This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
Winner's Share: $1.75M
FedEx Cup Points: 550 to the Winner
Location: Mexico City
Course: Club de Golf Chapultepec
2018 champion: Phil Mickelson
The first WGC event of the year brings together 72 of the best golfers in the world. But not the best 72. And, this year, not even the very best. World No. 1 Justin Rose is taking a pass, delivering a black eye to an event that has been losing golfers faster than the Titanic took on water. Two other bold-faced names in Jason Day and Adam Scott also begged off. So did Riviera winner J.B. Holmes, Brandt Snedeker, Si Woo Kim and Adam Hadwin. That's unusual for this WGC and it may speak to the condensed calendar leaving the golfers with tough scheduling decisions. Still, 46 of the top 50 in the world will be on hand, including the two biggest names of all: Tiger Woods and defending champion Phil Mickelson. For Woods, it will be the first time he hass ever played in Mexico. One spot is always held for Mexico's top golfer, which for the second straight year is Abraham Ancer, now ranked a respectable 61st in the world. In a nice touch, they grouped Ancer with Woods – along with Bryson DeChambeau – for the first two rounds.
This is the third year since the tournament shifted from its longstanding home at Doral, so data is limited. One thing we do know is that many of the golfers who have finished at or near the top of the two leaderboards were playing well coming in. Last year, that was Mickelson, plus runner-up Justin Thomas and other top-10ers in Tyrrell Hatton, Brian Harman, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson. The year before, Johnson won and was joined in the top five by Tommy Fleetwood, Jon Rahm and Thomas, all of whom had won in the prior two months. At the other end of the leaderboard, it's safe to say that most of the positions will be filled by qualifiers from the lesser Tours around the world. The good thing is, even if you take a flyer on one of them in your lineup, you'll get four rounds to make good, as there is no cut.
To refresh: The altitude at Chapultepec is said to be around 7,800 feet above sea level, meaning the 7,300-yard track will play more like 6,700. Further complicating things for the golfers in trying to gauge which club to hit, Chapultepec features numerous uphill and downhill holes. It is also tree-lined with kikuyu fairways and rough, and poa annua/bentgrass greens that have proved difficult to read. Sound familiar? Right, it is similar in that regard to Riviera, and Mickelson pointed that out on TV a year ago at the Genesis Open. On this topic, by the way, one thing to note about last week's tournament, and the week before at Pebble Beach – they were grueling events thanks to all the weather issues with lots of long days. It's hard to feel confident about guys who played both events being as fresh as the rest of the field.
Playing the equivalent of 6,700 yards, the shorter hitters come into the conversation this week. What we saw last year was many of the better putters and scramblers on the first page of the leaderboard. We'll delve deeper into that in the key stats and Champion's Profile below. Chapultepec played middle-of-the-road hard during its two years, while the hardest hole both years was the par-4, 525-yard eighth. There are six par-4s of 410 or less. What really stand out as hard are the four par-3s, which collectively play among the hardest on Tour. None of them is short, at 172, 186, 225 and 235 yards.
Finally, a little course history (but not the type we normally we refer to): Chapultepec was built in the early 1900s during the Mexican Revolution, and it hosted the PGA Tour's Mexican Open on occasion. It was not a regular Tour event, but Ben Crenshaw won it there in 1981, and 10 years later, so did Jay Haas.
Weather-wise, the golfers who played Pebble Beach and Riviera will feel like they're on another planet: upper 70s all four days and no rain, though a bit breezy with wind speeds in the mid-teens.
Key Stats to Winning at Chapultepec
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained: approach
• Scrambling/strokes gained: around the green
• Putting average/strokes gained: putting (especially from 10 feet and in)
• Par-3 scoring
2018 — Phil Mickelson (Chapultepec)
2017 — Dustin Johnson (Chapultepec)
2016 - Adam Scott (Doral)
2015 — Dustin Johnson (Doral)
2014 — Patrick Reed (Doral)
2013 — Tiger Woods (Doral)
2012 — Justin Rose (Doral)
2011 — Nick Watney (Doral)
2010 — Ernie Els (Doral)
2009 — Phil Mickelson (Doral)
Look at the pedigree of the golfers who have won this event, both at Doral and Chapultepec. In the past decade, all but one is considered elite, and back in 2011 Watney finished the year at No. 12 in the world. The best golfers are the best golfers for a reason – they play the best in the most places. So while a high ranking and good form over the past few months don't guarantee success, it's a prudent way to formulate your lineup this week. Johnson won at 14-under-par and Mickelson won at 16-under, so despite the shortness of the course, this is not a birdie-fest. Last year, the top six finishers were highly ranked in putting (3-6-1-11-2-23) and scrambling (2-3-18-10-23-1). Those numbers were stronger than seen on the leaderboard in 2017, when greens in regulation shined prominently. What we see often in WGC events is that the 10-15 guys at the bottom of the field who qualify via secondary Tours rarely make a dent. You might need one to fill your lineup, but other than the luxury of being assured four rounds in a no-cut event, don't expect much impact from them.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Justin Thomas - $11,800 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 10-1)
We were surprised, and even disappointed, that Thomas was the top-ranked guy on the DraftKings board, ahead of even Dustin Johnson. Thomas finished top-5 in both editions of the WGC-Mexico, losing in a playoff to Phil Mickelson last year. He leads the Tour in strokes gained: approach. If Thomas has recovered, both mentally and physically, after kicking away last week's tournament at Riviera, he's the one to beat this week.
Rory McIlroy - $11,100 (12-1)
McIlroy has made three starts in 2019 and finished top-5 in all three of them, including last week at similar Riviera. He is zeroing in on his first win since last March at Bay Hill. McIlroy finished T7 here two years ago, but wasn't around last year. McIlroy is ranked, somewhat surprisingly, 10th in putting from inside of 10 feet.
Jon Rahm - $10,700 (16-1)
Rahm doesn't really stand out in any one statistical category except one. The most important one. He has been a top-10 machine. He hasn't missed in his last seven starts dating back to last year (including the Hero World Challenge, which he won). Rahm is ranked 18th in strokes gained: tee to green and is sixth in three-putt avoidance. The Spaniard finished 20th here a year ago, but was T3 the year before.
Tier 2 Values
Marc Leishman - $8,700 (30-1)
Beginning with his win at the CIMB Classic in the fall, Leishman has finished top-5 in five of his past seven starts, including last week at Riviera. He's ranked fifth on Tour in both scrambling and strokes gained: approach, 16th in strokes gained: putting and 18th in putting inside 10 feet.
Patrick Cantlay - $8,500 (30-1)
Cantlay debuted in Mexico with a tie for 30th last year, and he tied for 15th last week at Riviera. He checks off just about all the boxes for this week: ranked 23rd in strokes gained: approach, 22nd in SG around the green and T17 in scrambling. Cantlay is not highly ranked in strokes gained: putting, but he is 27th in three-putt avoidance.
Webb Simpson - $8,300 (30-1)
Simpson has not been busy as of yet in 2019, but he finished top-20 in both his starts, running his streak to six in a row dating to last year. Simpson hasn't been putting at quite the level he did last season, but he's ranked second in strokes gained: approach and fourth in scrambling.
Tier 3 Values
Ian Poulter - $7,900 (50-1)
Poulter played superb golf in the Middle East last month, tying for sixth in two starts and for third in another. So much for the rap that he comes to play only in Ryder Cup years. Poulter is ranked top-10 in greens in regulation on both the PGA and European Tours. This is his first go-round at Chapultepec after not qualifying the past two years.
Gary Woodland - $7,900 (40-1)
Woodland has been quiet for a few weeks, not playing since a top-10 at Phoenix, his third in four starts in 2019. He has finished 50th and 38th in two trips south of the border, but he's playing far better now. Woodland is always sharp tee to green – he's ranked sixth in strokes gained: approach – and is among the top guys in par-3 scoring so far this season.
Tyrrell Hatton - $7,300 (60-1)
The Englishman is making a worldwide name for himself with his short game, so it's no surprise he's nabbed top-10s both years in Mexico, including a T3 last year. Hatton missed the Riviera cut last week, but before that had notched top-25s in five of his seven previous starts. Hatton is ranked first on the PGA Tour in both strokes gained: around the green and three-putt avoidance.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat - $6,700 (150-1)
For a big man, the Thai star has great touch around the greens. In limited play on the PGA Tour this season, Aphibarnrat is ranked second in strokes gained: putting and eighth in scrambling. He tied for fifth here a year ago.
Danny Willett - $6,600 (125-1)
The 2016 Masters champ whose game fell into disarray soon after that magical moment is making a comeback. Willett won the European Tour's season-ending DP World Tour
Championship in Dubai in the fall to soar back into the top-100 in the world. He's now committed to more play on the PGA Tour, and he followed up a T25 at Torrey Pines with a T33 last week at Riviera. Let's throw out Willett's 69th-place showing in Mexico two years ago; that was at the height of his troubles. We don't expect too much from Willett this week, but this bargain-basement price is clearly worth a shot.
Abraham Ancer - $6,600 (125-1)
Ancer got into the field last year only because he was Mexico's top-ranked golfer. He was outside the top-250 in the world. But he acquitted himself nicely, tying for 52nd (that may not sound like much, but beating almost a dozen guys was a big deal). Ancer's credentials are much stronger this time around. For one, he's ranked 61st in the OWGR. He's also ninth on the PGA Tour in scrambling and 23rd in putting from inside 10 feet.