In the ninth week of the year the first big event of 2018 rolls around with the WGC-Mexico Championship this week.
And with it, it brings the best field of the year so far; 15 of the world’s top 20 enter at Club de Golf Chapultepec, including the entirety of the top five.
Dustin Johnson is defending his title and a win again would make it three wins in four years at this event following his successes in 2015 and 2017. The win last year was his first as world-number-one and he would go on to win the WGC-Dell Match Play a few weeks later for a third consecutive win.Embed from Getty Images
Meanwhile, world-number-three Justin Thomas is in Mexico on the back of his second win of the season at the Honda Classic. Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth and Justin Rose all also enter after at least a one week break each.
Rose is the holder of the last WGC title, the HSBC Champions, having overturned an eight-shot deficit to Johnson. A win here would make the Englishman, along with Johnson and Tiger Woods, one of just three men to have won in consecutive WGC starts.
European duo Alex Noren and Tommy Fleetwood found themselves in the lead at points and both went well at PGA National, finishing third and fourth, and will look to go a few places better this week.Embed from Getty Images
Patton Kizzire is still leading the FedExCup standings and is making his sixth start of 2018 this week in quest of getting back to winning ways after a missed cut at the Honda Classic and two finishes outside the top 30 prior to that.
With two European Tour wins already this season, Shubhankar Sharma has gone from outside the world’s top 500 to 75th and he is one of a handful of players making their WGC debut this week.
This event has ran 18 times, under different names, and Woods’ has won it a record seven times, most recently in 2013. The 14-time major champion also holds the to-par record of 25-under (2002) and the aggregate record of 261 (2006). Woods will not enter here on the back of two consecutive starts though, having failed to qualify.
With past wins meaning little in qualification for WGC events, that means just Johnson (2015 & 2017), Patrick Reed (2014), Rose (2012) and Phil Mickelson (2009) are past champions back at the recently reformed event.
Host course Club de Golf Chapultepec made its WGC debut last year – although it is celebrating it’s 90th birthday this year. The 7300-yard par-71 proved somewhat of a test with Johnson only running out winner at 14-under in its maiden outing.Embed from Getty Images
Due to a shortened 70-man field, there is no 36-hole cut with the entire field playing all four rounds.
For the first-time in WGC history, the purse for an event is up at $10million with $1.8million for the winner alone. That goes along with a slightly elevated 550 FedExCup points.
That weighty purse, boosted FedExCup points and lofty world ranking points will be incentive for the players. But many will be considering the significant of a big event as the Masters and major-season close in.