by Kevin Sylvester
-I made the pick and got it right (hard to do on the PGA Tour) and picked Dustin Johnson to win the Mexico Championship. Okay, not the biggest limb ever ventured out on, but it’s hard to the pick a winner on the PGA Tour with so many great players in the game now. D.J hadn’t played well at Riviera, but I like horses for courses and he certainly is one at Club de Golf Chapultapec in Mexico City. With how high and far he hits the ball at normal altitude, it really was an easy pick. He was able to drive several par 4’s, or get close anyway.
-We all have holes that haunt us and PGA Tour Pros are not excluded from this. Rory Mcllroy’s hole is the par 5 6th hole at Club De Golf Chapultapec. Mcllroy usually blisters par 5’s, but not on that hole. He was cruising in the first round, thanks to a good start on the back 9, and an eagle at the first. He attempted to reach the green in two on the 6th, but his ball hit the bank of the green and rolled into the pond that fronted the left side of the green. It was 1 yard shy of being a great shot. I thought he made a good decision going for it. On Friday, he pulled his drive into the trees, and it took him 2 shots to escape. That lead to another bogey. He was able to par the hole on Saturday, but another water ball on Sunday resulted in another bogey. He finished second to Dustin Johnson by 5 strokes. You could argue that they all came on the 6th hole. When I interviewed Rory after the round, he was pleased with the week, but not that hole. The good news for Rory fans, he’s playing well and putting well too.
—I had the pleasure of being assigned Tiger Woods for much of the tournament, and it did not disappoint. Following Tiger is a must focus effort because greatness can happen at any moment. That moment happened late Friday afternoon on Tiger’s final hole. His tee shot found the right fairway bunker on the 9th hole. He was blocked by a tree and the lie of the sand. After some indecision on which club to use, he settled on a 9 iron. He lined up for a massive cut in an effort to reach the green and a front right hole location. Tiger took a massive swing and stopped his hands from following through in an effort to get the ball to cut. It seemed impossible to pull off, but somehow the ball made the turn and landed on the front left of the green, but that was not all. It spun to the right towards the hole and was tracking. The ball scared the hole on the low side and settled in 11 feet below the hole. The ensuing putt, despite being well struck, failed to cooperate and lipped out. It put a slight dimmer on what was perhaps the best shot I’ve ever called for PGA Tour Radio.
-How was Mexico City? My answer is pretty good, but it’s not entirely a fair answer because most of my time was spent at the golf course, in a shuttle bus, or near the hotel. In other words, I was pretty insulated from everything. Obviously, security is an issue in Mexico for Americans, but there was never a time when I didn’t feel safe. The people were very hospitable and accommodating to my terrible Spanish.
Everybody I talked to on the trip had stomach issues. Mine felt “off” but nothing severe (thank goodness). I stuck with carbs and meat, and avoided produce since it’s washed with water there (not deemed safe to drink). The altitude did more damage than the food. At nearly 8000 feet above sea level, altitude sickness is a possible. I had some symptoms (headache, sleeplessness) that lasted for three days, but nothing I didn’t soldier through. Under better times and circumstances, I would enjoy exploring more of the region that 21 million people call home. And yes, 21 million people make traffic and amazing nightmare.
-The fans at the Mexico Championship were more enthusiastic this year than in my first trip last year. That’s not to say they weren’t excited to have an elite field playing in their country, but having Tiger play this year ramped it up a few notches. It was also a fashion show for both men and women, as the fans may be the best dressed I’ve seen at any event. Custom suits and loafers, fancy dresses and shoes were the norm.
-The golf course is an old fashioned, tree-lined beauty. Each 9 starts a decent down the hill, only to circle back up the hill towards the clubhouse. It has its share of risk/reward holes that make eagle a possibility on at least 3 of the par 4’s. The par 3’s however, are very difficult with length and subtle greens. I think it’s fantastic and would love the opportunity to play it someday.