[This article originally appeared on FanSided.]
PGA Tour fans will get to witness a new spin on an old event this week — formerly known as the WGC-Cadillac Championship, the newly christened WGC-Mexico Championship will kick off on Thursday at Club de Golf Chapultepec, a well-regarded track just outside of Mexico City.
This PGA Tour season will be the first one in more than 50 years to not include an event at the tournament’s former site, the Blue Monster course at Trump National Doral. In what officials insisted was a non-political decision, the WGC’s move south of the border was announced last spring. It’s hard to guess how the new course will play, but judging from the length and layout, it seems as though competent ball strikers will have the biggest edge over the rest of the field.
In last year’s event, Adam Scott came out on top to notch his second victory in as many weeks. He’ll be back to defend his title this week, but he’ll have to beat a sterling field in order to get it done. Without further ado, let’s get to my weekly projections. Here are 10 of the best bets for success at the WGC-Mexico.
1. Dustin Johnson
Five top-six finishes in last six starts
It’s been remarkable to watch Johnson’s transformation over the past couple of seasons. He was always a star, but through renewed focus and a totally revitalized wedge game, he made his major breakthrough last year and has won four PGA Tour events since last summer. Last week, he finally rose to the top spot in the World Ranking, but he now faces an infinitely tougher task: staying there. He appears to have both the form and the skill set to enjoy a long run at the summit of the game. His victory at the Genesis Open two weeks ago was his fifth top-six finish in his last six worldwide starts, a stretch that dates back to last December’s Hero World Challenge. While Chapultepec may end up rewarding ball striking over power off the tee, he has the putting skills to score anywhere — he ranked third in the field in strokes gained: putting at Riviera. On the season, he leads the PGA Tour in both strokes gained: tee-to-green and total strokes gained, the second one by a healthy margin. Johnson will enter this week on the heels of a recent victory, but don’t expect a hangover.
2. Jordan Spieth
Six Top 10s in last seven starts
Spieth has been hot out of the gate in the new PGA Tour season, finding the top 25 in each of his first five starts and winning at Pebble Beach just a few weeks ago. That kind of consistency isn’t an anomaly for him — in fact, Spieth’s last event that didn’t result in a top 25 was last summer’s Open Championship, so you’d be crazy to think he won’t be able to get at least something going this week. On the new season, he leads the PGA Tour in both strokes gained: approach-the-green and greens in regulation and ranks third in birdie average, so he appears to have all the skills required to make a run at Chapultepec.
3. Rickie Fowler
Won last week’s Honda Classic
With a tie for fourth at the Waste Management Phoenix Open earlier this month and a victory at the Honda Classic just last week, Fowler is one of the hottest players on the PGA Tour at the moment. He was statistically solid across the board at PGA National, especially on the greens — with the help of a couple of back nine bombs on Sunday, he ranked second in the field in strokes gained: putting. He also tied for fifth in sand saves and was in the top 20 in greens in regulation, so his game is working as it should be as he prepares to head south of the border.
4. Henrik Stenson
Six consecutive Top 10s
Since returning from the knee injury that sidelined him from the last two rounds of the FedEx Cup playoffs, Stenson has been relentless, finishing inside the top 10 in every one of his six starts. That stretch includes runner-up finishes at the WGC-HSBC Champions, the Hero World Challenge and his most recent event, the Dubai Desert Classic — simply put, he’s a threat to win every time he tees it up. He’s also found the top 11 in four of his last six World Golf Championship starts, so he’s established a track record of success against the best of the best.
5. Adam Scott
Won last year’s WGC-Cadillac Championship
Scott hasn’t missed out on the top 15 in any of his last seven starts dating back to mid-October; that stretch includes a solo third at the Australian PGA Championship in December and a tie for 14th at the Honda Classic, where he was also the defending champion, just last week. He brought his A-game to PGA National, ranking fifth in the field in strokes gained: approach-the-green and tied for 10th in putts per green in regulation, skills that should come in handy next week. On the new PGA Tour season, he ranks ninth in total strokes gained.
6. Hideki Matsuyama
Won Phoenix Open
Matsuyama has been on a tear for much of the winter, reeling off five victories on two different continents between October and early February. That stretch includes a pair of wins in Japan as well as a recent victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, so he’s been beating all kinds of different players around the world. While he missed the cut in his last start at the Genesis Open, his form has been reliable on the whole, so I’m willing to trust him as we head into unfamiliar territory this week.
7. Tyrrell Hatton
Nine consecutive Top 25s
Hatton has found the top 25 in each of his last nine worldwide starts dating back to last October. Over that stretch, he’s picked up three podium finishes — a win at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, a solo second at the DP World Tour Championship and a tie for third at the Dubai Desert Classic — so we know he has what it takes to contend for trophies. On the 2017 season, he ranks fifth on the European Tour in scrambling and fourth in scoring average; what’s more, he ranked sixth in the field in strokes gained: putting at last week’s Honda Classic, where he tied for fourth in his tournament debut.
8. Gary Woodland
Five Top 20s in last six starts
Woodland has demonstrated good form over the past few weeks, finding the top 20 in five of his last six starts. That stretch includes a solo second at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba — the PGA Tour’s only other event in Mexico — as well as a share of runner-up honors at the Honda Classic just last week. At PGA National, Woodland ranked fifth in the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green and tied for seventh in greens in regulation, so he should be able to give himself plenty of opportunities to score this week.
9. Jon Rahm
Two top fives in last three starts
Rahm made major headlines with his win at the Farmers Insurance Open last month, and he hasn’t slowed down since then, posting back-to-back top 16 finishes at TPC Scottsdale and Pebble Beach. After a busy stretch to open the new year, he’s taken it easy since Pebble, so he should be recharged for this week’s event. As we’ve seen over the past year, he’s not thrown off by unfamiliar courses. He also ranks third on the new PGA Tour season in total strokes gained and is eighth in birdie average, a testament to just how good he can be when he’s on.
10. Francesco Molinari
Seven Top 15s in last eight starts
Molinari has been almost impervious since the calendar turned to 2017, finishing inside the top 15 in three of his four starts; his only mishap came with a missed cut at Riviera, where he’s never performed well. The 34-year-old tied for seventh in the field in greens in regulation at PGA National, so he should have no trouble scoring this week. In addition, he ranks ninth on the new season in strokes gained: approach-the-green, as well as fourth in driving accuracy, so he has the ability to attack this week’s course in more ways than one.