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Friday, 18 January, 2019

Spanish duo set to flourish down Mexico way

Impressive Garcia can surge to success

Sergio Garcia could go close in Mexico this week
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Play starts 2pm Thursday
Live on Sky Sports 4 from 7pm Thursday

Palmer's top tip
Sergio Garcia 30-1

Cheerfulness, maturity, patience, self-belief. These are just some of the qualities Sergio Garcia appears to have brought to the table for 2017 and they will stand him in good stead in the inaugural Mexico Championship this week.

Garcia, a mercurial talent who has struggled to control mood swings throughout his career, may have come of age at 37. Happily engaged and smiling more often than not, Garcia bravely fended off Henrik Stenson to win the Dubai Desert Classic by three shots at the start of this month, and his ball-striking is as impressive as ever.

Ending a US Tour victory drought of almost four years in the AT&T Byron Nelson last May was a sign that Garcia's confidence was returning, and he was one of only a handful of Europeans who performed well in the Ryder Cup. The Spaniard's singles match against Phil Mickelson was of an extremely high standard.

Since the Dubai success, Garcia has finished 49th in the Genesis Open and 14th in the Honda Classic, two solid if unspectacular efforts carding no worse than 72 in the eight rounds. He reported afterwards that his “game feels great” and his next week of decent putting should see this genius seriously contend.

Garcia is a truly global golfer who has triumphed all over the world – 12 times on the European Tour, nine times on the US Tour and five times on the Asian Tour – and a trip to Mexico holds no fears for him.

Spanish speakers should be more comfortable than most at Chapultepec and the tight, tree-lined venue should reward Garcia's long-game quality.

Next best
Jon Rahm 30-1

A Spanish one-two is entirely feasible as 22-year-old rising star Jon Rahm is well capable of making waves on his WGC debut.

Rookies are typically handicapped by a lack of course experience, but Mexico City is previously uncharted US Tour terrain. This cocksure youngster will relish starting from a level playing field.

Rahm finished tenth in the 2015 OHL Classic at Mayakoba in just his fourth US Tour outing as an amateur. He is back in Mexico just over 15 months later having risen from 571st in the world rankings to 38th in the space of just 15 events.

Rahm has finished in the each-way places five times and he won a high-class Farmers Insurance Open in glorious fashion a month ago, holing a 60-foot eagle putt on the final hole, sealing a three-shot triumph.

That heroic maiden US Tour victory at Torrey Pines has been followed by another brilliant debut – fifth place in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am – and this boy is clearly something special.

Rahm is a former world number one amateur who could get close to top spot as a professional over the next couple of years.

Other selections
Justin Thomas 35-1
Louis Oosthuizen 55-1
Bill Haas 70-1

Justin Thomas, emphatic king of Hawaii at the start of the year, has been shunted down the betting by bookmakers after form figures of MC-39-MC in his last three events.

Both the missed cuts were by a shot, though, and 39th place was a solid effort from the wrong side of a significant draw bias at Riviera.

Thomas is not panicking, reporting that the “scores the past three events don't reflect my play”, and he should certainly not be. The 23-year-old, who won at Kapalua by three shots and Waialae by seven to start 2017 like a golfing god, is still hitting his ball with great authority. The putter has gone cold, but could easily return to life in Mexico.

Thomas, twice a winner of the CIMB Classic in Malaysia, is comfortable outside America and finished runner-up in the El Bosque Mexico Championship as a Tour rookie in 2014. He was fifth in Colombia that year, 12th in Chile and 15th in Panama.

Louis Oosthuizen has hoovered up titles worldwide and the 2010 Open champion has made an eyecatching start to this term. Third place in the Phoenix Open was followed by fifth spot in the World Super 6, then a share of 21st in the Honda Classic after two under-par weekend rounds on a tough course.

The tee-to-green class of the South African raider makes him a serious runner, while Bill Haas is also worth considering at a fancy price.

Haas may be better prepared for Chapultepec than most of the field – his father Jay won the 1991 Mexican Open there and can suggest a gameplan.

Haas junior, in fine spirits since his first daughter was born last month, has finished in the top 20 in his last six events (20-4-13-13-17-11) and can go close to a seventh US Tour title on a course which should reward his accuracy.

The enormous WGC winner's cheque will not intimidate the 2011 FedEx Cup champion.

Others to note
Rickie Fowler
Can the Honda Classic champion repeat the feat of his pal Thomas and nail back-to-back early-season victories? Entirely possible. Has won tournaments all over the globe.

Adam Scott
The Aussie is swinging nicely and putting well, cruising to 11th place at Riviera and 14th at PGA National in the last fortnight. Impossible to rule out.

Hideki Matsuyama
Aside from a shocking second-round 80 at Riviera, which meant he missed the cut by six shots, the Japanese beast has hardly put a foot wrong for five months. Another massive dangerman.

Henrik Stenson
The list of threats is always long in events of this quality. The Open champion, runner-up to Garcia in his last start, possesses the ball-striking ability to be a Chapultepec contender.

Dustin Johnson
A first start as world number one for the US Open champ. Boasted a fantastic Riviera record before winning there last time out. Supporting him at a skinny price in new domain is much more risky.

Ryan Moore
The Ryder Cup star looks a dark horse at a fancy price. Unimpressive in Phoenix and Riviera, but more confident than ever and Mexico assignment could suit.

Staking plan
S Garcia
2pts each-way 30-1 BoyleSports
J Rahm
2pts each-way 30-1 Paddy Power
J Thomas
1.5pts each-way 35-1 BoyleSports
L Oosthuizen
1pt each-way 55-1 BetBright
B Haas
1pt each-way 70-1 bet365

WGC-Mexico Championship
Course Club de Golf Chapultepec, Mexico City, Mexico
Prize money $9.75m ($1.62m to the winner)
Length 7,330 yards
Par 71
Field 77
When to bet By 2pm Thursday
Where to watch Live on Sky Sports 4 from 7pm Thursday
Time difference Mexico is six hours behind the UK and Ireland
Last week – Honda Classic 1 R Fowler (18-1), T2 M Hoffmann (500-1), G Woodland (35-1), T4 J Vegas (100-1), B Horschel (100-1), C Collins (500-1), W Bryan (125-1), M Kaymer (66-1), T Hatton (40-1)

Course overview
From 2007 to last year, Doral in Miami, which became known as Trump National Doral once purchased by Donald Trump in 2012, was the venue for this event.

Club de Golf Chapultepec takes over for the first time this week. The Smith brothers, Willie and Alex, designed the course and it was constructed in 1928. Percy Clifford redesigned the track in 1972 and it has been further upgraded for the WGC.

The Mexican Open has been staged on this track 18 times. The layout opens with a driveable, 316-yard, downhill par-four, then the 387-yard, par-four second hole is another good birdie chance.

It gets tougher from there, though, with two par-fours of 506 and 525 yards, two par-threes of 235 yards apiece, and two par-fives of 625 and 622 yards. It is uphill all the way from the 15th tee to the 18th green.

This is a long, challenging, tree-lined course, with water hazards guarding two of the par-threes (seventh and 17th), although the venue being at altitude means the ball flies further. The greens are fast and undulating.

Story of last year
A buzzing Adam Scott completed a Florida double, following up his Honda Classic triumph with a one-shot Doral success over Bubba Watson

Weather forecast Hot, sunny and calm, as has been the case all week on drying terrain

Type of player suited to challenge Quality ball-strikers should thrive in Mexico City on a track where straight hitting is required. Inaccuracy typically means tree-trouble at this venue. Form from the OHL Classic, a US Tour event in Mexico, is worth noting

Key attribute Accuracy

Garcia bravely fended off Henrik Stenson to win the Dubai Desert Classic by three shots at the start of this month
E.W. Terms
Sky bet