The golf world welcomes the first WGC of 2019 this week as the majority of the best players in the world head to Mexico for the third renewal of the WGC Mexico Championships.
Donald Trump may have banged on about the tournament needing kidnapping insurance when it was moved to Mexico from his beloved Blue Monster at Doral in 2017, but the only the thing that has been held captive is the audience by the wonderful golf we’ve witnessed at the Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City in 2017 and 2018.
The course is a Par 71 measuring 7,345 yards but players and caddies will have to do their homework this week as the ball will be flying around 10% further than normal as the course is above altitude. Tree-lined fairways should also punish those players that are wayward off the tee, though many players may choose to leave the driver in the bag on many holes this week as the smaller than normal greens are much easier to hit from the fairway.
A decent short game has also been a must here in past renewals, with the best scramblers finishing high on the leaderboard in both the last two years. Of course, as ever, a hot putter is a must. The fairways are Kikuyu too, so an outing at Riviera last week may have been a good way to warm up this week, though the tough weather the players endured there may negate that experience.
That Riviera stream of thought is certainly backed up by the fact the two winners of this event, Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, are both previous winners at Riviera. However, as both those players have played the last three weeks, the last two in tricky conditions, it could be worth swerving them this week.
More interesting are the trio of Justin Thomas, John Rahm, and Rory McIlroy, who all finished in the top-10 at Riviera last week and have played well here in at least one of the last two years. It certainly won’t be a shock if the winner comes from the head of the market this week but, as that gruelling final day at Riviera may have left its mark, it could be worth chancing a few longshots that come here fresher than most of the top players. It could also be worth chancing some of the European Tour players, as plenty have featured in the top-10 in the last two years.
The first player in this week’s betting portfolio is Shubhankar Sharma, who the bookies seem to have dismissed despite an excellent showing in last year’s renewal. He did let the pressure get to him when leading going into the final round but, at the tender age of 22, this two-time European Tour winner could easily put that negative experience behind him and bounce back this year at a venue that suits his game ideally.
Another European Tour player that has played okay here in past renewals is Juist Luiten and, whilst he’s not looked like threatening the lead, he’s looked something like back to his best this year when faced with suitable venues after a troublesome spell with a wrist injury. The Dutchman’s biggest attributes are his straight driving and his ability to hit small greens with ruthless efficiency, and he looks worth risking at three-figure odds.
The other two European Tour players that look worthy of inclusion are Matt Wallace and Shane Lowry. Matt Wallace has been called a sponge by some of his fellow European Tour players but that ability to learn from other players has led to a meteoric rise up the world rankings. Last season, he was a bit of an all-or-nothing kind of golfer that missed plenty of cuts but also recorded three wins. That’s changed this season, with several high finished suggesting he’s learned the art of consistency, and his missed cut last time in Saudi Arabia can be forgiven as he hated the slow greens. This will be his first look at the course in Mexico but I like that he’s fresh and I don’t see why he can’t go well.
Lowry also missed his last cut at Pebble Beach, and gets his first look at this course, but I imagine it’s one he’s relishing playing after getting a win under his belt already this season. One of the best exponents of using a lob wedge in world golf, he could challenge this week if he putts as well as did when winning in Abu Dhabi.
WGC Mexico Championship Free Tips:
Shubhankar Sharma (Each-Way) @ 176.00 SkyBet, 888Sport, Unibet
Joost Luiten (Each-Way) @ 101.00 888Sport, Unibet, Betfred
Matt Wallace (Each-Way) @ 81.00 SkyBet, Betfred, BetVictor
Shane Lowry (Each-Way) @ 81.00 SkyBet, Unibet, Betfred
All above paying 6 places