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Wednesday, February 20, 2019

My Picks for the WGC-Mexico

In the past I've done "5 to Watch" posts before each of the WGCs and majors, but this year I've been doing a weekly "two-fer" that many of you seem to enjoy. So I've decided to just do the "two-fers" all year and see how I finish the season.

Defending champion Phil Mickelson

Just for the record, here's how the Weekly Two-fer works. (I like that title. I think I'll keep it.)
Starting in January I began picking a winner and a Top10 finisher for each week's event, then upgrading my score the following week in the Limerick Summary post. What this does is give you my Top2 players for each tournament, which some of you may find helpful if you play fantasy... and merely funny (even embarrassing) if you don't.
I've learned that I debate whether or not to follow my gut each week. I'm currently making that choice based on the course itself, whether I think it allows for surprise winners or tends to favor particular players. Riviera favors a certain type but the bizarre weather threw a monkey wrench into the works last week.

The WGC-Mexico is played at Mexico City's par-71 Club de Golf Chapultepec, which is roughly 7350 yards long but also 7500 feet above sea level. That means the course actually plays pretty short -- by my calculations, more like 6700 yards (that's allowing for 10% longer ball flight) -- and that makes this a wide open venue for surprise winners. So this week I'll go with my gut.

And that makes for a couple of surprise choices.
  • My Top10 this week, like last week, is Justin Thomas. Given that JT's last two appearances here are T5 and last year's loss in a playoff to Phil Mickelson (something of a wildcard winner himself), and given his runner-up last week, you might wonder why I'm not picking him to win.

    Simply enough, it's JT's putting. And it's not because he had some three-putts last week -- come on, everybody did in those conditions -- but because JT himself voiced concerns about his putting. He said he's been having some problems with the flat stick. Given this course's reputation for bumpy greens, that sets off alarms for me. Maybe things change when he returns to a course he plays well, but my gut says to beware.
  • And my winner shocks even me -- I'm taking Tiger Woods to get his first win of the season this week. I am truly concerned about how tired he'll be after last week's marathon and how the altitude will affect his recovery. While technically he's won this event seven times, he's never won it on this golf course. And that means he not only has to learn the course but also figure out how the altitude will affect his shots -- something that I'm sure appeals more to Bryson DeChambeau than to Tiger.

    But Tiger finally seems to have control of his driver, and he's coming to a course where he can choose to play driver only when it gives him an advantage. His iron play, short game and putting all seemed to be in good shape last week, which will hopefully carry over to this week. And while he needs to adjust to the new course (I hear he used a Trackman to help him with that on Tuesday), the weather could make things physically easier for him and thus maybe give him an edge he hasn't had yet this year.
GC's coverage begins Thursday afternoon at 2pm ET, with PGA Tour Live streaming at noon. We'll see if Tiger can muster any motivation from Phil's win last year.

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