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Scott seeks to extend hot streak in Mexico

By Wes Reynolds  () 

Adam Scott (33/1) was a contender last year at Riviera but fell back Sunday. However, he closed the deal this time in his first event of the 2020 calendar year, winning by two strokes over Matt Kuchar, Scott Brown and Sung Kang. Scott also held back challenges from Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson. His victory propelled him into the OWGR top 10 for the first time since the 2017 Players Championship, and he is a 20/1 choice this week at the WGC Mexico. World No. 1 McIlroy (6/1) has two top-five finishes already in 2020 and was runner-up here last year to Johnson (8/1), who has won the event twice in the last three years. Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas, runner-up to Phil Mickelson in 2018, are priced at 10/1. Webb Simpson, Xander Schauffele and Hideki Matsuyama join Scott in the 20/1 range. Mickelson is not in the field, as he is outside the OWGR top 50 and doesn’t qualify. Due to the more compacted tour schedule, players have to pick their spots and take some events off. Several notables have done so this week, including No. 2 Brooks Koepka, No. 6 Patrick Cantlay, No. 9 Tiger Woods, No. 12 Justin Rose, No. 13 Tony Finau and No. 25 Francesco Molinari. Nonetheless, 19 of the top 25 players in the world are playing in Mexico this week.

 

The Event

 

The WGC Mexico Championship began in 1999 as the WGC-American Express Championship and was played at multiple sites around the world. The tournament found a home in Miami at the Doral Golf Resort from 2007-16. In late 2016, Cadillac elected not to renew its sponsorship, and the event moved to Mexico the next year. The move seemed based on two factors. Long-standing criticism contended that too few World Golf Championships were being held outside the U.S., and Donald Trump purchased Doral in 2012 before he was elected president, with the PGA Tour and sponsors seemingly wanting to skirt any association with politics. The field is composed of 72 players and is a no-cut event. The makeup is as follows:

— Top 50 players from the Official World Golf Ranking.

— Top players from member tours’ money lists or orders of merit from last complete season.

— Top 30 PGA Tour FedEx Cup list (also top 10 from one week before event).

— Top 20 European Tour (also top 10 from two weeks before event).

— Top two each from Asian Tour, Japan Golf Tour, PGA Tour of Australasia and Sunshine Tour.

— Highest-ranked available player from Mexico in the OWGR (two weeks before event).

— Alternates to fill field to 72 from the OWGR (one week before event).

 

The Course

The Club de Golf Chapultepec is in Naucalpan de Juarez, about a 10-minute drive northwest of Mexico City. Chapultepec has been home to this event since 2017. The course was designed in 1921 by brothers Willie and Alex Smith, both former U.S. Open champions, and renovated by Percy Clifford in 1972. The track is a par-71 of 7,345 yards but plays much shorter since the course is 7,800 feet above sea level, which essentially makes it about a 6,600-yard layout. Chapultepec is a tree-lined parklands course with Kikuyu fairways and undulating Poa Annua greens (12-13 on the Stimpmeter). This resembles the type of course you would see in Italy or Spain. Of the 17 players who have finished tied in the top five or better, nine are Europeans despite Americans winning this event all three years in Mexico.

 

Recent History/Winners

2019: Dustin Johnson (-21/263); 11/1

2018: Phil Mickelson (-16/268); 25/1*

2017: Dustin Johnson (-14/270); 7/1

 

* — playoff win over Justin Thomas

 

Selections

Rory McIlroy 7/1

McIlroy birdied the last hole Sunday at Riviera to finish in the top five for the fifth straight event, including a victory at the last WGC event in China. He has finished second and seventh in his two appearances at the WGC Mexico. He is 30 under par in his last eight rounds here and has a scoring average of 67.75 here, behind only Johnson’s 67.08.

 

Tommy Fleetwood 20/1

This week marks Fleetwood’s first PGA Tour appearance of 2020, but he has been active, starting with a win at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in late November. Two runner-up finishes followed at the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai and at Abu Dhabi. Fleetwood followed that with a T11 at the Dubai Desert Classic. He comes in with three weeks of rest and was a runner-up here in 2017, finishing one shot back of Johnson.

 

Hideki Matsuyama 23/1

Matsuyama has shown progress early this season, going from 45th at Torrey Pines to 16th at Scottsdale to fifth last week at Riviera. He is rated fourth on the tour in SG: Tee To Green (+ 1.803), seventh in SG: Around The Green (+ 0.784) and 12th in GIR (73.86%). With two top-25 finishes here, Matsuyama has experience on this layout, and this looks like a good spot to play him and his steady form.

 

Xander Schauffele 23/1

Three of Schauffele’s four PGA Tour wins have come in no-cut, limited fields — the 2017 Tour Championship, the 2018 WGC: HSBC Champions and the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions. He rates second on the PGA Tour in SG: Off The Tee (+ 0.971) and SG: Tee To Green (+ 1.915). This also looks like a good spot for him to correct putting problems that showed in Scottsdale and at Riviera.

 

Paul Casey 52/1

Casey rates in the top 15 in SG: Off The Tee and SG: Approach. Last week at Riviera, he ranked seventh and fifth, respectively, in those categories. He shot 65-65 on the weekend last year, which was two shots better than Johnson, who won by five shots. Casey has improved his finish each year here with a 16th in 2017, 12th in 2018 and third last year. Like Fleetwood, Casey ranks in the top five in scoring average (69.83) here among players who have played all three WGC Mexico events.

 

 

 

Puerto Rico Open

 

While most of the world’s best are playing at the WGC Mexico or recharging their batteries for the Florida swing on the road to The Players Championship and the Masters, the Puerto Rico Open drew a solid field as an alternate event. The winner does not receive an invitation to the Masters but will get a two-year PGA Tour exemption, a spot in the PGA Championship and the Tournament of Champions plus 300 FedEx Cup points and 24 OWGR points. Viktor Hovland, favored to win PGA Tour rookie of the year, is the odds-on favorite at 10/1. Alex Noren has made all four cuts this season and takes the second spot at 16/1. A host of players follow at 25/1, including Tom Lewis, Patrick Rodgers, Maverick McNealy, 2013 winner Scott Brown, Emiliano Grillo and 2014 winner Chesson Hadley. Lewis, Rodgers, McNealy and Brown have earned top-10 finishes on tour this season.

 

The Event

 

The Puerto Rico Open began as an alternate tour event in 2008 and has maintained that status. From 2008-15, this event was opposite the WGC event at Doral before going opposite the WGC-Dell Match Play in 2016 and ’17. This will be its second year as the alternate tournament to the WGC Mexico. No event was held in 2018 due to Hurricane Maria.

 

The Course

 

Coco Beach Golf Club in Rio Grande, on the northern coast of Puerto Rico about a 40-mile drive northeast of San Juan, has hosted the Puerto Rico Open since its inception in 2008. The course is a typical coastal resort track designed by Tom Kite in 2004. It is a par-72 of 7,500 yards and is an exposed parklands that can be susceptible to windy conditions. The course has eight lakes and 62 bunkers, but wind is the primary defense. The fairways and greens are Paspalum, and the greens are relatively large (6,500 square feet) and slow (10.5 Stimpmeter).

 

Recent History/Winners

 

2019: Martin Trainer (-15/273); 125/1

2018: No tournament

2017: D.A. Points (-20/268); 175/1

2016: Tony Finau (-12/276); 50/1*

2015: Alex Cejka (-7/281); 125/1**

2014: Chesson Hadley (-21/267); 50/1

2013: Scott Brown (-20/268); 50/1

2012: George McNeill (-16/272); 55/1

2011: Michael Bradley (-16/272); 135/1***

2010: Derek Lamely (-19/269); 110/1

 

* — playoff win over Steve Marino

** — playoff win over Jon Curran, Emiliano Grillo, Tim Petrovic and Sam Saunders

*** — playoff win over Troy Matteson

 

Selections

 

Beau Hossler 40/1

Hossler has made eight of 11 cuts in the 2019-20 PGA Tour season, including his last three. A T9 at Torrey Pines is an encouraging finish, and he might like the drop in class here.

 

Peter Uihlein 60/1

He was the 54-hole leader last week at the Lecom Suncoast Classic on the Korn Ferry Tour but shot 74 Sunday to fall from contention. He was one of only seven players in the field of 70 to shoot over par in the final round. Nevertheless, he finished fifth here in 2017 and sixth in 2013 and is a decent price.

 

Xinjun Zhang 70/1

Zhang has four top-25 finishes in the 2019-20 season since earning his card from the Korn Ferry Tour last year, where he won twice. He rates top 50 on tour in SG: Tee To Green and SG: Approach.

 

Tyler McCumber 70/1

The son of longtime PGA Tour member Mark McCumber has made eight of 11 cuts, including his last three. He has a fairly extensive background playing south of the U.S., winning three times on PGA Tour Latinoamerica and notching a fourth in the Bahamas, third in Colombia and seventh in Panama on the Korn Ferry Tour last year.

 

Sebastian Cappelen 90/1

The Dane was on the first page of the leaderboard Sunday at the American Express and was contending there before tying for sixth.

 

Hank Lebioda 125/1

Lebioda has been hit or miss lately and has made only five of 11 cuts in this season. However, he seems to do well in low-scoring events with weaker fields. As evidence, he tied for third in Bermuda last fall and was T17 in January at the American Express Championship.

 

Sam Saunders 150/1

The grandson of Arnold Palmer is playing here on a sponsor’s exemption. He has two top-five finishes here with a second in 2015 and a fifth in 2017.

 

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