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The unusual problem PGA Tour pros will face at this week's WGC-Mexico Championship

February 27, 2017

David Cannon

Those playing in this week's WGC-Mexico Championship will be presented with a new test when the PGA Tour visits Club de Golf Chapultepec for the first time. However, an unfamiliar golf course might not be the biggest challenge facing this elite field.

The course's clubhouse sits approximately 7,780 feet above sea level. That's an altitude that's 50 percent higher than Denver, aka the "Mile-High City." And yes, that kind of height will have a big impact on how the golf ball travels.

"I live at 8,000 feet, 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."

"You're going to see guys putting in quite a bit of work Tuesday and Wednesday," Leonard added.

The last time the tour played in anywhere near this altitude was at the 2014 BMW Championship, which was held at Cherry Hills Country Club just outside of Denver.

“It becomes a little bit of a math game,” Rickie Fowler said before that event in which he finished T-4, five shots behind winner Billy Horschel. “You just need to trust your numbers.”

Under those atmospheric conditions, the golf ball is expected to fly 10 to 15 percent farther. And Rory McIlroy routinely hitting 370-yard 3-woods that week seemed to back that up.

"I doubt very many of the field would have played at that sort of altitude," NBC/Golf Channel analyst Frank Nobilo said of Mexico City, but noting that TrackMan can help tour pros figure out yardages in different altitudes. "It's akin to flying in a plane."

Imagine how far McIlroy, who is making his 2017 PGA Tour debut this week, will be hitting it in the "Mile-and-a-half-high City"?! He might want to make extra sure the group in front of him is out of the way before teeing off.