After a week of getting battered by strong winds in Florida, many of the world’s best players will head to the rather calmer climes of Mexico for this week’s money-spinning golf outing.
These WGC events are invite-only, with the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Rankings getting the call along with a handful of selected performers from the European, Asian and Sunshine (South Africa) tours.
Some turn down the invitation – Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Henrik Stenson will be notable by their absence this week, but most take the opportunity to tee up against high quality opposition just a matter of weeks away from the year’s first major, The Masters.
Indeed, this week’s host venue, Golf Club de Chapultepec, does a pretty handy impersonation of Augusta National, the Masters’ location, so keeping an eye on who plays well this week could be a really handy guide.
Chapultepec isn’t as difficult as Augusta, by any stretch of the imagination, but actually it does offer similar aesthetics. Many of the fairways are lined with dense trees, with narrows the landing area and changes the players’ sight lines off the tee, and a number of the greens are ‘raised’, meaning that approach shots have to hit with a higher trajectory to land nearer the hole. It’s a unique test, and we’ll be taking notes on how the players do this week, that’s for sure.
From a punting perspective, these events are always tough to decipher. This is a smaller field than usual – roughly 65 men instead of the typical 150 or so – and that is factored into shorter prices than we might normally expect. Conversely, we have many of the world’s best players here….so picking a winner is devilishly tricky!
For that reason, it is wise to avoid the outright winner market as there really is no margin to be had. The top six in the betting are all priced sub 20/1, and trying to pick one over the rest is a thankless task.
Instead, let’s explore the sub-markets for profit potential.
Top 10 Finish
One of the noticeable features of last year’s WGC Mexico – the first hosting of this event, by the way – was that four of the top six were Europeans.
Coincidence? Possibly, although the tree-lined, parkland set-up at Chapultepec does have a distinctly European look to it.
If we assume that there is some truth to that narrative, then backing players from the continent is a wise move – and we’re happy to take a look at Paul Casey, who is available at around the 3/1 mark for a top-10 finish.
These sub-markets are purpose built for someone like Casey, who is not a prolific winner by any means but who churns out top 10/20 finishes at a consistent rate.
The Englishman has won at Wentworth – a classic tree-lined parkland stretch – and regularly plays well at Augusta, so the presence of some dense shrubbery will not put off the 40-year-old.
Casey has finished inside the top-10 in two of his last five starts, with another of those being a tie for eleventh.
Golf is over-run with exciting young talents at the moment, and one that appears set to sit at the sport’s top table for years to come is Tony Finau.
The 28-year-old has been something of a slow burner, steadily improving with each passing season, and while he does have one PGA Tour title to his name he will certainly be looking to add to that collection in 2018 and beyond.
He nearly did so in his last start, finishing in a tie for second behind Bubba Watson at the Genesis Open. That was an eye-catching performance, as the host venue there – the Riviera Club – is notoriously difficult. According to the stats Finau was better than everyone else from tee-to-green, and so we can expect another decent showing from him in slightly easier surroundings this week.
One area of weakness for the Nike athlete is putting, although he tends to perform much better on these Poa/Bentgrass greens than he does on Bermuda, so that’s another feather in his cap this week. At 7/2 for a Top 10 Finish, he is worth investing in.
Top 20 Finish
You can forgive the bookmakers for being rather cagey with their prices in this market for a 65-man field: a player only needs to finish inside the top 30% or so to cash!
So the odds are suitably short and we’ve just one play to consider: Joost Luiten, at a juicy 13/5.
The Dutchman won on his last start at the Oman Open, and that was a win that was a long time coming given how well he has been striking the ball of late.
Luiten’s iron play is absolutely first class, and with Chapultepec considered as something of a ‘second shot course’ he really should enjoy himself here.
The 32-year-old has fared well at tree-lined tracks in the past, and it should be noted that he finished 25th here last year when out of form.