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Handicapping

Mexico Championship Picks

WGC – Mexico Championship Picks to Win
Dates: March 2-5, 2017
Course: Club de Golf Chapultepec – Mexico City, Mexico
TV: The Golf Channel/NBC
by Evergreen, Golf Handicapper, Predictem.com

Golf, at least as far as TV ratings go, has always been about the star players. Getting those big names to tee it up for an event and having those guys in the mix come Sunday afternoon is the best thing for PGA Tour business. The Majors are highlight events each year and get most of the best ratings but the World Golf Championship schedule is not far behind and those events lay claim to the deepest fields in all of tournament golf. The second WGC event of the season is just ahead and 49 of the Top-50 in the world rankings are headed to Mexico City for the WGC-Mexico Championship. This event was established in 1999 and has been known as the American Express Championship, CA Championship and Cadillac Championship before this season. Politics seem ever present these days and even the PGA Tour is not immune from that this week as the move to Club de Golf Chapultepec comes at the expense of Trump's Doral where the event had been held since 2007. I don't think we need to go into an immigration debate right now but you will never understand irony if you do not see it dripping off the decision to move a tournament from a Trump property to a course in Mexico. Tweet away Mr. President.

A newly minted No. 1 in the world Dustin Johnson leads this field but anyone playing this week has certainly earned his exemption and could be a factor. The young guns have had their way with the early portion of the year as Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Hideki Matsuyama and Rickie Fowler have all won. All of those young stars will be in Mexico but there are plenty of veterans as well in this 77-man field. That number is roughly half of what we see in a normal Tour week and there will be no 36-hole cut as a result. Tiger Woods is not playing this week but it is hard to ignore his seven championships won at this event, especially as no one has won more than one otherwise. Adam Scott is the defending champion but his chances to defend are lessened due to the venue change that leaves most of the field seeing the course for the very first time.

Club de Golf is a vintage course at nearly 100 years old but she may as well be brand new to the players this week. A very few have logged rounds here and those that have did not do so under Tour conditions. The overall look of the suburban Mexico City course is very similar to Southern California layouts. Chapultepec is drawing close comparisons to Riviera which just hosted the Genesis Open, especially as both courses feature the same fairway and green turf. The big difference will be how the altitude will affect play. Club de Golf sits at 7,700 feet above sea level, making it the highest course to see PGA Tour action. The metrics people have done the math and expect the altitude to produce an 8-15% increase in carry distance. Players are able to hit those laser-like approach shots because they know the distances and have their clubs tuned in. Any uncertainty about distance, especially on approaches is sure to make players uncomfortable and those that can do the right conversions will see an advantage on the field. Normally, a course that doesn't play to its yardage is a benefit for the shorter players but everything being said this week seems to indicate that the bombers will have even more of an advantage with that extra carry. Hitting it further isn't the entire equation as ball flight and shot shape also figure in and the thought is that the big hitters will be better able to approximate their game to the altitude as the week wears on. At 7,330 yards, the course will play at par-71 and the scoring pace is expected to be quite fast. The last time Chapultepec hosted the Mexico Open, the winning score was 17-under par.

Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and highlight the best bets. We make some predictions on who may win and breakdown a couple of head to head matches that are most commonly offered around the various sportsbooks. Here are our predictions to win the 2017 WGC-Mexico Open.

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Rory McIlroy (11 to 1 odds to win)
With all the other young studs winning, it is almost starting to feel like Rory is getting left behind and I doubt that sits well with the #3 player in the world. Rory has five top-10 finishes in this event in just the last six years and has 18 total top-10's in just 28 total WGC starts. He plays his best when the field is deep and anyone that watched the Ryder Cup could see how motivated he can get when pushed by another premier player. Rory has hopped around a bit this year with just one official PGA start but this is the time to get right with the Masters looming and I really like the double digit value when it is attached to the 2016 Tour leader in strokes gained off the tee. He should be able to set himself up well around this sometimes narrow course and his top-10 driving distance will pay off on the 600+ yards par-fives. It will surprise exactly no one if he wins and his "mini-slump" has brought his weekly odds from the low single digits to where it is now. Getting the chance to win over $100 on a $10 Rory bet was not a possibility until just recently so don't let it pass by too often.

Louis Oosthuizen (40 to 1)
I backed Louis to win last week and it didn't pan out but there were a lot of good swings in his T21 at the Honda. His vast international experience should help him on a new course and he may be one of the most comfortable as many South African courses have the same fairways as Chapultepec. He has started to fare well in WGC events with back to back top-15's at this event and his 8th best rank in tee-to-green performance should play well anywhere. The old all-around stat is no longer kept in the same manner by the Tour but the best approximation is total strokes gained and Oosty is currently 10th in that category. You have to like a guy that can do a bit of everything, especially when players aren't 100% sure of what to expect.

Jimmy Walker (66 to 1)
Walker has been uncharacteristically off since the calendar turned with three missed cuts already but things started to turn just a couple weeks ago. The 2016 PGA Championship winner was 21st last week, 11th at Riviera and showed an overall improvement from his play earlier. The betting and fantasy folks are looking to performances at Riviera as predictors for this week so that T11 at the Genesis looks good but even if we are all blowing that connection out of proportion, Walker looks good as long distance player with a Major-winning pedigree. Jimmy led the Tour in 2016 in birdie conversions on holes where the green can be reached in less than regulation. That is basically the par-fives but there are always the short par-fours as well. In any case, Walker scores better than anyone when given a chance to let his distance do the talking.

Head to Head Matches
Picks to win based on predicted score after all four rounds. Check with 5Dimes for single round matches and a variety of prop bets.

Martin Kaymer v. Patrick Reed (pick to win: Reed)
Reed is honestly a scary pick this because although he has not missed a cut in seven starts, he really hasn't shown the form that we all saw at the end of last year. He did make the cut at Riviera but was an also-ran at 59th and would have lost this match at the HSBC event where he finished 60th to Kaymer's 40th. I am taking him still and doing so based on slightly better tee-to-green numbers. He has the advantage over Martin before you start counting putting stats and I think that is crucial on an unfamiliar course. Kaymer has proven to be the better putter but I think it will take everyone a couple of days to really figure out the greens and that effectively mutes the amount of strokes you can gain on the field simply on the greens. Reed is scrambling well and netting a few more birdies than Kaymer right now so stick with him in what could be a very close match.

Hideki Matsuyama v. Rickie Fowler (pick to win: Fowler)
I think the big factor here is simply value and it is on Rickie's side with him listed as the underdog in every match listing I saw. If you can get even money on a guy that just won last week, I don't see much reason to pass that up. On top of the win, Fowler was 6th at the HSBC to mount a close match in an event that Matsuyama won. If you believe that Riviera is a predictor this week, remember that Hideki carded an 80 there in the second round to miss the cut. I really like a lot of what is going on with Fowler right now. He looks like he is on to something that he can utilize to win, not just contend as he has done numerous times before. If he controls his ball-flight, he will be tough to beat as few have the kind of overall stat sheet that Rickie has put up in 2017. Matsuyama could be a real force this week but he is not so far ahead of Fowler to be favored so greatly.

Good luck and good golf!

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