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DraftKings PGA: WGC-Mexico Championship

Len Hochberg

Hochberg covers golf for RotoWire. A veteran sports journalist, he contributes to Sports on Earth and was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years.


WGC-MEXICO CHAMPIONSHIP

Purse: $9.75M
Winner's Share: $1.66M
FedEx Cup Points: 550 to the Winner
Location: Mexico City
Course: Club de Golf Chapultepec
Yardage: 7,330
Par: 71
2016 champion: Adam Scott

Tournament Preview

Well, this should be fun, gamers. It's a brand new course in the WGC rotation, so we have zero course history to fall back on. And get this: it's the first of five new tracks on the 2016-17 PGA Tour calendar. Despite the unfamiliarity, there are always ways to glean information from the course itself, and that will help formulate a game plan for the strongest field so far this season.

First, a little background: Chapultepec will be the seventh course in the 19-year history of this tournament, which is the second of four WGC events played each season (or the first of the year, if that's your preference). For a decade it had been played at Doral, where last year Adam Scott emerged victorious. Chapultepec was built in the early 1900s during the Mexican Revolution by brothers Willie and Alex Smith, both former U.S. Open champions. It hosted the Mexico Open for many years, including 1981, when Ben Crenshaw won; 1991, when Jay Haas claimed victory; and most recently, in 2014, when as part of the PGA Tour Latinoamerica schedule Colombian Oscar David Alvarez won at 17-under 271. (If 17-under won, in effect, a minor-league event, imagine what the game's best will score here, even as a par-71.)

Mexico City is at an extremely high altitude (7,600-7,800 feet), far higher than most any golfer is familiar with. The Barracuda Championship in Reno is between 5,500 and 6,000 feet, but most of the top golfers don't even play that event. The elevation could bedevil the golfers searching for the right club. In this altitude, the ball will travel approximately 10-15 percent farther, so we're looking at a track of about 6,500 yards or less. Yes, the driver looks like it will be significantly devalued this week south of the border.

Still, before the golfers just blast away on a tiny course, they will see trouble on several holes -- at least the doglegs -- so accuracy will matter. To further complicate things, many holes have their own elevation changes uphill or downhill. Let's also factor in that there are narrow, tree-lined fairways. Long hitters almost always have an advantage no matter the track, but with only three par-5s and six very short par-4s (410 or less), wedge play should be critical to success. As for the greens they are largely flat, but fast and smallish, and ringed by trees and bunkers. The greens are bent/poa annua, while the fairways and rough are kikuyu, which leads us back to Torrey Pines and Riviera comparisons from just a few weeks ago. With all that info, we'll delve into who this type of course favors in the Champion’s Profile below.

With the skyscrapers of downtown Mexico City in the picturesque background, Chapultepec starts with immediate excitement: a drivable, downhill 316-yard par-4, which the long hitters should be able to reach with an iron. No. 6 is a par-5, 625-yarder -- and, oh, it's also uphill -- but the scuttlebutt is that the finish is the most challenging. No. 15 is 575 yards entirely uphill, 16 is a short but narrow 403-yard par-4 and 17 is a 172-yard par-3 guarded by one of the few water hazards on the course.

What haven't we talked about yet? Oh yes, the golfers. It's a 77-man, no-cut field, and until No. 2 Jason Day pulled out on Sunday, the entire top-50 in the OWGR was entered. Dustin Johnson makes his first start as world No. 1 but with an enormous DraftKings price. U.S. golf fans will also get their first looks of the season at No. 3 Rory McIlroy, who is returning from a rib injury, and No. 5 Henrik Stenson, who will play on this side of the pond for the first time since the Ryder Cup. Rickie Fowler is up to No. 9 in the rankings coming off a big win last week at the Honda Classic.


Key Stats to Winning at Chapultepec

Driving accuracy
Greens in regulation, especially GIR 125-150 yards
One-putt percentage (putts per GIR)


Past Champions

2016 - Adam Scott
2015 — Dustin Johnson
2014 — Patrick Reed
2013 — Tiger Woods
2012 — Justin Rose
2011 — Nick Watney
2010 — Ernie Els
2009 — Phil Mickelson
2008 — Geoff Ogilvy
2007 — Tiger Woods

Champion's Profile

On a course so short, with the high elevation reducing the figurative distance, a lot of golfers can contend. As we see in the modern game, guys who hit the ball far are rewarded, even if they are inaccurate. That should be minimized this week, because virtually everyone will be playing second-shot wedges on many of the holes. So we're looking at accuracy: greens in regulation, proficient wedge play and, on such a short track, putting tends to be a difference maker. The best putters may not succeed here; on a new course with unfamiliar geography and tendencies, it may be the smartest putters who will fare well. We've stated agronomic similarities to Torrey Pines and Riviera. On the Euro side, Golf Club Milano, home of the past two Italian Opens, is comparable. Unfortunately, that tournament is played in September, when most of the top names don't partake. Lastly, and to put it bluntly: This is a big-boy tournament. Guys who have been playing well in "regular" fields of late are moving up in class, and standing next to all the top golfers in the world has an adverse effect on some players. The pressure and magnitude of the event gets to them. WGCs feature smaller fields than majors, so there are fewer scrubs lurking about.


DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
(Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)

Tier 1 Values

Dustin Johnson - $12,500 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 13-2)

We start off with the No. 1 player in the world, but with a caveat: His price is enormous, a full $1,000 more than No. 2-priced Jordan Spieth. This tiny course should be like taking candy from a baby for Johnson, but at $12,500, really the only way for him to pay off is to win. He did win at Riviera with the same grasses, and easily. You are paying a premium for a win here, not a top-5. If you don't think Johnson will win, he's not the guy for you this week.

Jordan Spieth - $11,500 (8-1)

Before a T22 at Riviera, you have to go back almost six months to find Spieth's last outcome that did not result in a top-20 finish. He is on top of his game, is first on the PGA Tour in GIR, is the sport's best putter, and is smart enough to figure out the nuances of an unfamiliar golf course.

Henrik Stenson - $10,300 (15-1)

This course aligns perfectly for Stenson, a ball-striking machine who could launch striped 3-woods all day long. He is second on the European Tour in GIR and he's even 18th in putting, the weakest part of his game.


Tier 2 Values

Justin Rose - $9,600 (20-1)

Rose has three top-4s in four starts this year, including tournaments played at Torrey Pines and Riviera. He's a horrid 164th in driving accuracy, but still is fifth in strokes gained tee-to-green.

Jon Rahm - $9,000 (25-1)

When we talked earlier about this being a big-boy tournament, Rahm is one guy we had in mind. He won at Torrey Pines and followed up nicely at Phoenix and Pebble, but this is his first WGC event. He does have two 2016 majors on his resume, a T23 at the U.S. Open (as an amateur) and a T59 at the Open Championship, but now he carries expectations, and that changes everything. There’s plenty reason to believe he can handle it.

Sergio Garcia - $8,500 (25-1)

Garcia flamed out at Riviera, but that can be chalked up to the rain, which he doesn't particularly like. He followed that up with a T14 last week at the Honda to get back on track. Garcia’s ball striking is among the best in the world, and he's eighth on Tour in GIR from 125-150 yards. Of course, putting is Garcia's kryptonite, but the rest of his game should be able to fuel a high finish.

Francesco Molinari - $8,200 (60-1)

The relatively high price gives us pause, but the Italian is among the straightest hitters and best putters on the Euro Tour (first in putting average). Molinari has three top-15s in four stateside starts in 2017, and for what it's worth, he won the aforementioned Italian Open in October.


Tier 3 Values

Brandt Snedeker - $7,800 (40-1)

We like the value in Tier 3, beginning with Snedeker, who annually does well at Torrey Pines and is among the world's elite putters. At this price, we're not looking for or expecting a win; a top-10 would certainly pay off.

Phil Mickelson - $7,600 (50-1)

After weeks of fading Phil, we'll jump back on board at this very friendly price. Mickelson is well-versed in Torrey Pines and Riviera, and there's no one better at learning a new course in rapid fashion. There's always the concern that Phil will be Phil and be wild off the tee, but on a shorter track and at a favorable price, that's a risk willing to take.

Rafael Cabrera-Bello - $7,400 (80-1)

Cabrera-Bello finished top-20 in three WGCs in 2016, and did not play in the fourth, the Bridgestone. He's among the straightest hitters around -- 5th in GIR on both the PGA and European Tours -- and is third on the PGA Tour in GIR from 125-150 yards.

Louis Oosthuizen - $7,200 (50-1)

Oosthuizen is always a gamble: as good as anyone when he's on, but he's not always on. Interestingly, he came to the United States earlier this year than ever before and played Torrey for the first time (T41). He followed that up with a solo third at Phoenix and a T21 last week at the Honda. He's 31st in GIR and 11th in GIR: 125-150.

Alex Noren - $7,200 (80-1)

Is this any way to treat the No. 11 golfer in the world? After winning for the fourth time in 2016 in November, the Swede strung together three top-25s until a rare missed cut last week in Australia. That may have been beneficial, as it allowed him to avoid a shorter travel week. Noren is fifth on the Euro Tour in driving accuracy, 18th in GIR and 20th in putting average.


Long-Shot Values

Bernd Wiesberger - $7,100 (100-1)

The Austrian certainly has been tearing it up since November with four top-5s in six starts, including a solo third earlier this month in Malaysia. He is fifth on the Euro Tour in stroke average and sixth in GIR.

Bill Haas - $7,000 (50-1)

The oddsmakers sure like Haas at this price, as 50-1 does not sync up with the $7,000 tab. The former Riviera champion finished 11th there a few weeks back and hasn't cashed outside the top-20 in months. He's 24th on Tour in GIR.

Lee Westwood - $6,800 (100-1)

Westwood doesn't have the greatest stats, but he has finished in the top 30 in seven of his past eight worldwide starts dating back to last year. At 43 he still performs well on the biggest stages, as he tied for second last year at both the Masters and WGC-Bridgestone.

Danny Willett - $6,700 (125-1)

Willett's struggles since winning the Masters have been well-documented, but we're not asking him to win a major; we're asking him only to justify one of the lowest prices in the field. The Englishman missed the cut on the number at the Honda, but a couple of weeks earlier was T5 in Malaysia (albeit after coughing up the 54-hole lead). When on, Willett is a terrific putter. He's currently 21st in the Race to Dubai standings.

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