Justin Thomas, seen here at the Genesis Open, is teeing it up in Mexico but Kern isn’t picking him. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang)
Justin Thomas, seen here at the Genesis Open, is teeing it up in Mexico but Kern isn’t picking him. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang)|Associated Press
Golf

Golf: Mike Kern gives you a 4-pick in Mexico, but no Tiger or Phil

He also throws in a longshot for Puerto Rico

Mike Kern

Mike Kern

For awhile there I thought I might actually pull off the near-impossible.

After correctly taking Phil Mickelson to win the Pebble Beach AT&T Pro-Am two weeks ago at 25-1, last week I had Adam Scott at 30-1 as one of my three picks at Riviera in Los Angeles. And darned if he wasn’t like one shot off the lead most of the way. Alas, he faltered in the closing round, as did the bloke who was leading most of the way, Justin Thomas, one of the favorites. But at least it was fun to have something to really root for, for the longest time. Of course we still didn’t cash, which in the end is all that counts. We’ll keep trying.

Remember, this stuff isn’t easy, especially when you’re often trying to find players at longer odds who might have a decent shot. With the occasional nod toward those usual chalk suspects.

This week the PGA Tour heads to the World Golf Championships in Mexico, which for the third year is taking the place of the old tournament at Doral in Miami (which President Donald Trump owns). It’s a bigger event than normal, so the field is stocked. The only marquee names not playing (for whatever reasons) are Justin Rose, Jason Day and Scott, who was no doubt exhausted from teasing me so much.

The co-favorites this time are, hardly shockingly, Dustin Johnson and Thomas. Johnson won this thing in 2017 (after also winning it in Florida in 2015). They’re both listed around 10-1. Rory McIlroy is next, at 12, followed by Bryson DeChambeau (16), Jon Rahm (16), Rickie Fowler (16), Tiger Woods (18), Brooks Koepka (18), Xander Schauffele (20), Jordan Spieth (28), Mickelson (28), Bubba Watson (33), Gary Woodland (33), Hideki Matsuyama (33), Marc Leishman (33), Tony Finau (33), Paul Casey (33), Tommy Fleetwood (33) and Webb Simpson (33). It should be noted that I have Watson in my yearlong pool, which often can have mush-like consequences, even if I did somehow finish second in last season’s competition.

Two things to remember: This course is at a high altitude, which means it will play shorter. And the layout is tight, so you kind of have to find a way to keep it in play off the tee. Just saying.

I’m not sure Phil is going to repeat here, even though he’s been obviously playing well as he approaches 49. Tiger played well last week until the fourth round, which is a good sign. Just not sure if he’s ready to hoist another trophy yet. But he is 18-1, which is rarely a bad investment. To be honest, I’m looking real hard at Dustin at 10. That’s a pretty attractive number, for someone who’s had success at this place. Last year he broke 70 here in all four rounds.

Fowler is teeing it up for the first time since he won a few weeks back. Winning back-to-back is never easy. Rahm has finished in the top 10 in the last seven events he’s played in worldwide. That’s something. Still, it isn’t winning. He tied for 20th in Mexico a year ago. Koepka, who can bomb it with anyone when he’s in the mood, missed this last year with an injury. But of his five wins, three have been in majors. Rather hard to properly compute. And one of these months Spieth is going to play like the old Jordan and make it pay off big for somebody. I’m just not sure when. So I’m not ready to commit. But soon maybe.

Woodland has seven top 10s in his first nine starts this season. Kuchar, now that he’s decided it’s better to pay your caddie what he’s worth rather than save some bucks and pay the PR price, has won twice this season. But I’m not seeing it here. Henrik Stenson might be an interesting stab, at 70-1. Ditto Rafa Cabrera-Bello, at 45-1. He was third here last year. And Marc Leishman has five top fours in his last seven appearances. Just no wins. But that’s still worth noting. He tied for 37th in 2019 after opening 69-68-69. Charles Howell III, at 50-1, tied for sixth last week and has four top 20s out of five starts.

OK, here’s the dreaded pick. I’ll give you three, and hope that the one with the most profitable odds comes through. I’ll take Dustin Johnson, just because. I’d almost take a shot with Justin Thomas too, but that would be piling on with too many faves. Not my style. So I’ll go with Rahm as my second, kind of mid-range choice, even though 16-1 is hardly a longshot. I was thinking about McIlroy, so I’ll probably regret not going that way. For bigger odds I’ll give you a two-pack: Woodland and Leishman. You don’t have to put a lot on them. Just enough to give you a reason to pay attention.

See you next week at the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens, where the Florida portion of the sked finally gets underway. Hoping there’s a few more bucks in your bank account by then. Can the Players Championship or even The Masters be far behind?

Puerto Rico Open

They’re also playing the Puerto Rico Open this week, for those who aren’t qualified to make it into the Mexico field. For what it’s worth, there’s some name guys, like Graeme McDowell at 15-1, Aaron Baddeley and Charl Schwartzel at 26-1 and Retief Goosen at 40-1. Daniel Berger is the fave, at 12-1. I’m not sure how to handicap it, but I would look for some higher odds that strikes your fancy. And I would tread lightly. It is a, well, minor-league kind of tourney. But somebody has to win. How about Sangmoon Bae, at 55-1? He’s won twice on the PGA Tour, in 2013 and ’14. So who knows? Or maybe David Lingmerth, Robert Garrigus or Andres Romero, all at 100-1. Did I forget Mark Hensby, or Ricky Barnes, both offering triple figures too? I’ll readily admit this is a pure dart-throw. Last year the tourney was cancelled because of damage from Hurricane Maria. D.A. Points won in 2017. He’s at 125-1. I have Sam Saunders, Arnold Palmer’s grandson, in my pool. He tied for fifth here two years ago, but alas is not in this field. What are you going to do?

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