Risk-reward at Mexico Championship
There are a ton of changes to the 2017 season's second World Golf Championship event, most notably a change in location from Miami and the famed Blue Monster course at Trump Doral to south of the border in Mexico City.
The tournament begins Thursday at the Club de Golf Chapultepec and a new name -- the WGC-Mexico Championship.
The select field consists of 77 players from the top of the Official Golf Ranking and the money lists/Orders of Merit from the six main professional golf tours. The golfers will test a 7,370-yard, par-71 course that most have never seen for a total purse of $9.75 million, with $1.66 million going to the winner of the 72-hole event.
The course is set at 2,400 meters, making it the highest in elevation on the PGA Tour. All but one of the top 50 players in the world will compete, with only world No. 2 Jason Day out of the field after withdrawing last week because of the flu and a double ear infection.
There's will also be a pressing decision on each of these golfers' minds to throw caution to the wind and make bold swings in conditions and on a course with which none are familiar.
Jordan Spieth, the world's sixth-ranked player, said the design of the golf course at Club de Golf Chapultepec is full of risk-reward opportunities.
"There are very few courses we see that have this much risk-reward around it -- the design really makes you think," Spieth said. "You will see some guys hitting drivers and others hitting four-irons off the same tee and it could be a bit tricky out there. Obviously you will have a huge advantage if you can pull off drives because you can be right in front of the green -- I have yet to decide what my strategy is."
World No. 3 Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland makes his return to competitive golf after missing the past six weeks with a left rib injury. This is McIlroy's first PGA Tour start since he tied for fourth at the WGC-HSBC Champions in China last Oct. 30, and his first time in tournament golf anywhere since he lost a sudden-death playoff to Graeme Storm at the South Africa Open on Jan. 15.
Although McIlroy has not played a lot during his recovery, he said Tuesday that he is ready to go.
"I've been working through the bag the last seven to 10 days and (the rib) feels really good," McIlroy said. "I'm still strapping it up and still being a little bit, not protective but careful. I'm making sure I'm really warmed up before going out to play, a little bit of kinesio tape there just to help support it."
Australian Adam Scott is the tournament's defending champion, although he's hardly the favorite this week because the setting at sea level in South Florida and at the big-shouldered course at Trump Doral is the completely different from the challenges he faces in this year's event.
Sergio Garcia, with nine PGA Tour wins and 12 European Tour victories -- most recently last month at the Dubai Desert Classic, will make his 50th official start in a World Golf Championships event at the Mexico Championship. He remains in search of a title at one of the four annual WGC competitions.
Garcia's best result was runner-up at the Bridgestone Invitational in 2014. He has the second-most top-10 finishes in the Mexico Championship (seven), trailing only Tiger Woods (12).
Phil Mickelson, 46, is the oldest player in the field this week while Ernie Els, aged 40 years, 4 months, 25 days in 2010, is the oldest winner of the Mexico Championship. Last year's runner-up, Bubba Watson has three second-place finishes in the last five years at the Mexico Championship (second in 2016, tied for second in 2014 and second in 2012).
Twenty-two countries will be represented at the WGC-Mexico Championship this week with the United States leading the way with 27 players in the field. England will be represented by 10 players with Australia and South Africa each having five players each in the field.
The WGC-Mexico Championship marks the 16th official event of the PGA Tour's wraparound 2016-17 season schedule, which consists of 47 tournament including the four FedExCup Playoff events and culminates with the Tour Championship.