Mexico stages its first ever WGC Championship this week and last year the event was played at Doral – the complex owned by Donald Trump! There is another link between Mexico and the President of the United States which we won’t go into but Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Sergio Garcia can overcome all the obstacles and the best players in the world to contend at the first world golf championship event of the year. The course puts a premium on accuracy over distance.
The Mexico Championship is being played at Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City. At less than 7,400 yards in length the course is short by modern standards and with a par of 71 could be vulnerable. However, its defences include tight tree-lined fairways and undulating greens. Players must find the right areas of the fairways to make approach shots more manageable but there will be many missed greens this week. Driving accuracy, greens in regulation and putting are the key skills.
The field is by far the strongest of the year to date and only majors will have a better cast. Only one players from the top 50 in the world rankings will be absent. There are six current or former world number ones playing in Mexico and the winners of 16 Major Championships in total. The entry list also features 29 players who have played in the Ryder Cup, five former winners and six champions from this season’s Race To Dubai. Forty nine of 65 WGC winners are also major champions so these events do bring together the best players in the world more often.
Dustin Johnson plays for the first time as the world number one but the course does not suit his game. He clearly has few weaknesses but long and straight driving gives him an edge over the rest of the field. Those qualities will not be so important this week and control off the tee more than distance will be required for good scoring. Jordan Spieth looks better equipped but Jason Day seems to be suffering with ailments all the time and Rory McIlroy returns from injury and might not be match sharp.
Johnson won this event at Doral two years ago in Trump’s back yard but declined to say anything nasty about his host. Golfers tend to stick to what they do best which is to play golf. McIlroy got terrible stick for playing golf with Trump but as he said he wasn’t endorsing any views or making a statement and he was merely playing golf with an old acquaintance. It will be interesting to see how Merseyside Police cope if Trump turns up at the Open at Birkdale in July when he could be in the country.
Henrik Stenson is probably the second most famous professional sportsman from Sweden. Even when he won the British Open last year Zlatan still got more coverage in the media and a golfer will never put the great Ibra in the shade. Stenson would need to win the golf Grand Slam, Boat Race, Grand National and Sweden’s version of Strictly Come Dancing to get more column inches than Ibrahimovic, a shoe in to be Player of the Year in England this season. Stenson also looks a good thing for the Mexico Championship because accuracy to the fairways and greens is his thing.
In Spain footballers are the kings despite the tradition of producing famous and iconic golfers. It would be interesting to see the results of a Family Fortunes type survey along the lines of “we asked 100 Spanish men to name a sportsman”. Would Severiano Ballesteros get more votes than Andreas Iniesta and how many would Sergio get? He has a game suited to conditions this week but winning the Mexico Championship would probably not increase his mentions. One day if he wins that elusive major championship he would become as famous as football players.
In 1998 Justin Rose did dominate the sports pages but that was in July when there was no domestic football. As a teenager he came fourth in the Open at Birkdale that year and immediately turned professional. He missed loads of cuts but rebuilt his career and is now a major champion and regular winner on the US PGA Tour. Rose is another greens and fairways merchant and a solid putter so can excel this week in Mexico but I’m not sure if Mister Trump will be in attendance.