Home Tour News 10 Players to Watch: WGC-Mexico Championship

10 Players to Watch: WGC-Mexico Championship

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  1. Dustin Johnson, United States — DJ took a week off after his five-stroke victory in the Genesis Open and will be making his first start as the No. 1 player in the Official World Golf Ranking. He is playing some of the most consistent golf of his career, with four finishes in the top six in his past five tournaments, including solo third in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am the week before he won at Riviera. Johnson is making his eighth start in this WGC event. He won it two years ago at Trump National Doral, coming from five strokes down in the final round to beat J.B. Holmes by one stroke. He closed with a 3-under-par 69, including a crucial 15-foot birdie putt on the 15th hole. Johnson, who finished second at Doral in 2011 and tied for fourth in 2014, has three victories in the WGC events, also winning the 2013 HSBC Champions and the 2016 Bridgestone Invitational.
  1. Jordan Spieth, United States — Not that last year was so bad, with three victories, by Spieth seems to be rounding into his 2015 form, which took him to five victories and No. 1 in the world. He still is stuck at No. 6, but he finished in the top 10 in his first four events of 2017, including the 12th victory of his pro career in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Spieth took a week off after he tied for 22nd in the Genesis Open at Riviera, so he should be fresh for the biggest event so far this year at Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City. He played three times in this event on the Blue Monster Course at Trump National Doral, tying for 34th in his debut before recording ties for 17th each of the past two years. He does not yet have a victory in the World Golf Championships, but he recorded three finishes in the top 10 in the past two years, including solo third in the Bridgestone Invitational last year at Firestone.
  1. Henrik Stenson, Sweden — The big Swede, No. 5 in the world, is making his first start of the year on the PGA Tour, having tied for second, seven strokes behind Hideki Matsuyama in the WGC-HSBC Champions in his only start of the 2016-17 season in October. Stenson continues to play through right knee problems that have bothered him the past two years. He tied for eighth in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Champions and also tied for second in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic to start the new year as he tries to win the European Tour’s Race to Dubai for the third time in five years. This will be his 11th start in this WGC event, and his best result was a tie for third in 2005 in what was then the American Express Championship, finishing two strokes out of the playoff in which Tiger Woods beat John Daly at Harding Park in San Francisco. Stenson’s only WGC victory came in the 2007 American Express Match Play Championship.
  1. Justin Rose, England — After missing much of the final stretch in 2016 because of a back injury, Rose has started this year with three results in the top 10 in four starts on the PGA Tour. The Olympic gold medalist finished second behind Justin Thomas in the Sony Open in Hawaii and tied for fourth in both the Farmers Insurance Open and the Genesis Open while managing only a tie for 39th in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. The Englishman is making his 11th appearance in what is now the WGC-Mexico Championship. He won the title in 2012 when he came from three shots behind Bubba Watson with a 3-under-par 69 in the final round that left him one stroke better than Watson on the Blue Monster at Doral. Rose has only that one title in the World Golf Championships, but he has finished in the top 10 nine times, including a tie for second in the 2007 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone.
  1. Hideki Matsuyama, Japan — Matsuyama, 28, has become a sensation with six victories around the world in the last year, bumping him to No. 4 in the world and the top spot in the FedExCup point standings. In seven starts since the 2016-17 PGA Tour season began in October, he has victories in the WGC-HSBC Champions in China and the Waste Management Phoenix Open while finishing second in the CIMB Classic in Malaysia and the SBS Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. Matsuyama has shown he can win just about anywhere, so why not Mexico? He claimed his first WGC title in the HSBC by a whopping seven strokes over Stenson and Daniel Berger, and he has won his three other official PGA Tour titles in playoffs, so it hasn’t been a one-way street. Matsuyama cooled off in his last start by shooting 68-80–148 to miss the cut in the Genesis Open, but he has played a busy schedule and should come back strong after a week off.
  1. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland — After sitting out since the middle of January because of a rib injury he believes he sustained in December while testing new equipment, McIlroy will make his first start on the PGA Tour this year in Mexico. He played through the injury in the BMW South African Open and lost in a playoff to Graeme Storm of England before doctors told him to shut it down for a while. McIlroy, No. 3 in the world, was playing well with four consecutive finishes in the top 10. He will tee it up in this WGC event for the 10th time and has finished in the top 10 in five of the past six years, placing outside the top 25 only once. McIlroy tied for third last year at Doral and finished in the top four in all three WGC events he played, skipping the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone. He has two WGC victories, in the 2014 Bridgestone and the 2015 WGC-Cadillac Match Play at Harding Park in San Francisco.
  1. Rickie Fowler, United States — After rising five spots to No. 9 in the world with his four-stroke victory in the Honda Classic last week, his fourth PGA Tour title, Fowler has finished in the top 10 in three of the four events he has played this year on the circuit. He also tied for sixth in the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October and tied for fourth in the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Fowler is making his seventh start in what was the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral, not far from his home in South Florida, and his best results were a tie for eighth last year and solo eighth in his first appearance in 2008, when he shot 68-66 on the weekend. Fowler has never won a World Golf Championships title, with his best result a tie for second in the 2011 Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone, four strokes behind Adam Scott. He does have nine top-10 results in the WGC events.
  1. Adam Scott, Australia — For the second straight week, Scott is the defending champion, as he won the WGC-Cadillac Championship last year at Doral, coming from six strokes down with 13 holes to play to beat Bubba Watson by one stroke with a 3-under-par 69. He made six birdies in a span of nine holes and pulled out the victory with a 6-foot par putt on the last hole. The Aussie is playing in the tournament for the 16th consecutive year. He also tied for second in 2006, tied for sixth in 2011, tied for third in 2013 and tied for fourth in 2015. He won the 2011 Bridgestone Invitational and has 13 other top-10 results in the World Golf Championships. In his two starts on the PGA Tour this year, Scott tied for 11th in the Genesis Open at Riviera and tied for 14th last week in his title defense in the Honda Classic at PGA National.
  1. Martin Kaymer, Germany — The two-time major champion has run hot and cold throughout his career, and after a chilly spell, he seems to be heating up after a tie for fourth in the Honda Classic last week following another tie for fourth earlier this year in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on the European Tour. Kaymer, who has not won since capturing the Players Championship, the PGA Championship and the Grand Slam of Golf in 2014, is making his 10th start in what is now the WGC-Mexico Championship. His only top-10 finish was a tie for third in 2010 at Doral, where he finished a distant seven strokes behind winner Ernie Els of South Africa despite playing the weekend in 66-69. His only title in the World Golf Championships came in the 2011 HSBC Champions in China, where he came from five strokes back in the final round with a brilliant 9-under-par 63 to beat Freddie Jacobson of Sweden by three shots.
  1. Justin Thomas, United States — Following three victories in his first five events of the 2016-17 PGA Tour season, Thomas cooled off, perhaps not surprisingly. He will try to get back on track in Mexico. After successfully defending his title in the CIMB Classic in Malaysia and sweeping through Hawaii by winning the SBS Tournament of Champions and Sony Open in Hawaii, he missed the cut in the Waste Management Phoenix Open and the Honda Classic in addition to tying for 39th in the Genesis Open. Still, he remains second in the FedExCup standings behind Matsuyama and is ranked No. 8 in the world heading into his second appearance in what is now the WGC-Mexico Championship. Thomas tied for 35th at Doral last year, the first season in which he played all four of the World Golf Championships. His best result in five starts in the WGC events was a tie for 23rd in the HSBC Champions in China last October.

–Courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

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