A slap in the face

The Tour heads south of the border for this year's WGC-Mexico Championship. The first World Golf Championship of the year will have 45 of the top 50 players in the world rankings in attendance. Defending champion and world number one Dustin Johnson is playing, but superstars Jason Day and Rory McIlroy passed on the trip to Mexico. Full field

Last year

DJ took home the first playing of the WGC-Mexico beating Tommy Fleetwood by one shot. The win was the second in a three-win stretch last season leading up to the Masters, where a tumble forced him out of the season's first major championship. Another memory from last year's event was Phil Mickelson, who played his way into contention despite driving it horribly. He was peak Phil during Saturday's round, shooting a 3-under 68 while only hitting 4/14 fairways and 8/18 greens. The round also included three consecutive free drops from wayward tee shots on holes 10-12.

The course

The host course, Club de Golf Chapultepec, is a 7,330-yard par-71 setup. The course plays at 7,500 ft of elevation, which makes the ball fly roughly 15% further and making the course play closer to 6,300 yards. The course was completed in 1917 and underwent a renovation in 1972. To say the course is tight is an understatement; it’s reminiscent of a bowling alley. It also has severe sloping greens. Last year saw a leaderboard populated with bombers who were able to cut corners and drive it on or near greens with regularity.

The course showcases common problems associated with older golf courses in North, Latin and South America. Chapultepec is over-treed, and the greens have shrunk from their original size. These problems cause the course to play to a shell of its original design and limit the different shot options and strategy that players can employ. The trees and claustrophobic feel of the course make scoring more difficult. Unfortunately, they limit the variety and different shot options afforded to players. It’s a test of execution rather than skill and thought. Chapultepec is the best example of what it would be like to watch professional golf played at your local municipal.

Storylines

One year later
Last year, Tommy Fleetwood entered the WGC-Mexico Championship as a relative unknown to American golf fans. Fleetwood finished solo second (and had an epic high-five fail) as the 55th-ranked player in the world. He backed up the strong finish in Mexico with a spectacular 12-month stretch that included two wins and a fourth place finish at the U.S. Open. Fleetwood is now ranked 11th in the world rankings and enters the tournament as a favorite on the verge of superstar status.

Scheduling
When the WGC moved from Doral to Mexico, it created a snag in the PGA Tour's "Florida Swing". The seamless transition of the Honda Classic to Monday's Seminole Pro-Member, followed by a short drive to Doral, is now a flight to Mexico City. The increased travel is causing a lower participation rate… always a shame when headlines surround who isn't there rather than who is.

Hungry for a win...
47-year-old Phil Mickelson has put together an impressive stretch of golf, finishing in the top 6 in his last three starts. Mickelson is in search of his first win since the 2013 Open Championship. After his latest high finish, a t6th at Riviera, Mickelson told CBS that he needed a win before the Masters to feel good about his chances of winning. He returns to Chapultepec, a course where he found himself in contention despite a poor week off the tee.

Free money
One of the benefits of being one of the best players in the world is the free money that comes along with WGC Events. The last place finisher this week will earn a $50k check.

Paulie's Picks

Without much course history to go off of, Paulie is leaning on players’ history playing at high altitude amongst other things. Check out who Paulie likes for DraftKings and one-and-done leagues.

The latest podcast

Arron Oberholser joins the podcast to catch up on the start of the PGA Tour season. We kick off the conversation discussing a few San Francisco golf courses and the notion of score to par vs. shot values for professional golf. We then dive into Justin Thomas, Tiger Woods, the WGC schedule and much more. Listen to the podcast on iTunesStitcher or the website.

Berger's triumph

Daniel Berger and Tom Wall won the Seminole-Member in a scorecard playoff over Cameron Tringale and Mike McCoy and Chase Wright and Sam Babington. If you want more scores, I posted a few others on Twitter.

Down to 4

We are down to the final four in #LogoMadness. Today Merion will square off against Sleepy Hollow in one semifinal and Pasatiempo and Winged Foot in the other. Cast your vote on Instagram and Twitter this morning.

The end of the era

The USGA announced a change to their playoff system for the U.S. Open. Out with the longstanding tradition of the 18-hole Monday playoff, and in with a 2-hole aggregate variety. Golf's governing body's change is in hopes of ensuring Sunday finishes for its premier championship. As a longtime fan of the game, I am disappointed. While I understand the added logistics and issues that could arise from a Monday playoff, it was pretty cool. One of my most vivid memories will always be watching Tiger Woods and Rocco Mediate duke it out for 18 holes at the 2008 U.S. Open. Now we get the obscure two-hole playoff. A number, it seems, that the USGA picked to be different from the Open and PGA Championship’s respective three and four-hole systems.

Walker Cup venue
The R&A announced that the Old Course at St. Andrews will host the 2023 Walker Cup. The Old Course joins an illustrious list of future Walker Cup hosts that includes Royal Liverpool in 2019, Seminole in 2021 and Cypress Point in 2025.

Campus Update with Will Knights

Texas A&M is officially heating up. They won their second tournament in a row and fifth overall by outlasting Illinois at the Louisiana Classics. Sophomore Dan Erickson led the charge for the Aggies by shooting three rounds in the 60s and earned medalist honors. A&M shot -29 as a team and beat the Illini by 8 shots. Things are starting to look up for Illinois as well as they placed 3 players in the top 6 and 5 in the top 20. Kent State rounded out the top 3 by shooting -13 for the tournament.

It was an all-out birdie festival in Arizona at the National Invitational Tournament. UNLV won the tournament at -50 with four other teams getting to -24 or better. The Running Rebels shot -18 as a team on the final day to win by 12 shots. The worst score that they counted for the week was -2. Shintaro Ban won the tournament at -16 individually.

Elsewhere, UCLA ran away with the Southwestern Invitational, beating second-place Pepperdine by 20. TCU outlasted Georgia by a shot at the Wexford Plantation Intercollegiate, and Florida State won their home tournament by 9.

Up next

Later this week, I will be recording a few new episodes of The Yolk with Doak. The podcast topics will be on:

  • The routing process
  • The Loop and Michigan Golf

Submit your questions for Tom here, and if you have missed any of our previous seven episodes, listen to them all here.

Recommended reads from around the web

Jason Way conducted a wonderful interview with Sand Hills Superintendent Kyle Hegland. It includes course commentary from Kyle and a photo tour with Jon Cavalier photos.

SB Nation's Spencer Hall wrote an excellent piece encapsulating the scene at the Waste Management Open.

Stephen A. Smith had a horrible take on Tiger's return. Golf.com's Dylan Dethier wrote an accurate and funny breakdown of each of Stephen A's statements (includes Stephen A. rant).

Quick hooks

Justin Thomas had a hole-in-one last year that was announced by a Mexican futbol announcer.