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WGC-Mexico Championship: Leishman can get hot

Australian Marc Leishman
Aussie Marc Leishman has been in great form

The big action takes place south of the United States border this week and Dave Tindall has three each-way picks for the WGC-Mexico Championship...

"Look at that price again after taking note of his current form. Starting with a win at the CIMB Classic, Leishman's results read: 1-18-2-4-3-43-3."

Main Bet: Back Marc Leishman each-way @ 30/1

I'm definitely looking closely at last week's Genesis Open leaderboard given that there are some similar traits between Riviera and Chapultepec.

Both are tree-lined with kikuyu fairways and small, poa annua greens.

The theory is made reality by Dustin Johnson and Thomas Pieters finishing first and second at the California track in 2017 and then taking first and fifth in Mexico a week later.

Justin Thomas finished runner-up at Riviera last week having also finished runner-up in this event last year and on it goes.

With the link established, the first player I like off last week's leaderboard is Marc Leishman.

The Aussie is 30/1 this week which may seem no more than okay. But look at that price again after taking note of his current form.

Starting with a win at the CIMB Classic, Leishman's results read: 1-18-2-4-3-43-3.

That's DJ, Thomas, McIlroy or Rahm levels and they're all 14/1 or shorter.

Leishman fired four rounds in the 60s at Riviera last week, ranking third in Strokes Gained Approach and gaining over 4.7 strokes with the putter (10th).

He's now gained over seven strokes tee-to-green for the week at both Riviera and Waialae (Sony Open), both courses with small greens, just as he faces this week.

The only small fly in the ointment would appear to be his modest midfield finish of T37 last year but a check back on his week shows that Leishman opened 69-68-69 and was tied 11th going into the final round.

Leishman is a two-time runner-up at Torrey Pines and said a couple of years ago: "It's the same grass as I grew up on. I grew up on poa greens and kikuyu fairways so that's probably got something to do with it."

Those words were relevant last week and are again this.

He's gone close in majors; now he can bridge the gap from PGA Tour winner to those ultimate four prizes by putting a WGC trophy on his CV.

Next Best: Back Charles Howell III each-way @ 50/1

I'll pluck another player from last week's top six and play Charles Howell at a very decent 50/1.

With a field of just over 70, that price immediately appeals and he's clearly carrying bags of confidence since ending his win drought with victory in November's RSM Classic.

CHARLES HOWELL.jpg

Howell has been outside the top 20 just once in five starts since that win and T6 at Riviera last week was a reminder of how good he is on that course having posted a win and a second there in the previous decade.

Of course, it also showed that he's a good fit on any event played on a tree-lined track with kikuyu fairways and small poa annua greens so, having not played Chapultepec yet, it's a fair assumption he should really take to it.

We've had just two editions of this event at the par 71 in high-up Mexico City but the stats, despite being limited, show how important Scrambling has been.

Howell's recent success has been more down to strong iron play but at the Genesis Open last week he ranked second for Scrambling, getting up and down 82.1% of the time.

"Been working on my game throughout the month of November, December," said CHIII in January's Sony Open so it's not a great surprise that keeping the engine running has led to some consistent performances.

Looking at his stats for the seaon, the veteran is third for Greens In Regulation, fifth on the Money List, sixth for FedEx Cup points and 10th in Strokes Gained: Total.

His RSM win secured him a return to the US Masters but the top six at Riviera last week was also significant as it got him back into the world's top 50 for the first time since 2008!

That big gap explains his sporadic presence in WGC events although the last three strokeplay events he's played at this level show results of 15-12-17 so he's held his own.

Matt Kuchar showed recently that one win after a lengthy gap can quickly lead to another and I'm hoping Howell can follow suit and put in a strong bid this week.

Kuchar, himself, is also 50s which is a fair price on recent form while, at slightly shorter odds, I like the chances of Rafa Cabrera Bello at 45s.

He was third at this event last year and has been in solid form.

Final Bet: Back Cameron Smith each-way @ 60/1

I'm very keen on Xander Schauffele this week but have put him up in the golf team's each-way column at 28/1.

In that same article, Paul Krishnamurty puts up Cameron Smith and I think that's a cracking price.

CAMERON SMITH OCTOBER 2018.jpg

Put it this way, I was happy to back Smith at 35s in a full field last week so, despite the sprinkling of a few other big names here, I'll definitely take the 60s.

A couple of quotes in that preview can be rehashed here:

"I think I can just rely on my short game around here. My short game's been really good, putting really good inside 10 feet. Just the ability to get it up and down around here I think has really helped me.

"I've grown up on kikuyu so very familiar with the grass, that's nice."

Smith's 'crime' last week, and the reason for his big price drift it seems, was to finish tied 49th.

And yet, in what was a tricky rain-affected week, he shot a pair of 69s in the middle two rounds and was five-under for the day after 11 holes in round three and sniffing a top 10 before a late slip and another lacklustre back nine held him back in Sunday's closer.

However, Smith finished 11th for Strokes Gained: Around The Green which fell into line with what he'd been telling us and those short-game skills count for plenty at this week's track.

Smith was T15 in Phoenix and T9 at Torrey Pines in his previous two starts before Riviera and won his home Aussie PGA Championship in December.

Like Howell, it's his first start at the course but that probably just helps us get a decent price.

Tiger and Phil at 20s and 25s respectively are certainly worth a look while I'll be keeping a close eye on local hero Abraham Ancer at 100s.

Ancer won the Australian Open in November and was nine shots in front of Cam Smith.

If he can beat Smith on Aussie turf, you could argue that he could repeat the feat on his home patch.

Dave's 2018/19 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 ew per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)

Staked: £420
Returned: £278.66
P/L: -£141.33

2017/2018:
P/L: +£362.84

2016/2017:
P/L: +£1179.89

Dave Tindall,

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