Altitude will be height of the problem at WGC event

MEXICO CITY • Golf's big stars have a big dilemma this week: How to tackle the unique conditions at the Club de Golf Chapultepec at the WGC-Mexico Championship?

Mastering the 7,267-yard, par-72 course, which last held the Mexican Open in 2014, is the least of the problems for the likes of world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, world No. 3 Rory McIlroy and world No. 9 Rickie Fowler. It is the altitude.

Located approximately 2,370m above sea level, the course's altitude will have a big bearing on how the golf ball travels, noted Golf Digest.

"I live at 8,000 feet (2,438m), and I know that if I played here every day and I didn't go to sea level, my equipment would look completely different," 12-time PGA Tour winner Justin Leonard said during a recent NBC/Golf Channel conference call. "And I think you will see guys making adjustments at altitude, especially with driver, possibly with the golf ball. The golf ball doesn't spin as much, doesn't curve as much."

The 2014 BMW Championship was the previous occasion a PGA tour tournament was held at such high altitude - at the Cherry Hills Country Club, just outside Denver, which falls at about 1,730m above sea level.

Fowler said then: "It becomes a little bit of a math game. You just need to trust your numbers."

The American finished tied for fourth place, five shots behind winner Billy Horschel.

At the Club de Golf Chapultepec this week, the golf ball is expected to fly 10 per cent to 15 per cent farther, according to Golf Digest.

In that case, big hitters like McIlroy, who regularly hit about 370 yards at the 2014 BMW Championship with a three-wood, will have to recalibrate his shots.

"I doubt very many of the field would have played at that sort of altitude," NBC/Golf Channel analyst Frank Nobilo said of the Mexico City course, but noted that TrackMan can help Tour pros figure out yardages at different altitudes.

Four-time Major champion McIlroy will need to do some fine tuning as he is playing in his first competitive round since January when he suffered an injury.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 01, 2017, with the headline 'Altitude will be height of the problem at WGC event'. Print Edition | Subscribe