By James Dalthorp
BEAST DOME NATION.
Showtime. As strong as the field was at Riviera, there’s always next week – and this week starts early on Wednesday and we all know that’s good news. It was a tough week at Riviera – and with so many prominent names missing cut by just a shot, there’s plenty of relief this week with the NO-CUT World Golf Championship event at Club de Golf Chapultepec.
This golf course is four years old in PGA TOUR years, so this should be a nice return trip for many. Although it’s a bit surprising, there are many of the top players last week who have withdrew. Tiger, Tony Finau, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, and Justin Rose will be among the list of top ranked players not making the trip. It’s a bit surprising considering that this is a no-cut event with a big purse in a peak time before the Masters – but the best players know when to rest and surely a week of playing the Riv will welcome a bit of a break.
At altitude, this course will play pretty short and it’s very traditional looking. If you remembers some of the recent telecast here, we’ve got a drivable par 4 first hole and some very subtle undulations that almost make this course look flatter than it already is – which it happens to be very plain. Driving accuracy will be important here – and we’ve seen some nice hole-outs from Justin Thomas in recent memory. He will be here – along with a few other top dogs. Here’s my top 6.
If you’re looking for consistency and steady play right now, Xander is your best best on the board this week. Consider this: the ball tends to bounce a lot on these firmer greens (like a trampoline at times) and it’s important to have a background of knowing where the ball lands. Those soft conditions in San Diego have served well as Xander’s home base. He’s primed for a win after the letdown on Maui, he’ll be a popular pick this week for good reason at his value.
2. DUSTIN JOHNSON
Great history here. 2 for 3 wins at this event. Puts a ton of spin on the ball. Can drive greens with irons. Hits the ball great. Strolls around with relative ease. Easy decision.
3. RORY MCILROY
Slower, poa annua greens should be a welcome change for Rory. He made some mistakes last week that would normally not happen at an event where there is less crazy trouble around the greens. Like here! I favor Rory over some of the hard hitters. If he’s upset about how last week ended, he’ll take it out on this place and could potentially leave a dent.
4. WEBB SIMPSON
Adam Scott has shown promise when on a hot streak – but he’s not Webb Simpson right now. The win in Phoenix was an outright uppercut to the jaw and his success of late is impressive. I think we’re going to see Webb’s career best season. I like his Titleist golf ball around this place and I think he controls his spin into the final round with great success.
5. KURT KITAYAMA
A little build up: finished T28 in the WGC HSBC Champions in November, played well in Europe with a T6 at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, finished T18 at the AT&T here on poa annua greens like these two weeks ago. Great experience, learning the ropes, having a nice season. Go for it. Been struggling in the final rounds but I think this course will be a comfortable walk.
6. SCOTTIE SCHEFFLER
Just a big fan of Scheffler’s game. Lots of value in the middle with a solid long game and plenty of height on those long irons. Being from Texas, I think he’ll be solid with the altitude. We don’t see too many guys play events in Colorado anymore, but Texans love it there and the adjustment should be a nice change of pace for him – comparable to the Amex in Palm Springs where he played well in terms of heat and distance.