World No 2 Jon Rahm is the heavy favourite at this week’s Mexico Open, where a record 10 Mexican golfers will tee off in a new tour event.
While the tournament dates back to 1944, this year’s event at the par-71, 7,456-yard Vidanta Vallarta resort marks a step up to the elite level after years on developmental tours.
Reigning US Open champion Rahm makes his first start since The Masters, where he shared 27th. He was runner-up at January’s Tournament of Champions and shared third at Torrey Pines, where he won his first Major title last June.
“It was a good start to the year,” Rahm said. “It hasn’t been my best, but I’ve been practising hard, feeling confident. I keep putting in the work, so I’m very positive about the future. I’m happy with the state of my game’s at right now.”
He’s also pleased with being back in Mexico, which hosts a new event after last November’s Mayakoba Classic, which was won by Norway’s Viktor Hovland.
“The Mexican hospitality is hard to match and I think that’s one of the things that just keeps me coming back,” Rahm said. “You get treated so well. It’s a very enjoyable experience.”
Rahm worked on short-game and putting touches but made no secret of his strategy.
“There’s nothing special. Plan A is hit driver everywhere. If it doesn’t fit, we’ll figure it out,” he said. “Preparation, I think a lot of times, is getting the touch around the greens a little bit better.”
A prior WGC Mexico event was last staged in 2020 with Patrick Reed the winner.
“The game is where it needs to be in order to improve and get where we need to be,” Reed said. “The game’s there, I just need to go ahead and put it all together and get out there and shoot some numbers.”
The two most recent Mexican winners of US PGA events top the host nation entries, 2020 Houston Open champion Carlos Ortiz and last year’s WGC Memphis winner Abraham Ancer.
Also entered is Alvaro Ortiz, last year’s Mexico Open winner when it was a developmental tour stop on a different course. Three other developmental tour players, three amateurs and a club professional complete the record Mexican lineup.
“It’s huge having two PGA Tour events in our country,” Ancer said. “It’s really important. It creates more awareness for the whole country.
“And it also creates opportunities for more Mexicans to play an event in our country and to experience what playing at this level is, and the lessons you learn in an event like this are priceless.”
Ancer was nagged by back issues in missing the cut at the Masters while Carlos Ortiz has battled a shoulder injury and a kidney stone.
“I’m finally getting healthy. I don’t want to jinx it,” Carlos Ortiz said. “But I’m finally in good shape. I feel good. There’s no excuses now.”
© Agence France-Presse