Eight big names have decided to give this week's WGC in Mexico City a miss. So what's going on with what should be one of the big weeks of the year?
The Genesis Invitational had nine of the world’s top 10 tee it up. It was a regular PGA Tour event, albeit played on an incredible course where the advantage of length was a welcome non-factor and Tiger Woods was hosting, but the line-up was sensational.
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Fast forward to this week at the WGC in Mexico and it’s quite a different story. Three of the top 10 – Brooks Koepka, Patrick Cantlay and Woods – are otherwise engaged while we also have Justin Rose, Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler, Henrik Stenson and Jason Day giving it a swerve.
Had Phil Mickelson made it to Mexico he also would have missed it. He’s made a habit of not playing in WGCs in the past but this is somewhere that he’s won as recently as 2018.
“My kids have the week off so we are going on a trip after I shoot a commercial I have scheduled,” he tweeted.
For Woods his body doesn’t look ready for back-to-back weeks. Koepka’s record is poor here, as is his knee by his own admission, likewise Fowler and they’re both due to play next week at the Honda Classic.
Rose missed last year and hasn’t finished higher than 37th, Stenson had a stomach bug in 2017 and had to withdraw after 11 holes, missed 2018, and was 54th last year.
Cantlay is about to undergo minor surgery on his nose while Day is yet to make the trip to Mexico so we can draw our own conclusions from this.
On paper this week is supposed to be a must-play tournament, one of four WGCs a year, all of which should sit only below the majors and the Players.
Playing at altitude might not be to everybody’s taste but it’s a limited field of just 72 players, there’s no cut and there are bundles of world ranking, FedEx Cup and Olympic points. Again on paper it’s a no-brainer but here we have a raft of players who won’t be making the relatively short trip south.
So what does this tell us about the standing of this week’s event? Probably not too much in terms of Mexico, we’re now done with the West Coast so there’s a natural pause and reboot, plus we’re slowly winding up towards Augusta.
What it does suggest is that we’re going to be seeing a lot of this in 2020. We knew this was coming and now it’s here. In the short term we have the Honda and Bay Hill ahead of Sawgrass. Two weeks after that it’s another WGC with the Match Play in Austin. A fortnight from there and it’s the Masters.
Something has to give and for all the free points on offer there’s an awful lot of golf to be fitted in this year.
Move things forward to July and the Open and then we’ve got just two weeks to wait for the Olympics, in another fortnight two lots of FedEx Play-offs and then straight into the Tour Championship. And this is a Ryder Cup year. Though this time, thankfully, we have a few weeks between East Lake and Whistling Straits.
And if you’re a European or particularly keen American you can fill that void with a few days at Wentworth in mid September. Then there are the Rolex Series events.
Tiger is a unique case given his fused back but last year he played 12 times and he expects to do the same in 2020. Even the 20-somethings seem to have more niggles in the search for more distance and money and Day has even spoken of retiring in the near future.
The PGA Championship moving to May puts a bit more emphasis back into the first half of the season but then it’s a non-stop merry-go-round of flights and high-octane action.
We know there’s too much golf but now it’s getting in the way of what is supposedly the big stuff. When the players were asked about the Premier Golf League they generally kept their heads down save for saying they liked the prospect of less golf and shorter tournaments. You can see where they’re coming from.