With a lack of course history to draw upon, there’s not many trends that can be derived from past winners of the event. This is especially true when you compare the two men who won at Club Chapultepec and the strengths of their games:
- 2018 – Phil Mickelson
- 2017 – Dustin Johnson
In 2017, Dustin Johnson put on a ball-striking laser show with his irons. Taking advantage of the high altitude, Johnson could afford to hit long iron off most tees to shorten up the golf course for his advantage. And combined with some great play from the fairways, Dustin Johnson’s world-class talent was on full display as he squeaked by Tommy Fleetwood by a stroke to win the tournament.
Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson took home the trophy in a little different fashion. While he was good from tee-to-green, it was mostly his work on and around the greens that propelled him to the win. By fending off a hard-charging Justin Thomas in a playoff, Phil took home his first trophy in almost four and a half years.
Both golfers took different roads to the win at Club Chapultepec. In 2017, Dustin Johnson ranked 1st in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green, 26th in Strokes Gained – Off-the-Tee, 1st in Strokes Gained – Approach, and 21st in Strokes Gained – Putting during his victory. For his win, Phil Mickelson ranked 12th in Strokes Gained – Tee-to-Green, 19th in Strokes Gained – Off-the-Tee, 12th in Strokes Gained – Approach, and 3rd in Strokes Gained – Putting.
Because of the mixed messaging between the two years, I’ll primarily be relying on how well players have been hitting tee-to-green heading into this week, as that is a much more stable metric to predict future performance than putting is.
Who will win this year? Here are my picks (with odds courtesy of mybookie.ag):
Dustin Johnson – 11/1: It’s a tough choice between him and Justin Thomas of the heavy favorites to back at Chapultepec, but despite Justin Thomas’s ungodly iron play I’m a little concerned with how erratic he’s been off the tee this year. With all the trees guarding each fairway, he might put himself in jail off-the-tee and have it be the reason why he falls short yet again.
Instead, I’ll back Dustin Johnson to take home his first victory of the 2018-2019 PGA Tour year and win at Chapultepec for the second time in three years. Dustin Johnson started off slow at the Genesis by continuing his struggles on his approach shots and around the green like he did at Pebble Beach. But over his next three rounds he gained over six shots tee-to-green to quietly sneak into the Top 10. With his game back in control, Dustin Johnson is peaking as he heads to a golf course he’s had tremendous success at.
Xander Schauffele – 20/1: Like Dustin Johnson, Xander Schauffele also got off to a slow start at the Genesis Open before putting together three solid rounds to scrape out a solid finish. Xander shot an opening round 74 to put him in danger of missing the cut, but shot -9 over his next three rounds to quietly climb all the way to a T15 finish. He also struck the ball much better in that stretch, gaining almost 7.5 strokes on the field tee-to-green over his final three rounds. Schauffele tends to rise to big occasions, and it would be no surprise if he checked off his third win of the year at Chapultepec.
Marc Leishman – 30/1: I love where Marc Leishman’s form is right now. Big Leish has five Top 5 finishes in his last seven starts and is just a ball-striking machine. It was on full display again last week at the Genesis Open where he was 8th on the tournament in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green and 4th in Strokes Gained – Approach. Leishman is also rolling the rock very well of late, averaging just over 0.8 strokes gained on the greens in his last four tournaments. Despite a shaky showing at Club Chapultepec last year, everything about the state of his game right now suggests his second victory of the season is just around the corner.
Tommy Fleetwood – 40/1: Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me three times…seek help immediately? This will be my third week in a row touting Fleetwood in either DFS or as a candidate to win the tournament, yet like a mental patient I just can’t quit him with how well he’s hitting his irons. For the second week in a row, Fleetwood was awful with his ball-striking in his first round, and while that marketedly improved over his final three he couldn’t get anything going with his putter. Nevertheless, Fleetwood has demonstrated that he favors the layout of Chapultepec, finishing runner up in 2017 and T14 last year to rally from a slow start. One of these days I’ll be right on him – and hopefully it’s this week.
Xander Schauffele -120 over Phil Mickelson: I’ve already fawned enough over the X-Man, so let’s turn our attention instead to his counterpart of the matchup.
Phil has been excellent this year and he’s the defending champion of this event, so going against him is not an easy pill to swallow. Nevertheless, Phil is 48 years old, playing in his fourth tournament in a row and fifth in the last six weeks, and looked noticeably fatigued as he limped to the finish line at the Genesis Open after playing nearly 50 holes between Saturday and Sunday. Like at Pebble Beach, the Genesis was cold, wet and windy, and I have to imagine that putting Phil up at 8,000 feet is going to cause a bit of an endurance issue for him. Because of that, I’m looking to fade him at Chapultepec.
Shane Lowry +105 over Billy Horschel: I love the correlation between Club Chapultepec and Valderrama Golf Club, and when you look a golfers with success at Valderamma there’s not many with as much as Shane Lowry. Lowry has played Valderrama four times and has two Top 5 finishes and a low finish of T18. While Lowry disappointed at Pebble Beach, he’s been superb during his transition back as a primary European Tour member with a win in Abu Dhabi and ranks 5th on the season in Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green. That’s enough for me to back him as an underdog against Billy Horschel, who’s been rather pedestrian since his hot streak during the FedEx Cup last summer.
Ian Poulter -105 over Henrik Stenson: This is a battle between my heart and my head. I love Henrik Stenson and I hate Ian Poulter. But something is definitely amiss with Henrik Stenson’s game of late. He’s missed the cut in his last three tournaments, and unfortunately he hasn’t played enough rounds to qualify in any strokes gained statistics to diagnose why.
When looking at more rudimentary statistics, Stenson seems to be struggling with his putting and is showing inconsistent ball-striking on his approach shots. While Stenson has mixed in a few round where he’s been a Greens-in-Regulation Machine like fans know him as, he’s had just as many clunkers thrown in there as well. And the fact he missed the cut in events he historically shows strong, that’s a flashing red siren on the state of his game.
While this will be the first time both have played at Club Chapultepec, I’ll back Ian Poulter on this prop. Poulter has three straight Top 10 finishes world wide and showed good ball-striking figures in each of his two PGA Tour events in 2019.