One & Done: World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship
February 20, 2019
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM
- Tommy Fleetwood is edging closer to his first PGA TOUR victory. (Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images)
World Golf Championships are the best examples of why positioning within one's league matters so much when deciding on a pick.
Because there's never a cut and because the field is built, naturally, with international non-members, it's easy to save PGA TOUR members for other stops, especially only one-third into the season. The first 15 of the 46 tournaments were contested before this week's WGC-Mexico Championship.
Yet, you have to go back to Shane Lowry at Firestone in 2015 for the last non-member to prevail in a WGC. However, even if you're like me and chase top 10s, you're not going to find many among non-members in that sample size, either.
Reviewing the last cycle of four WGCs (dating back to last year's WGC-Mexico Championship), only a combined five non-members have recorded a top 10. Curiously, Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Mexico, Match Play) and Thorbjørn Olesen (Bridgestone, HSBC) did it twice. Shubhankar Sharma (Mexico) is the other.
This phenomenon is primarily due to the fact that fewer non-members are inside the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking than perhaps ever before. Case in point, of the current top 50, only Hao Tong Li (36th), Matt Wallace (37th), Eddie Pepperell (40th), Matthew Fitzpatrick (43rd) and Olesen (46th) are non-members, and that's an increase of two (Li and Wallace) since the 2018-19 season started.
The moral of the matter is to treat the WGCs as you do all other events. There's enough wealth to go around.
If you're chasing, do not hesitate to burn Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm or Rory McIlroy at Club de Golf Chapultepec. Yes, all will command our attention in the majors and FedExCup Playoffs, but your chances are improved in a 72-man field with international flavor and no cut. What's more, the winner banks 550 FedExCup points and $1.745 million.
If you're pacing, it depends by how much. It's unlikely that you could win your league mathematically right now, so consider the same philosophy to step on throats. However, dismissing the worst-case scenario of losing your grip on the lead, if you're keen on saving any of the aforementioned four, the likes of Phil Mickelson, Gary Woodland and Sergio Garcia present as proper pivots.
As cited in this space earlier this season, I'm targeting THE PLAYERS for Rafa Cabrera Bello and the Travelers Championship for Bubba Watson, but each makes sense at Chapultepec as well.
Henrik Stenson is making his season debut, but he's in a tailspin. As much as he should box out for the ball at Bay Hill in two weeks, we'll have another bevy of options at our disposal. That allows this week and the guarantee of four rounds the potential to be a turnaround and a tune-up.
Two-man gamers are advised to give hard looks at Ian Poulter, Tyrrell Hatton and Russell Knox.
The list of suggested no-plays includes Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth. Olesen also is risky, but if you're in a two-man format, he does make sense as the tail of the tandem given how deep you have to go in the long-term and the promise that he'll contribute.
RANK PANELIST PICK COMMENT 66th
Paul Casey He has two runners-up in his last three worldwide starts and has finished in the top 20 in both of his starts in Mexico. 104th
On the Mark
Justin Thomas I’m pivoting away from Tommy Fleetwood (who was my original plan) to go with Justin Thomas. This is a little risky as JT has been valuable in the FedExCup Playoffs, but I can’t overlook his current form (and guaranteed FedExCup points). 244th
Justin Thomas Underestimating this guy's will and competitiveness is dangerous. Avenging last year in Mexico and last week in Los Angeles just seems too obvious to ignore. 326th
Tommy Fleetwood The 2017 WGC-Mexico runner-up plays well all the time. Maybe this is the week he gets his first PGA TOUR title. 437th
Dustin Johnson Taking advantage of his form, fit and my need to throw up a three-digit number. 609th
Xander Schauffele After taking an absolute gut-punch last week with Justin Thomas at Riviera, I'm wobbled. I'm rolling out Xander Schauffele to avenge his quiet Sunday here last year (T18 after starting three back). He knocked out the field in the first WGC event of the year in Shanghai and took down the winner's only field in Maui.
NOTE: Select golfers committed to the tournament are listed alphabetically. Future tournaments are sorted chronologically and reflect previous success on the courses on which the tournaments will be held in 2018-19. The numerical values in parentheses represent the order of relative confidence of where to use each golfer if multiple sites are listed (e.g. 1 for strongest, 2 for next-strongest and so on). To present weighted confidence in real time, numerical values will not change all season no matter how many tournament remain listed for each golfer. All are pending golfer commitment.
Byeong Hun An … Honda (3); Memorial (1)
Keegan Bradley … Memorial (5); Travelers (4)
Rafa Cabrera Bello … WGC-Mexico (5); PLAYERS (1); Wyndham (4)
Patrick Cantlay … Valspar (2); Memorial (3)
Paul Casey … WGC-Mexico (6); Honda (10); Valspar (7; defending); WGC-Match Play (8); Masters (2); Wells Fargo (9); Travelers (1); TOUR Championship (3)
Bryson DeChambeau … Arnold Palmer (3); Heritage (1); Memorial (2; defending); Travelers (4); John Deere (7)
Tony Finau … Valero (5); Memorial (2)
Rickie Fowler … Honda (3); Arnold Palmer (8); Masters (2); Wells Fargo (6); PGA Championship (9); Memorial (5); U.S. Open (10)
Sergio Garcia … WGC-Mexico (1); Honda (4); PLAYERS (7); Valspar (9); Masters (6); Open Championship (5); TOUR Championship (2)
Branden Grace … Heritage (1); Valero (3); Byron Nelson (5); U.S. Open (4)
Emiliano Grillo … Arnold Palmer (2); Charles Schwab (3)
Billy Horschel … Honda (4); Arnold Palmer (7); Valero (2); New Orleans (3; defending); Wyndham (6); TOUR Championship (1)
Dustin Johnson … WGC-Mexico (5); Masters (8); PGA Championship (11); Memorial (10); U.S. Open (1); WGC-St. Jude (6); TOUR Championship (7)
Kevin Kisner … Heritage (3); New Orleans (5); Charles Schwab (2); Memorial (6)
Russell Knox … Heritage (2)
Brooks Koepka … WGC-Match Play (3); Masters (7); PGA Championship (2; defending); Charles Schwab (6); U.S. Open (1; two-time defending); Open Championship (8)
Matt Kuchar … PLAYERS (5); Valspar (9); Masters (6); Heritage (2); Charles Schwab (7); Memorial (1); Open Championship (8)
Marc Leishman … Arnold Palmer (1); Byron Nelson (6); Memorial (4); Travelers (3); Open Championship (8)
Hideki Matsuyama … Arnold Palmer (11); PLAYERS (9); Masters (4); PGA Championship (13); Memorial (8); U.S. Open (14); Wyndham (7); TOUR Championship (5)
Rory McIlroy … Arnold Palmer (2; defending); Masters (4); Wells Fargo (3); Memorial (5); Travelers (8); Open Championship (1); TOUR Championship (6)
Phil Mickelson … WGC-Mexico (1; defending); Masters (9); Wells Fargo (2); Open Championship (8); WGC-St. Jude (3)
Francesco Molinari … Arnold Palmer (2); PLAYERS (3); Wells Fargo (6); PGA Championship (4); Open Championship (1; defending)
Kevin Na … Valspar (6); Charles Schwab (3); Wyndham (5)
Louis Oosthuizen … Valspar (3); WGC-Match Play (1); Masters (2); U.S. Open (5); PGA Championship (4)
Jon Rahm … Masters (5); Charles Schwab (1); TOUR Championship (7)
Patrick Reed … Valspar (1); Masters (5; defending); PGA Championship (4); U.S. Open (3); Travelers (7)
Xander Schauffele … PLAYERS (5); U.S. Open (3); Open Championship (4); TOUR Championship (1)
Webb Simpson … Honda (10); PLAYERS (5; defending); Heritage (6); Wells Fargo (7); Charles Schwab (8); Travelers (9); Wyndham (1)
Cameron Smith … Wyndham (3)
Jordan Spieth … WGC-Mexico (11); Valspar (14); Masters (1); PGA Championship (7); Charles Schwab (5); Memorial (13); U.S. Open (4); Travelers (9); Open Championship (6); TOUR Championship (8)
Henrik Stenson … Arnold Palmer (1); THE PLAYERS (9); Valspar (3); Masters (5); PGA Championship (4); Open Championship (6); Wyndham (8); TOUR Championship (7)
Justin Thomas … WGC-Mexico (2); Honda (7; defending); PLAYERS (11); PGA Championship (9); Memorial (8); TOUR Championship (3)
Bubba Watson … WGC-Match Play (6; defending); Masters (5); Memorial (7); Travelers (2; defending); TOUR Championship (8)
Gary Woodland … Memorial (4)
Tiger Woods … Arnold Palmer (1); Masters (2); Memorial (4); THE NORTHERN TRUST (6); TOUR Championship (5; defending)