Club de Golf Chapultepec saw one of the most exciting finishes of the 2018 PGA Tour season, with a record-setting weekend from Justin Thomas at the WGC-Mexico Championship leading to a two-man playoff, which resulted in Phil Mickelson’s first victory in five years.
Mickelson will be on hand to defend, and he will be taking on an absurdly good field this year that boasts nine of the top 10 in the world rankings.
Mexico is not hosting a shortage of players who can legitimately win this event. Here, however, are the 15 we like most.
15. Thorbjorn Olesen
The 29-year-old Dane was awful in this event two years ago, his only attempt at Mexico, but he has been tremendous in WGC events since with top 10s in three of his last four.
He has six career victories, and it seems like just a matter of time before he adds one in a PGA Tour-sanctioned event. His tee-to-green game has grown by leaps and bounds.
World Rank: 46th
Field Rank: 42nd
Last Six: MC, 7, MC, 45, 7, 7
14. Haotong Li
The 23-year-old prodigy from China has posted one high finish after another as of late, although one of the hurdles he has not quite reached in his young career is a great finish on North American soil. That time is undeniably coming soon, as Li has consistently shown phenomenal composure and does not wilt under pressure.
In his most recent start, Li took runner-up honors to Dustin Johnson in Saudi Arabia three weeks ago, his third top-5 in his last six starts.
World Rank: 36th
Field Rank: 33rd
Last Six: 2, 12, MC, 30, 5, 2
13. Tyrrell Hatton
The Brit was excellent at Club de Golf Chapultepec, shooting a Saturday 64 to get into the final Sunday threesome, and he had been matching Mickelson step-for-step until a missed putt from 10-feet out on the 72nd hole left him one shot short of the playoff.
Hatton is as streaky as they come, which makes last week’s missed cut at the Genesis Open discouraging, but he does have a history of playing well on courses that he has played well on in the past.
We could see another top-3 just as likely as something outside the top 40. We lean slightly closer to the former, due to his strong history in WGC events.
World Rank: 33rd
Field Rank: 30th
Last Six: MC, 15, 38, MC, 22, 22
12. Tommy Fleetwood
The highly-ranked Englishman (No. 14) spent the past two weeks in the States, posting back-to-back underwhelming performances: a T45 at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am, followed by a T28 at the Genesis Open.
After a streak of six straight top-11s late in 2018, he has none in his past six starts worldwide. There may be reason to question Fleetwood’s current form, but it is hard to argue with his recent history in Mexico; he finished T14 last year off the strength of a 66-67 weekend, and the year prior he finished solo-second to Dustin Johnson.
His putting has been a disaster lately, but the rest of his game has still been solid, and putting seems to be something that can come back at any time. This is could be the week he breaks out of his slump.
World Rank: 14th
Field Rank: 12th
Last Six: 28, 45, 16, 42, 14, 16
11. Rickie Fowler
Fowler is coming to Mexico with a victory in his last start (Waste Management Phoenix Open) two weeks ago. After building up a large 54-hole lead at TPC Scottsdale, Fowler nearly once again squandered a Sunday lead, but was able to steady himself down the stretch to win – something that showed more maturity in his game than we have seen in the past.
Can he keep it going in Mexico? He did not fare especially well here the past two years, but he looks rejuvenated as of late. He is killing it with his putter and he currently ranks inside the top 10 on Tour in both birdie and scoring average.
World Rank: 9th
Field Rank: 8th
Last Six: 1, 66, 5, 16, 4, 7
10. Xander Schauffele
The current leader in the FedExCup standings is Schauffele, who has four top 15s in his last five starts, including two victories. The 25-year-old opened well at this event last year, posting rounds of 65 and 68 before floundering on Sunday to drop into a share of 18th.
That appears to be an anomaly, though, as he has a well-earned reputation for being a great closer. That was on display last October when Schauffele took first place at the HSBC Champions, the last WGC event that took place.
World Rank: 7th
Field Rank: 6th
Last Six: 15, 10, 25, 1, 8, 16
9. Brooks Koepka
With World No. 1 Justin Rose sitting out this week, No. 2 Koepka has the honor of being the highest ranked player in the field, although he has not looked the part since the calendar flipped to 2019, opening with a 76 in Hawaii to place 24th of 32 players at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, and more recently he finished T57 at a European Tour event in Saudi Arabia three weeks ago.
The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year should be well-rested this week, however, and he has a penchant for showing up in big events. A WGC might not be a major, something Koepka has won three of in his past six attempts, but it still qualifies as a big event.
World Rank: 2nd
Field Rank: 1st
Last Six: 57, 9, 24, 12, 16, 1
8. Marc Leishman
With four rounds in the 60s at last week’s Genesis Open, highlighted by an especially impressive final-round 68 in difficult conditions that were killing the red numbers, Leishman finished T4 to keep one of the hottest hot streaks on Tour intact.
In six starts this season, Leishman has four top-4 finishes, and has shown much more consistency than last year, when he was one of the most hit-or-miss players on Tour.
The biggest key to his 2019 success has been his very improved iron play; he ranks 5th on Tour in strokes gained: approach-the-green.
World Rank: 16th
Field Rank: 14th
Last Six: 4, 43, 3, 4, 2, 18
7. Jon Rahm
It is difficult to do much better than Rahm has of late: since 2019 started, Rahm has played in six PGA Tour events, and finished in the top 10 in all of them.
Rahm’s irons have been a little off the past two weeks, but it would be a surprise if he did not snap out of that very soon; his game travels as well as anyone’s and he finished T3 in this event just two years ago. We think he will find a way to post a few more birdies this week.
World Rank: 6th
Field Rank: 5th
Last Six: 9, 10, 5, 6, 8, 1
6. Phil Mickelson
We should know better at this point than to question Mickelson’s age at all, but the 48-year-old did have an underwhelming performance at last week’s Genesis Open, finishing T37 the week after his phenomenal victory at the previous week’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
This will be a fifth start in six weeks for Phil, but he has been alternating great and mediocre weeks, and this would be time for another great one.
He should be exceptionally motivated as the defending champion, in an event that snapped a five-year winless streak. His game clearly meshes well with this course.
World Rank: 18th
Field Rank: 16th
Last Six: 37, 1, MC, 2, 17, 30
5. Bryson DeChambeau
He was a little inconsistent on the weekend, but by ranking 2nd in last week’s Genesis Open field in birdies, DeChambeau posted a T15. That means in his past 11 starts worldwide, last year’s biggest breakthrough player has finished in the top 20 of each, including three victories.
There is no disputing it: the world No. 5 is hot. This will be his WGC-Mexico debut, but at 2nd on Tour in scoring average and 3rd in birdie average, we are not betting against him anywhere right now.
World Rank: 5th
Field Rank: 4th
Last Six: 15, 6, 1, 10, 7, 12
4. Tiger Woods
Well, he is a seven-time event winner, but none of those seven came at Club de Golf Chaputlepec, so they might not be especially relevant to this week.
Even still, the 18-time WGC winner should not be overlooked this week in Mexico. He has not quite gotten to re-experience that thrill from when he won the Tour Championship back in September, but his early season starts have been more encouraging than not.
His start at Riviera for the Genesis Open last week started with two so-so rounds (70, 71) followed by a tremendous round (65), and then Sunday was a mixture of both, as he had a great front nine, but struggled down the back, and some late slip ups knocked him one stroke out of his 8th top 10 in the past year. Most encouraging, he was fourth in the Riviera field in greens in regulation.
World Rank: 13th
Field Rank: 11th
Last Six: 15, 20, 17, 1, 6, 24
3. Dustin Johnson
The 2017 WGC-Mexico Championship winner, which did happen at this course, has been underwhelming in two weeks since a victory in Saudi Arabia. He backdoored a top-10 finish at Riviera last week, but was really never anywhere close to the leadership mix.
He should be considered a favorite this week, however, as he followed up his 2017 win with a T7 in last year’s edition.
His game apparently travels well, and he is not far removed from a 2018 PGA Tour season where he led the Tour in seemingly everything.
World Rank: 3rd
Field Rank: 2nd
Last Six: 9, 45, 1, 16, 4, 7
2. Justin Thomas
Finishing solo-third and solo-second in his last two starts, respectively, make it look like the world No. 4 is in top form, but in both of those starts, he imploded in contention on Sunday.
Last week at the Genesis Open was especially discouraging as he squandered a four-stroke 54-hole lead to J.B. Holmes.
He was the opposite in Mexico a year ago; he was just average the first two rounds and then absolutely blitzed the field over the weekend to sneak into a playoff that he lost to Phil Mickelson.
Thomas showed that he can go very low here, and we think he will learn from last week’s Sunday disaster, an experience he has already displayed tremendous humility about.
World Rank: 4th
Field Rank: 3rd
Last Six: 2, 3, 16, 3, 36, 5
1. Rory McIlroy
T4-T5-T4 those are the last three starts for Rory, who is looking for his first victory since the Arnold Palmer Invitational nearly a year ago.
He skipped this event last year, but does have experience at Club de Chapultepec, having finished T7 in the 2017 Mexico Championship.
Three back nine bogeys at Riviera last week took the wind out of the sails a little, but it is extremely encouraging to see him lead the field in strokes gained: off-the-tee and in greens in regulation, while finishing second in total birdies.
If he brings that form south this week, he stands a great chance of a 15th career PGA Tour victory.
World Rank: 8th
Field Rank: 7th
Last Six: 4, 5, 4, 20, 21, 54
Next Five: Francesco Molinari, Hideki Matsuyama, Tony Finau, Matt Kuchar, Paul Casey