Today's Free Picks for
Posted Wednesday, February 28 at 2:10 PM EST.
Cutoff time for this event is 12:30 PM EST.
We’re off to Mexico this week for the World Golf Championship’s tournament south of the border, and a high-quality field will assemble at Golf Club de Chapultepec to battle it out for the big prize. What do we know about this Chapultepec test? Well, not too much, to tell you the truth, as last year was the first instance in which they had hosted an elite-level event but we do know that the picturesque setting offers a healthy test to the world’s best players, with the densely tree-lined fairways offering a unique assignment and unique sight just a matter of weeks shy of Augusta. Measuring 7,267 yards for its Par 71, the parkland-style layout is made up of Kikuyu fairways and Bentgrass/Poa greens. Golf Club de Chapultepec is actually one of the highest altitude courses on the PGA TOUR; sitting some 7,500 feet above sea level. Perhaps that’s why the driving distance leader 12 months ago, Bubba Watson, averaged a lengthy 331 yards off the tee for the week.
This Week's Course Preview:
This might be a piece of real estate located not far from Mexico City, but the layout was actually designed by a pair of Scottish brothers, Willie and Alex Smith. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why the fairways are tree-lined, and the course has a typically European parkland feel. It is said to have the exact same set-up as Riviera, which of course hosted the Genesis Open just two weeks ago. As far as the course’s character is concerned, we are still learning ahead of what will be only the second competitive tournament here of any relevance, although at juncture it is worth pointing out that Dustin Johnson, last year’s winner here, ranked first for Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and Approach.
What we’re looking for this week:
As ever at courses where we only have a very limited statistical background to work with, there will be an element of guesswork this week. The most obvious pointer coming from last year’s hosting was that Golf Club de Chapultepec is a layout where strong iron play is the key. What you do off the tee seems less important – we always want to go long, of course, but the tree-lined fairways dictate where the players will get the heavy artillery out of the bag and where they won’t. We may surmise that Riviera is the perfect lead in for a good turn at Chapultepec: both are tree-lined, both are Bentgrass/Poa, both are Kikuyu and both, when taking altitude into account, are similar yardages. And like that famous venue, this layout in Mexico features scoring opportunities and holes on which to tough it out in equal measure.
One of the abiding memories of Chapultepec was just how many trees lined the fairways, and how thick they were too. If you can’t remember off the top of your head, do have a look on Google Maps: this is one of the densest ‘forestry’ courses that the players will tackle this year. It serves up some kind of comparison with Colonial Country Club (home of the Dean & Deluca) and even Augusta as far as the sight-lines off the tee are concerned. It may be over-egging the pudding a tad, but Dustin Johnson has won here (last year), at Riviera and at Sheshan International; home of the WGC HSBC Champions event. All three are densely tree-lined, so perhaps that is another angle of attack for players to consider this week.
Once again our main focus will be in the head-to-head 72-hole matchups. Two weeks ago, we swept the board in the H2H and last week we avoided getting swept when Dylan Frittelli came through over Louis Oosthuizen as a +140 underdog. We’re also looking for our first outright winner in 2018 and trust we’re on the verge of breaking through.
Unless otherwise stated, the following bets to win outright will be placed at BET365 because of their cash-out option during the event:
Xander Schauffele 55-1
It has been a rather tawdry start to the 2018 campaign for the Rookie of the Year, but the signs are that just lately Schauffele has started to find his groove again. T17 at the Phoenix Open was followed by T9 at Riviera, the latter of which featured a pair of closing 68’s to confirm that the TOUR Championship winner is back to somewhere near his best. The 24-year-old won his first PGA TOUR title on the Bentgrass of the Old White TPC (Greenbrier Classic), and with his tee-to-green game improving at Riviera, there are some nice converging trends to follow with Schauffele (Risking 0.2 units to win 11 units).
Dylan Frittelli 66-1
We played Frittelli last week and in the four days of watching the event on television, we did not see the cameras on him even once. We also played him in DFS and his ownership was 4.1%. We point all this out because it reveals just how much Frittelli is under the radar. The South African offered a mere hint of his talents at the Honda Classic last week, finishing solo 11th and not shooting a round of higher than 72 in what were supremely tough conditions. Frittelli has emerged as a semi-prolific winner on the European Tour, and it is obvious he is brimming with confidence at the moment. He will target a full PGA TOUR card next season, and decent showings in the WGC events is a huge step in the right direction on that front. This is his debut at Chapultepec, but there’s no reason why the layout won’t suit him. It features the Kikuyu grass he is used to from his homeland, while the tree-lined, parkland style of the course is something that Frittelli is well accustomed to on the European Tour. He has bagged top-10’s at a couple of similar tracks – similar in profile, at least – in the Maybank Championship and Shenzhen International. (Risking 0.2 units to win 13.2 units).
Hao-Tong Li 110-1
Hao-Tong Li sat in T26 after 54-holes of the Genesis Open on his first visit to Riviera, and that offers a hint as to the potential that this 22-year-old possesses. Li won on his penultimate start at the Dubai Desert Classic, where he was being chased by Rory McIlroy and Tyrrell Hatton on the championship Sunday. That, and the fact he has won the China Open under intense pressure from his home fans, tells us that this is a fine prospect indeed. The youngster has finished in the top-five at two tree-lined layouts (Shenzhen International 2015, Maybank Championship 2017), and as a confirmed birdie-maker could well be a solid sleeper play to win outright and for a high score for DFS gamers this week. Some of Li’s key stats are Greens in Regulation: 69.37%, Average Putts Per Round: 29.45 and Stroke Average: 70.78. This kid can golf (Risking 0.2 units to win 22 units).
Joost Luiten 100-1
Four of the first six players home in this event 12 months ago were European, and whether that is merely coincidence – we only have one leaderboard to work with, remember – or a sign of something more concrete remains to be seen. One player from the European Tour who really is outstanding with irons in hand is Joost Luiten, and that was the foundation for his victory at the Oman Open just two weeks ago. His form-line extends back to a T11 in Malaysia too, at another tree-lined event hosted by Saujana, and anybody that can finish second at the dastardly Valderrama should be able to do well at the similar (in aesthetics) Chapultepec. One black mark against Luiten’s name is that he has never quite come to the party in majors, which poses the question can he mix it with the big boys? He spoke with such confidence after his win in Oman, however, that we are willing to give him a chance to. Some of his Key Stats (European Tour) are Greens in Regulation – 71%, Driving Accuracy – 62% and Average Putts Per Round – 29.25 (Risking 0.2 units to win 20).
Webb Simpson 60-1
Webb Simpson was off from mid-November (after the RSM Classic) until mid-January and showed a little bit of rust but the time off has appeared to serve him well. Webb Simpson’s putting is on fire and that’s a great place to start. He was one of the worst affected by the anchored putting ban, and went from a major winner to an also-ran in the blink of an eye. Thus four-time PGA TOUR winner hasn’t entered the winner’s circle since 2013 but he is finally getting to grips with a traditional putting stroke, it seems, and he ranked second for Strokes Gained: Putting at PGA National on his way to a T5 finish. In his last four starts, Simpson has two top-five finishes to his name and of those 14 rounds (he missed the cut at the Phoenix Open) eight have been in the 60s, six have been 67 or lower and there have been none worse than 72. Those stats are only of minor relevance based upon the ease of scoring at the events mentioned, but it shows that Simpson is playing consistently well at the moment no matter whether it is a birdie-fest (T4 at the Sony Open) or more of a grind (T5 at the Honda Classic). Simpson is on the verge of a win (Risking 0.2 units to win 12).
Head-to-head Matchups for the WGC-Mexico Championship
HEAD-TO-HEAD MATCHUPS for the WGC-Mexico Championship
The quality of talent at this level is getting better every year and there are literally between 45 and 50 golfers every event that have a truly legit chance to win but we can’t bet them all. To pick a winner outright is a big time challenge but the real money in these events is in the head-to-head challenges and that’s where our bread and butter will be earned. We may post daily head-to-heads as well so keep your eye out for those. In the meantime, the H2H wagers below are for 72 holes:
Paul Casey -117 over Sergio Garcia (BET 365)
Sergio has not shot under 70 in his last five rounds and is getting ready to defend his title at Augusta in just a few short weeks. Garcia has won many events over the years and finally got a monkey off his back when he won his first Major last April at the Masters. He’s accomplished everything now so these events leading up to the majors are less motivating for pros his age (unless you are Phil Mickelson of course, who treats every event like it’s the last time he’ll ever play).
As far as straight shooting goes, Paul Casey is a safe bet this week. He thrives in approach play tests like this, and the presence of a few trees off the tee won’t faze him. This is a guy who has also won at Wentworth and who routinely plays well at Augusta, too. Casey finished 11th at the Honda Classic last year but chose to miss it this year, which is a good sign that his focus was on this event. He finished 16 th here last year but the fact that he chose this one over the Honda Classic tells us he’s anxious to get back on this course after firing away a 66 and 67 respectively in the final two rounds. Casey ranks 4th ON TOUR in SG: Tee-to-Green, 14 th in SG: Approach and 23rd in Par Breakers. Man, does he look ready for this event (Risking 2.34 units to win 2).
Gary Woodland always gets attention in events like these because he’s long off the tee but we don’t see him thriving in any tree-lined events like this one. No Dean & DeLuca, no Riviera other than a missed cut in 2013 and some awful returns at the Masters (missed cut last year in 2017 and missed cut in 2015), strongly suggests that Woodland is very uncomfortable in these tree-lined settings. Incidentally, he missed the Masters in 2016 but a research of his history shows an avoidance of playing when the fairways are heavily lined with trees like they are here. We previewed Schauffele in our to win outright section and if we like his chances to win, we surely like his chances to beat Woodland (Risking 2 units to win 2.22 units).
What we have here is a young and very motivated Joost Luiten up against a Master’s winner already that seems to be more interested in spending time on his farm that accomplishing great feats in this sport. Charl Schwartzel is a good golfer when he plays often and when he’s highly motivated but with just seven events played over the past five months and four very average rounds two weeks ago at the comparable Genesis Open (71, 73, 73 and 74), we’re very interested in fading him again. At last year’s Genesis, Charl missed the cut. He played at this event last year and finished 38th but he shot a 75 in the final round and we see plenty of poor final rounds since.
Just like with Schauffele above, we have Luiten to win outright and so we’re thrilled to find him in a H2H matchup against Schwartzel. We also love that Pinnacle has an unknown like Luiten favored over a well-known pro like Schwartzel in an event that is close to the Masters (Risking 2.2 units to win 2).
Alex Noren -125 over Sergio Garcia (BET 365)
Alex Noren is featured in three H2H matchups between Pinnacle Sports and BET365. One can bet him against Phil Mickelson (-123), Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose at +107. That Pinnacle has Noren matched up against the great Justin Rose prompts us to play Noren against Garcia at the less sharper book, BET365. Justin Rose recently won the Sheshan International, which is comparable to this course. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find a golfer in better form than Rose. Rose has finished 8, 22, 1, 10, 4, 1, 1, 10, 2, 10 and 10th respectively in his last 11 events. That’s pretty sick and goes to prove just how highly Pinnacle thinks of Noren to match him up against Rose in the H2H. We faded Garcia against Casey and we can surely do the same here.
Twice in the span of four weeks has Alex Noren been involved in a close scrap for the title, and that is an indication that he has played well and truly found his feet on American soil. The Swede has made himself into a semi prolific winner on the European Tour, but as we know, translating that pedigree onto the PGA TOUR and into big WGC events like this does not come automatically. However, it’s pleasing to see that Noren is competing hard in strong field Tour events. Having missed out at the Farmers Insurance Open in a playoff, he finished T16 in the tough Genesis Open and T3 at the Honda Classic last week. Thus, the form is strong, and another feather in Noren’s cap is that he won at another tree-infested layout, Wentworth, to claim the BMW PGA Championship in 2017. Key Stats are that Noren ranks 12 th ON TOUR in SG: Approach, 16th in SG: Tee-to-Green and 30th in Par 4 Birdie or Better Leaders (Risking 2.5 units to win 2).
For Fantasy Players:
Horse for the Course: Justin Thomas
It would be easy to accuse anyone of backing Justin Thomas of ‘after-timing’ by drafting him this week, but the truth is that he has a history of piecing together outstanding performances. You may recall the run at the tail-end of last season which secured him his first major title and the FedEx Cup honors: first in the PGA Championship, JT would follow up by winning the Dell Technologies Championship, finishing second in the TOUR Championship and T6 in the Northern Trust; all within the space of five outings. And that followed another rich vein of connected form earlier in the campaign, where he won back-to-back on the Hawaiian Swing at the Tournament of Champions and Sony Open.
His win at the Honda Classic last week came as no fluke either, as he led the field in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green – second in Approach too – and so the crucial aspect this week on this ‘second shot course’ is looking strong from Thomas’ perspective. He also ranked sixth on Approach at Riviera, so we’ve no doubt that his form can be repeated this week. The bulk of his career victories – and that’s seven on the PGA TOUR in the space of 18 months, by the way – have come on Bermuda, but that’s not to say that Thomas cannot turn his hand to Poa/Bentgrass either. He has triumphed in the CJ Cup and Dell Technologies Championship on the surface, and lest we forget he led here at the 54-hole mark 12 months ago.
It’s natural for a drop-off in form from an event winner, but JT has proven himself in the past to remain motivated from week-to-week, and the riches on offer in Mexico this week – plus the fact he has never won a WGC event before – should be motivation enough to secure another strong showing from the 24-year-old.
Others worth considering:
It would appear that once again, the salary-makers have largely overlooked Russell Henley. The 28-year-old is enjoying a decent run of form at the moment, and brings with him a hot hand that has survived the testing conditions of PGA National (T24 in the Honda Classic – inside the top-10 at the halfway mark) and enjoyed a decent turn at the rather friendly AT&T Pebble Beach (T15). Henley has a T11 to his name at the tree-framed Augusta National, and won at the less arboricultural but tree-heavy nonetheless Waialae as well.
The above are just suggestions to help you along with your roster, as there are dozens more we could have easily profiled too. You have to mix and match to come up with a roster and hopefully finish in the money. If you are stuck, you can always Tweet me to ask about a low-priced golfer to fill out your roster and I would be happy to assist you. For instance, you might have 6800.00 left for one player and need the best choice in that range. I can usually give you a strong suggestion.
Alex Noren -125 over Sergio Garcia = -2.50 units
Paul Casey -117 over Sergio Garcia + - 2.34 units
5 golfers to win outright @ 0.2 units each = -1 unit
Therefore 5.84 units in losses - 4.22 units in win = a net loss for this event of 1.62 units
Open an account today at Pinnacle Sports
They offer win-only odds in the outrights and for the PGA, European, Champions and LPGA Tours only, but they make up for this in terms of value in their matchups. They consistently offer unique tournament matchups for the PGA which at 10-20 cent lines and no ties are the best on offer in the business.
WGC-Mexico Championship (Risking 9.84 units - To Win: 0.00)