to it with its narrow, tree-lined fairways and small greens. Players have commented that it feels very much like a tight Spanish or Italian track in terms of its characteristics, however at over 7,000 feet of elevation the altitude adds another dimension to this week with balls flying anything between 10-20% further depending on the club used. So a 7,330 yardage in reality reads sub-6,500 yards which makes this a course that should reap birdies and eagles for those players who can keep the ball in play from off the tee.

A gentle start to the front-9 greets the players with the driveable par-4 1st hole producing 5 eagles and 109 birdies last year. Aside from the three par-5s, the first and second hole – which is another short par-4 that requires a flick with a sand iron after a successful drive – are the easiest holes on the course. Each of the four par-3s played over par last year with the 235 yard 7th hole ranking 2nd overall in terms of difficulty behind the 525 yard par-4 8th.

Aside from the fact that this is a tight, tree-lined track that demands accuracy or a mercurial short game, the biggest challenge over the two renewals held here has been on the greens. Relatively speedy putting surfaces that contain sufficient Poa Annua to describe them as such are the order of the day, however whilst they’re not bad greens they do contain a lot of movement and an awful lot of short putts were missed last year and in 2017. Players who have the creativity to use the undulations on the greens to their benefit – almost Augusta-style on occasions – may well have an advantage and those who played here competitively will certainly have much more of an idea what to expect here this time around.

wgc mexico championship tips

Predictor Model. Our published Predictor Model is available here. As always you can build your own model using the variables available.

Winners & Prices. WGC Mexico Championship: 2018: Phil Mickelson, 25/1; 2017: Dustin Johnson, 7/1; WGC Cadillac Championship (Doral): 2016: Adam Scott, 12/1; 2015: Dustin Johnson, 22/1; 2014: Patrick Reed, 80/1; 2013: Tiger Woods, 12/1; 2012: Justin Rose, 66/1; 2011: Nick Watney, 20/1; 2010: Ernie Els, 40/1.

Weather Forecast. The latest weather forecast for Mexico City is here. A dry event is expected with light to moderate winds, peaking at 10-12 mph in the afternoons, and temperatures reaching around the mid-to-high 70s Fahrenheit.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors.

Stats from the top-4 finishers from each of the last 2 years gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

  • 2018: 1st, Phil Mickelson (-16) . 302 yards (40th), 48.2% fairways (53rd), 69.4% greens in regulation (25th), 81.8% scrambling (2nd), 1.66 putts per GIR (3rd)
  • 2018: 2nd, Justin Thomas (-16) 302 yards (43rd), 66.1% fairways (9th), 72.2% greens in regulation (16th), 80.0% scrambling (3rd), 1.60 putts per GIR (1st)
  • 2018: 3rd, Rafa Cabrera-Bello (-15). 302 yards (43rd), 58.9% fairways (24th), 69.4% greens in regulation (25th), 68.2% scrambling (18th), 1.60 putts per GIR (2nd)
  • 2018: 3rd, Tyrrell Hatton (-15). 299 yards (50th), 71.4% fairways (3rd), 75% greens in regulation (7th), 72.2% scrambling (10th), 1.70 putts per GIR (6th)
  • 2017: 1st, Dustin Johnson (-14) . 322 yards (4th), 58.9% fairways (49th), 72.2% greens in regulation (5th), 70.0% scrambling (14th), 1.67 putts per GIR (5th)
  • 2017: 2nd, Tommy Fleetwood (-13) 304 yards (21st), 73.2% fairways (5th), 72.2% greens in regulation (5th), 80.0% scrambling (2nd), 1.77 putts per GIR (30th)
  • 2017: 3rd, Ross Fisher (-12). 303 yards (25th), 67.9% fairways (12th), 75.0% greens in regulation (2nd), 66.7% scrambling (21st), 1.69 putts per GIR (8th)
  • 2017: 3rd, Jon Rahm (-12). 332 yards (2nd), 51.8% fairways (65th), 59.7% greens in regulation (46th), 86.2% scrambling (1st), 1.77 putts per GIR (28th)

The driving distance stats in isolation are almost academic here given the altitude and the fact that driver is seldom used on this course as players seek to find position on the fairways first and foremost. That’s easier said than done given the tight, tree-lined layout here in Mexico City, however players who can find the right parts of fairways have the best chance of attacking these multi-tier greens which are the toughest part of the course. Aside from the undulations, the greens themselves contain a lot of subtle movements and compared to some of the snooker table flat greens that the professionals encounter, these are far more challenging. 3-putts are commonplace as are missed short putts, however players can’t get overly aggressive on the putting surfaces given how speedy they are, so patience is key around here.

What’s noticeable from the stats above is that neither fairways hit nor greens found in regulation stats are particularly high, which puts the emphasis more on how players perform on and around the greens here. Despite the fact that we have some attackable par-4s due to the impact of the altitude here – and the par-5s are equally gettable – brute force from off the tee isn’t the only way to play this course and I suspect that any type of player can contend around this track if they stick to their game plan. With conditions likely to be very similar to 2018 again this year, I’m expecting a similar winning score and a similar emphasis on scrambling and putting when looking at the eventual stats of those players who contend.

Incoming Form. Looking at the same top-4 finishers from the past 2 years, each player head either won or finished runner-up in an event in the recent past and in Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, both arrived off the back of consecutive top-6 finishes:

  • 2018: 1st, Phil Mickelson: MC/54/6/20/3/15/MC/45/5/2/6
  • 2018: 2nd, Justin Thomas: 6/1/47/2/17/1/11/22/14/17/9/1
  • 2018: 3rd, Rafa Cabrera-Bello: 33/10/11/5/42/21/2/40/6/26/26/29
  • 2018: 3rd, Tyrrell Hatton: MC/3/8/1/1/11/16/19/8/15/3/MC
  • 2017: 1st, Dustin Johnson: MC/18/8/1/6/35/3/6/2/MC/3/1
  • 2017: 2nd, Tommy Fleetwood: 13/15/4/37/22/14/9/3/1/MC/MC/12
  • 2017: 3rd, Ross Fisher: MC/58/45/2/2/67/6/25/17/19/MC/MC
  • 2017: 3rd, Jon Rahm: 59/2/25/14/MC/15/15/50/34/1/16/5

A change in scheduling means that players haven’t needed to endure the almost Major-difficulty Honda Classic immediately prior to travelling to Mexico, however the weather delays at Riviera meant that a number of this week’s field played a lot of golf on Saturday and Sunday in particular, which may have an impact in terms of fatigue. Kikuyu fairways and rough is used throughout this track which isn’t that common on the PGA Tour, however we do have recent events at Riviera last week and Torrey Pines that featured that type of set-up to potentially give us a clue as to how this might play out, particularly with the emphasis seeming to fall on short-game excellence.

Generally straighter players should in theory be favoured given the penalties for straying off-line, however the altitude shortens the holes so significantly here that taking driver off of the tee is the exception rather than the rule, which negates that to certain degree. Despite some very scoreable holes, winning scores of -14 and -16 suggests that controlled aggression may well be the order of the day and having the ability to attack and defend accordingly is key. A decent track record on Poa Annua and/or Bent/Poa putting surfaces won’t be a bad asset for potential contenders to possess, nor will a smattering of form at tracks played at altitude where more adjustment is required to distances.

Xander Schauffele’s win at the last WGC, the HSBC Champions, in October at 66/1 was the longest priced winner we’ve seen since Russell Knox won that same event at 150/1 back in 2015. That’s 12 WGC winners then at 66/1 or shorter, with 10 of those 12 rating as 25/1 or shorter chances before the event (Bubba Watson at last year’s WGC Match Play at 50/1 was the other exception), so it’s fair to say that in recent times the cream has risen to the top in these events.

My Final WGC Mexico Championship Tips Are As Follows:

Xander Schauffele 2pts EW 28/1

As always in these World-class fields, trying to find reasons why a player can’t or shouldn’t win the event is a difficult and highly subjective task. Despite his final round collapse at Riviera, Justin Thomas deserves favouritism this week given his two outings here in Mexico which could quite reasonably have resulted in two wins. Just how much relinquishing that 4 shot lead that he took into the final round on Sunday is open to debate though and I’m happy to swerve him at the price on offer. You could make a case for many others of course, however the best option in my view is that of OWGR number 7 Xander Schauffele who stands out at around the 25/1-28/1 mark given that his peers in the World top-10 are generally far shorter prices.

With 4 PGA Tour titles to his name now, the 25 year-old has quickly established himself as one of the very best players in world golf at present and increasingly one that seems to peak for the bigger events. After getting off the mark career-wise at the altitude of Old White TPC in 2017, the San Diego native has taken some serious scalps at the season-ending Tour Championship, last year’s WGC HSBC Champions and this year’s Sentry Tournament of Champions – decent events with very strong fields. 2nd at the Players Championship, 2nd at the Open Championship and two top-6 finishes at the US Open put Xander in the elite category in my view and although he’s not seemingly regarded in the same bracket as some by the bookmakers, hopefully we can use that to our advantage.

25th at the Farmers Insurance Open where he ranked 3rd for Scrambling out of the kikuyu rough is a big tick in the box for me given what we’ve seen here at Chapultepec over the past two renewals, and 10th the week after saw an even better performance around the greens where he led for field for getting up and down. 15th last week at Riviera came after an opening round of 74 had threatened to put him out of the tournament at the halfway point, however he’s made of sterner stuff than that and 68/67/69 was a positive way to set himself up for a bigger prize here this week.

The fact that Schauffele can take less than driver on most holes here is going to be an advantage this week in my view and having had a decent effort here on debut 12 months ago, where he was second going into the weekend before a final round 74 eventually saw him finish in a tie for 18th, with a year’s worth of experience and a couple more wins under his belt since then, I’m expecting a big week from him here. RESULT: T14

Marc Leishman 2pts EW 30/1

Backing up headline selection Schauffele, I’m going for the in-form Marc Leishman. Since winning his 4th PGA Tour event at the CIMB Classic in October by a massive 5 stokes, the Australian has finished 2nd at the Australian PGA Championship (2nd for GIR, 2nd for Putting Average), 4th at the Sentry Tournament of Champions (4th for Total Driving and Ball Striking), 3rd at the Sony Open (9th for Scrambling) and 4th last week at the Genesis Open where he ranked 4th for GIR. Clearly every aspect of his game has been showing good form of late – hence the lofty results – however for a player that I regard more as a putter than a ball-striker, I found his 4th for Strokes Gained Approach and 8th Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green last week at Riviera a real eye-opener.

Despite having around a dozen or so more ‘fashionable’ players ahead of him in the betting, I see no reason to suggest that the 35 year-old can’t contend here this week at elite level. 2nd at the 2015 Open Championship, eventually losing in the play-off to Zach Johnson, 3rd at the 2014 WGC Bridgestone Invitational, 4th at the 2013 Masters and 5th at the 2014 Open are all top-class finishes at this kind of level and with his game on point I see no reason why he can’t get in the mix in Mexico. Twice a runner up at Torrey Pines, where he’s led Scrambling for the week in the past on the kikuyu and has three further top-10 Scrambling performances to his name, bodes well and he was 11th here going into Sunday 12 months ago when playing nowhere near the standard of golf that he is at present, before a final round 77 put paid to his chances. If he finds himself in a similar position this week then I suspect we’ll see a far stronger finish. RESULT: T62

Matt Fitzpatrick 1pt EW 80/1

Danny Willett 1pt EW 150/1

Given the relative success that European players have had here at Chapultepec with Rafa Cabrera-Bello and Tyrrell Hatton both finishing a shot outside the play-off 12 months ago and Tommy Fleetwood, Ross Fisher and Thomas Pieters producing top-5 finishes the year before, I’ve gone for a couple of longer-priced Englishmen who have solid enough credentials to suggest that they can compete at this level.

First up Matt Fitzpatrick who was so keen to be playing the Genesis Open last week as a warm-up for this that he tried his hand at Monday qualifying, only to miss out by a shot. It’s easy to see why the Sheffield lad wants to keep playing as his game has shown some really positive signs of late: 2nd at the Hong Kong Open on a short, tree-lined track in December produced a runner-up finish where the short game was working very nicely indeed (4th for Scrambling, 8th for Putts per GIR), and he was in the mix again at the Singapore Open on his following start where he ranked 6th for GIR and 2nd for scrambling – all very positive signs ahead of this week’s test on a course that suits. 16th in Dubai and a missed cut at Pebble Beach followed, however given what we know about Matt and the fact that he’s seemingly got to grips with this layout from off the tee, ranking 1st and 9th for Driving Accuracy on his way to 16th and 30th here from his 2 attempts, I suspect that he could produce something better than that with his short game and putting working nicely at the moment. Europeans have a decent enough record here which makes sense given the classical, tree-lined layout with poa-annua based greens and the 24 year-old’s wins at the likes of Woburn and at the altitude of Crans-Sur-Sierre would seem to match this week’s task very nicely. Matt is available at 90/1 with 5 places each-way, however given the short field and generous each-way terms, I’ll take 80/1 but with 7 places. RESULT: T27

Finally, another player who’s got an Omega European Masters win at Crans under his belt is Danny Willett and given the resurgence we’ve seen in his game, I think he’s worth a chance at the price on offer. To be fair to Danny, it’s taken some time to shake off his Masters hangover from 2016 and with his game in disarray he’d dropped as low as 462nd in the OWGR when he tee’d it up at the Italian Open a little under a year ago. 8th that week was followed by 6th at the Irish Open a few weeks later – interviews with the 31 year-old at the Open Championship confirmed that tweaks to his game were having some positive impact and that his game and mental approach were both back on track. Victory at the DP World Tour Championship in November has completed the circle and he’s now likely to push on in my view and contend once again at a higher level, even if the bookmakers seemingly disagree here this week. 25th at Torrey Pines, where he ranked 11th for Scrambling on the kikuyu, then 33rd last week at Riviera where again he was a solid 9th for Scrambling are both positive efforts ahead of this week and it will be fascinating to see how he fares against a world-class field here this week with his confidence restored. 69th here in 2017 can be ignored as he’s come on leaps and bounds since that point in time and I’d prefer to look at his wins at the altitude of Sun City (2014 Nedbank) and that aforementioned 2015 success in the Swiss Alps as better pointers for this week. Like his fellow Sheffield native Fitzpatrick, Willett is available at a slightly longer price with fewer each-way places, but I’ll take the 150/1 with 7 places. RESULT: T27

Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 17:00GMT 18.2.19 but naturally subject to fluctuation.

Watch these tips on YouTube with Steve Bamford: Golf Betting System YouTube Channel

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