The WGC-Mexico Championship makes its first trip to its namesake country this week for the opening World Golf Championship event of the calendar year.
Previously the WGC-Cadillac Championship, the newly named WGC-Mexico Championship makes its debut at Club de Golf Chapultepec just outside Mexico City.
Rory McIlroy returns to action after being side-lined with a rib injury since his play-off defeat to Graeme Storm at the BMW SA Open in January and will be joined by the world-number-one Dustin Johnson for the first time since his coronation.
It may prove testing for McIlroy to work off rust to any reward after over a month off in such a strong field or to fully commit on the back of an injury. However, this perhaps offers a welcome warm-up opportunity in the lead up to the Masters. Nevertheless, the Northern-Irishman could well be looking to earn a maiden victory at this event with a previous best finish of third.
The field is so strong here, in fact, that Jason Day – who withdrew on Sunday due to illness – is the only player inside the world’s top 50 to not be competing in Mexico. The elite field includes the PGA Tour’s most recent winner, Rickie Fowler, who strolled to a four-shot victory at the Honda Classic last week and kept to the trend of highly ranked players winning PGA events after Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Hideki Matsyama’s recent success; all of whom will enter here brimming with confidence.
Adam Scott will attempt to defend his title having beat Bubba Watson by one stroke last year to make it two wins in two following a Honda Classic victory the week prior; a good omen for a certain Fowler. Several other past winners return, though, including the aforementioned Johnson (2015), Patrick Reed (2014), Justin Rose (2012) and Phil Mickelson (2009).
There’s no place for the tournament’s most triumphant competitor, Tiger Woods, who fails to qualify – although would still be sidelined with injury regardless. The 41-year-old has won the event of 17 instalments an astounding seven times including back-to-back-to-back wins from 2005 to 2007. He holds to record for both overall score of 261 (2006) that led to an eight-shot victory and aggregate score of 25-under-par (2002).
With no recent course history for this event or any alike it’s impossible to predict how scoring will be this week and, with irregular hosting of this event, past winning scores range from four-under-par to Woods’ 25-under-par.
After a 10-year stay at the Blue Monster course in Doral, Florida, this year’s host is Club de Golf Chapultepec. The course has little experience in significant event hosting; you have to go back to 1944 to 1960 to find its last notable run of hosting – the Mexico Open. With that said, there have been numerous upgrades made to the course over the last few months to prepare it to host an event of this calibre. At just over 7300 yards for a par 71, one thing that can be confidently assumed is that it will test the distance of anyone at the tee.
The format is a standard 72-hole stroke play except from the fact that, because of a significantly shortened 70-man field, there’s no 36-hole cut.
The ever-growing purse for a WGC event is at its highest of $9,750,000, with $1,700,000 for the winner alone, this year and it’s sanctioned for the money lists of both the PGA and European Tours. With 70 of the world’s elite golfers taking to the fairway, the WGC events sit just behind the majors as standout tournaments in the year.
It may not be viewed in the same light as the upcoming Masters but this event provides players with a great opportunity for a trial run against the best and spectators with a preview for Augusta in five weeks time.