Tommy Fleetwood is now in the upper echelons of professional golf and accordingly he is fifth favourite for the WGC Mexico Championship and a leading contender. He was outside the top 100 in the world rankings at the start of 2016 but is now at a career high of number 11 in the current standings. The logical career step is to win a major championship or WGC event and that could happen this week in Mexico. Fleetwood combines course and current form and should be suited to the host course.
The purpose of the golf world championship concept is to bring together the best players in the world more often. Before the WGC tournaments were added to the calendar it was only in the four majors that the leading players from all the tours competed in the same tournament. WGC events count for European Tour events so a player can count them in his required quota of appearances to keep his card. The top 10 players in the betting are US PGA tour players.
In the context of providing more competition for the world’s best the event in Mexico is slightly disappointing. Any tournament that attracts six of the top 10 players in the world rankings must be doing something right but that means four are missing and this is a world championship event. World number one, Dustin Johnson, is the favourite and last week’s winner of the Honda Classic, Justin Thomas, is the second. Fleetwood is as short as 16/1 to build on his top five finish in the States last week.
The absentees from the top 10 in the rankings are Hideki Matsuyama, Jason Day, Brooks Koepka and Rory McIlroy. The latter is now focusing on the US Masters, the one major he requires to complete the career Grand Slam which only five players in the history of the sport have achieved. A trip to Mexico for a tournament in alien conditions does not fit into the schedule despite its WGC status and prize money. McIlroy would probably swap 10 WGC events for that elusive Masters which would cement his place in the history of the sport.
Johnson is the defending champion on the same course that hosted the event last year. Chapultepec Golf Club is a par 71 track measuring 7,330 yards which is about average in length by modern standards. There is only one par 5 on the front nine and the three long holes are 625, 622 and 575 yards in length so won’t be giving up many eagle opportunities. Johnson beat Fleetwood by one shot last year and the same players could be in the mix again but Fleetwood can come out on top this time.
If Justin Rose wins this week he will become just the third player to win at WGC level twice in succession and only Johnson and Tiger Woods have done that in the past. Jon Rahm has played in four WGC events and has made the top three two times. There is a limited field this week of about 64 players so there is no cut and everybody receives a cheque. This is a small but select field with just a few qualified players absent and the cream usually comes to the top. Past champions in its previous guise include Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, all major champions.
Fleetwood won the Race to Dubai last season but is not a one hit wonder. He is one of the most consistent players in the world and won the high class Abu Dhabi Championship in January. Fleetwood can get the job done at WGC level in Mexico this week. That would set him up nicely for the Masters Tournament. McIlroy has his name on the Green Jacket but this could be Fleetwood’s week.