Winner's Share: $1.755M
FedEx Cup Points: 550 to the Winner
Location: Mexico City
Course: Club de Golf Chapultepec
2017 champion: Dustin Johnson
When the WGC-Mexico arrived last year, we were all largely flying blind. The brand new tournament was taking place at an unknown course, one with a lot of quirks and oddities, one barely used in competition and never on the regular PGA Tour. We don't have much more information now. But what we do know is that the golfers who did best there last year were playing well coming in. Winner Dustin Johnson, runner-up Tommy Fleetwood and co-third Jon Rahm all had recent victories. So did Justin Thomas, who tied for fifth with Thomas Pieters, who was the runner-up at Riviera two weeks prior. Only Ross Fisher, who tied for third with Rahm, entered in so-so form.
To refresh: Mexico City is more than 7,500 feet above sea level, meaning the 7,300-yard track will play more like 6,500. Further complicating things for the golfers in trying to gauge which club to hit, Chapultepec features wild elevation swings -- uphill and downhill. It is also tree-lined with kikuyu fairways and rough and poa annua/bentgrass greens that proved difficult to read. Sound familiar? Right, it is similar in that regard to Riviera, and Phil Mickelson noted that on TV at the Genesis Open. So we do have one similar course, and two if you want to throw in Torrey Pines.
Playing the equivalent of 6,500 yards, you'd think driving distance would be minimized. But Johnson led the field last year with an off-the-tee average of 321.5 yards. When looking at all the stats, there was no magic formula for victory. Some of the top finishers were among the greens-in-regulation leaders, some were among the top scramblers, some were among the top putters. No one excelled in every area. The one stat that did not greatly impact success was driving accuracy. The course was ranked as the 22nd hardest among the 50 on Tour last year. With three par-5s and a six par-4s of 410 yards or less, the par-3s collectively proved to be among the hardest holes, and none is overly short (172, 186, 225 and 235 yards). The par-4, 525-yard 8th was the hardest hole on the course, and in fact was the 12th hardest hole on the entire schedule in 2016-17 playing to an average of 4.359.
We said last year that Chapultepec, built in the early 1900s during the Mexican Revolution, hosted the Mexican Open on occasion. It was not a regular Tour event, but Ben Crenshaw won it 1981; 10 years later, so did Jay Haas. Until last year's WGC, the most recent "big" event was a 2014 PGA Tour Latinoamerica event.
Comparing the field from a year ago, it is smaller (65 vs. 77) and not quite as strong. Eight of the top-13 in the OWGR -- Hideki Matsuyama, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson -- are skipping the tournament either because of injury or because of the logjam of big events leading up to the Masters in six weeks.
Weather-wise, temperatures will be around 80 with a small chance of rain all four days and minimal wind.
Key Stats to Winning at Chapultepec
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Ball striking/strokes gained tee to green
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained approach
• Putting average/strokes gained putting (especially from 10 feet and in)
2017 — Dustin Johnson
2016 - Adam Scott
2015 — Dustin Johnson
2014 — Patrick Reed
2013 — Tiger Woods
2012 — Justin Rose
2011 — Nick Watney
2010 — Ernie Els
2009 — Phil Mickelson
2008 — Geoff Ogilvy
There's still precious little data to go by for just the second go-around of the WGC-Mexico. The only past champion is Dustin Johnson, who won at 14-under-par. One thing we do know is that 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 the most prudent way to formulate your lineup this week. Another is to focus on ball strikers, guys who get from Point A (the tee) to Point B (the green) most efficiently. What we saw last year, and we see often in WGCs, is that the 10-15 guys at the bottom of the field who qualify via secondary tours rarely make a dent. You'll probably need one or two 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
Dustin Johnson - $11,900 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 6-1)
Last year, Johnson was valued at a full thousand dollars more than the No. 2 guy, Jordan Spieth. We wrote that "at $12,500, really the only way for him to pay off is to win. ... If you don't think Johnson will win, he's not the guy for you this week." We're not willing to go quite as far this week, but we like him just the same. Johnson is the defending champion and coming in with a recent win and runner-up. Don't let the T16 at Riviera dissuade you (horror, a T16!). We are picking three guys in Tier 1, and there are actually four we really like. That's why it is so hard to bypass Justin Thomas, who actually was leading the tournament after three rounds a year ago, a shot ahead of Johnson, but faded to a 1-over 72. Here's why:
Jon Rahm - $11,500 (12-1)
Rahm is almost $1,000 cheaper than Thomas, which is a huge deal in a $50,000 cap. Rahm's upside is almost equal to Thomas', but the difference between, say, a $7,000 golfer and an $8,000 golfer is enormous. Rahm won the DP World Tour Championship to close 2017 on the Euro Tour, then opened 2018 by taking the CareerBuilder. The biggest detriment to Rahm's success is his temperament. We hope it doesn't bite us.
Tommy Fleetwood - $10,000 (16-1)
When you look at the first four guys on the DK board -- including Jordan Spieth at $10,500 -- Fleetwood is a bargain, and maybe the best pick in the bunch. He is so solid tee to green, week in and week out. Yes, he wasn't so solid with a T37 two weeks ago at correlated course Riviera. But we view that as an outlier, especially after Fleetwood's Mexico runner-up a year ago and solo fourth last week at the Honda.
Tier 2 Values
Phil Mickelson - $9,300 (20-1)
We've really been slow to join the Mickelson Bandwagon. But after three straight top-6s, including at Riviera, it's time to get on the bandwagon or risk being run over by it. Besides, Mickelson was T7 at Mexico a year ago, when his game was not nearly as sharp as it is now.
Alex Noren - $8,800 (25-1)
Noren is still being disrespected as the No. 11 choice on the DK board. Candidly, we couldn't see moving him up much higher, but it's odd that Sergio Garcia, Bubba Watson and maybe one or two others are ahead of him. Noren is coming off four successive top-25s on the PGA Tour, including runner-up at Torrey Pines and T16 at Riviera. For that reason, we are minimizing last year's T55 at Chapultepec.
Dylan Frittelli - $8,200 (60-1)
We will learn a lot this week about Frittelli, who a year ago at the time was playing in the Tshwane Open in his native South Africa. Since then, he has climbed nearly 100 spots in the OWGR, to No. 44 right now. Frittelli has top-20s in nine of his past 10 starts dating to last year, including a T6 in Dubai and a T11 last week at the Honda in his first-ever non-major PGA Tour event.
Tier 3 Values
Xander Schaufelle - $7,800 (50-1)
For a guy ranked No. 23 in the world, Schaufelle doesn't have a lot of experience in majors and WGCs. But he has finished top-25 three times out of five such starts. We have been concerned about Schauffele playing too often, but he's been giving himself some weeks off of late, and it resulted in a T9 at Riviera, his first top-10 of the season. He also took last week off.
Rafael Cabrera-Bello - $7,400 (60-1)
Cabrera-Bello is sitting at a very quiet No. 20 in the OWGR. Over a two-year span from 2016-17, the Spaniard finished top-20 in 5-of-7 WGCs, though Mexico was not one of them (T38). Cabrera-Bello has played three straight weeks in the States, and has been steady but not great, just missing top-25s each week.
Haotong Li - $7,400 (100-1)
The 22-year-old Chinese sensation has played the WGC-HSBC Champions going back to when he was 18. This is his first "other" WGC. But we know Li from his solo third at last year's Open Championship and recent takedown of Rory McIlroy to win in Dubai. The first Chinese man to crack the top-50 in the OWGR (now No. 37), Li strung together three solid rounds at Riviera two weeks ago before a Sunday fade left him T53.
Jorge Campillo - $7,000 (200-1)
Campillo is a Spaniard who attended Indiana University, turned pro in 2009 and now plays on the European Tour. He's had far from a successful career, but he's nearing the top-100 in the world (No. 105) because of some recent good finishes. Four of the best results of his career have come already in 2018, including a runner-up at the Maybank Championship in South Africa earlier this month. Campillo also was solo 14th in Abu Dhabi in a big field in January.
Satoshi Kodaira - $6,900 (200-1)
The star on the Japanese Tour is ranked 43rd in the OWGR. This is Kodaira's first WGC, but he made the cut in both his majors last year (the U.S. Open and PGA Championship). He was in the field for the Sony last month but missed the cut. Kodaira followed that up with consecutive runners-up in admittedly weak fields, including in the Singapore Open won by Sergio Garcia.
Yusaku Miyazato - $6,800 (200-1)
Like his countryman Kodaira, Miyazato is making his WGC debut. He's been in a few majors, making the cut in the past two U.S. Opens, including a top-25 at Chambers Bay. Also like Kodaira, the No. 54-ranked Miyazato was in the Sony but MCed. He recently tied for 11th in a tournament in Australia co-sponsored by the European Tour and won by Kiradech Aphibarnrat.