The First Look: World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship
February 15, 2019
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- February 15, 2019
Phil Mickelson wins Mexico Championship
Phil Mickelson seeks to build on his sizzling play when he defends the title that revitalized his career, taking on a World Golf Championships lineup led by Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson and current FedExCup leader Matt Kuchar.
Xander Schauffele, who won the WGC-HSBC Champions last fall in a playoff over Tony Finau, seeks a third win this season that would vault him back to the top of the FedExCup chart. Justin Thomas, a playoff victim to Mickelson last year, and 18-time World Golf Championships winner Tiger Woods also highlight the field.
FIELD NOTES: The roster currently stands at 67, though that will grow with any late qualifiers. … RSM Classic champion Charles Howell III is assured of being added off the current FedExCup points list, along with anyone who breaks into the top 10 following the Genesis Open. … Adam Hadwin, 18th in points even with three top-10s, might find an easier path if he can crack the top 50 of the world rankings after Riviera. He’s ranked 58th in the world. … England’s Eddie Pepperell, twice a European Tour winner in 2018, is one of three entrants making their WGC debuts. … Abraham Ancer makes his second consecutive appearance as the top Mexican in the world rankings. He won the Australian Open in November and owns two top-5s in this PGA TOUR season.
FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 550 points.
STORYLINES: Mickelson, two weeks removed from winning the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, seeks a Mexican repeat that would give him three wins in a 52-week span. He also shared second at the Desert Classic, where he flirted with an opening 59. … A Mickelson win also would move him alongside Woods and Dustin Johnson as the only men to win at least four WGC crowns. Johnson has five; Woods’ 18 might be untouchable. … Woods tees it up for the first time in Mexico, making just his second WGC start after a four-year absence from the series while he endured four back surgeries. … Schauffele has a chance to join Woods and Johnson as the only men to win back-to-back WGCs. Since prevailing in China, he also captured the Sentry Tournament of Champions. … Thomas also technically could win back-to-back WGC starts, though he bypassed China after winning last year’s WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
COURSE: Club de Golf Chapultepec, 7,345 yards, par 71. With a history going back to 1921, the club on Mexico City’s affluent outskirts takes its third turn in the spotlight. Scotsman Willie Smith, winner of the 1899 U.S. Open, drew up the original plans but saw construction interrupted by the Mexican Revolution, dying of pneumonia in 1916 with the course still unfinished. Smith’s brother Alex – himself twice a U.S. Open champion – directed the project to its completion. The inaugural Mexican Open was played at Chapultepec in 1944, remaining as host until 1960 when the event began rotating sites. A Percy Clifford redesign in 1972 made significant changes. Uphill closing holes at Nos. 15, 16 and 17 provide a challenging test to finish the round.
For those visiting Mexico, must-play courses include Puerto Los Cabos GC (San José del Cabo, Mexico), Palmilla GC (San José del Cabo, Mexico) and Playa Mujeres GC (Cancún, Mexico). Book your reservations via TeeOff.com.
72-HOLE RECORD: 261, Tiger Woods (2006 at The Grove). Chapultepec record: 268, Phil Mickelson and Justin Thomas (2018).
18-HOLE RECORD: 62, Sergio Garcia and Retief Goosen (both 4th round, 2002 at Mount Juliet), Bubba Watson (2nd round, 2012 at Trump Doral), J.B. Holmes (1st round, 2015 at Trump Doral), Justin Thomas (3rd round, 2018 at Chapultepec).
LAST YEAR: Mickelson halted the longest drought of his career, forced to a playoff by Thomas’ eagle holeout on the 72nd hole before prevailing in sudden death. Though Mickelson closed with a 5-under-par 66, he was denied a win in regulation when Thomas capped off a 64 with a wedge at No. 18 that skipped past the flagstick and spun back into the hole. Thomas, who captured the Honda Classic a week earlier, saw his luck run out in the playoff when he couldn’t save par after going long at the par-3 17th. Though Mickelson saw his birdie attempt spin out, he tapped in for his first win since the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield. The dry spell lasted 101 starts.
HOW TO FOLLOW
TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 2-7 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, noon-2:30 p.m. (GC), 2:30-6 p.m. (NBC). Sunday, noon-1:30 p.m. (GC), 1:30-6 p.m. (NBC).
PGA TOUR LIVE: Thursday-Friday, noon-7 p.m. (Featured Groups). Saturday-Sunday, 11:30 a.m.-3 p.m. (Featured Groups), 3-6 p.m. (Featured Holes). International subscribers (via GOLF.tv): Thursday-Friday, 17:00 to 00:00 GMT. Saturday-Sunday, 16:30 to 23:00.