Championship Play-Off Final: Michael Owen’s View
The first World Golf Championship of the year takes place this week with a stellar field competing in the Mexico Championship.
For the third season in a row, Club de Golf Chapultepec is the host course with players having to adapt to the ball travelling significantly further at altitude. The tree-lined 7,345-yard par 71 cannot simply be overpowered with strategy and touch around the greens important this week. Phil Mickelson comes in as defending champion although the jaded 48-year-old is making his fourth start in successive weeks.
Justin Thomas is the worthy favourite and looks ready to win his tenth PGA Tour title after several near misses over the last few weeks. The American opened up a four-shot lead at the Genesis Open on Sunday but was derailed by the blustery weather in the final round as he finished second behind JB Holmes. This followed on from third place at the Phoenix Open. His performances this season have seen him top both the strokes gained tee to green and approaches to the green rankings.
Thomas, whose last win came at the WGC Bridgestone Invitational in August, will head to Mexico determined to get another victory and has excellent course form at Chapultepec. The world number four was fifth on debut two years ago and 12 months ago he shot a closing round of 64 as he was beaten in a play-off by Mickelson. The 25-year-old has been first for putts per green in regulation on both starts at the tournament which bodes extremely well for this week. Thomas is a confident selection at 9/1 to win the title.
Xander Schauffele looks worth sticking with again this week as he bids to win back-to-back WGC titles. The American made a slow start at Riviera in the Genesis Open but rallied strongly over the weekend to finish in a tie for 15th. It continued his impressive season which has seen Schauffele win the HSBC Champions in China and the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.
Schauffele was in contention in Mexico last season after the opening two rounds and only a disappointing weekend saw him slip back to 18th spot. The 25-year-old can be expected to improve on this result in his current form. Schauffele is ranked third for scrambling on the PGA Tour which is a major asset on a tricky course featuring small greens. He is also ninth for strokes gained putting and a sharp short game can help Schauffele contend this week at 22/1 each way.
Tyrrell Hatton has been one of the best performers at the Mexico Championship and the fiery Englishman will be hoping a return to Chapultepec can inspire him on the course this week. Hatton tied for third place last season and also finished tenth two years ago so the course undoubtedly fits his eye.
The 27-year-old, who has three victories on the European Tour, finished tied for 15th at the start of this month at the Phoenix Open for a solid PGA Tour season opener. Hatton won the Italian Open at another tree-lined course and has also played well at altitude at the European Masters in the Swiss Alps. At 50/1, it is worth backing Hatton to rediscover top form in Mexico.
Ian Poulter has made a strong start to the season and the experienced English golfer comes in off excellent form on the European Tour. Poulter tied for sixth place in Abu Dhabi before finishing third at the Dubai Desert Classic. He then competed in the first Saudi International with four rounds in the 60s seeing him secure another top-six finish.
The 43-year-old will make his first appearance at the Mexico Championship but comes in full of confidence and well rested after a family break. A refreshed Poulter should take to the course and he is striking the ball with real authority. He has been inside the top three for greens in regulation in his last two tournaments and Poulter merits support at appealing odds of 50/1 each way this week.
Justin Thomas each way 9/1
Xander Schauffele each way 22/1
Tyrrell Hatton each way 50/1
Ian Poulter each way 50/1