The unexpected obstacle PGA Tour pros will have to overcome this week

The pros are headed to Mexico this week for the WGC-Mexico Championship at club de Golf Chapultepec. This is the first time a PGA Tour event has been held here, and while you may think playing a new course is the obstacle, you would be wrong.

The real challenge this week is not only to play at a new course, but to overcome the high altitudes in which they will be playing. The clubhouse sits approximately 7,780 feet above sea level, which is 50 percent higher than Denver, Colorado.

This change in altitude will not only affect the players breathing, but the ball flight. 12-time PGA Tour winner Justin Leonard commented on the conditions during a recent NBC/Golf Channel conference call.

“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. 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.”

The last time they played a course with any type of comparison to this kind of altitude change was back in 2014 at Cherry Hills Country Club just outside of Denver for the BMW Championship.

At that event, Rory McIlroy was hitting 370 yard 3-woods. In higher altitudes, the ball is expected to fly 10-15 percent farther. This means pros will be out there reworking every part of their game, because a 4-iron at sea level is completely different above it.

Billy Horschel said he wouldn’t play in this event, even if he had qualified (which he didn’t). He sited security concerns, even though he’s been to Mexico before.

“I think the WGC events are great events. I just wasn’t sure if I wanted to go to Mexico City. I know that they’ve said it’s a secure spot, and we’re fine, and where we are is good. I just didn’t want to go. A lot of guys don’t want to go to China; I didn’t want to go to Mexico.”

It doesn’t seem like these concerns are causing any other pro to drop out of the event, so Horschel’s qualms can be pushed under the rug. Jason Day on the other hand was one of 77 pros to qualify for the event, but withdrew due to the flu.

Seeing the professionals fight for a WGC title at a new venue in tough circumstances? What could be better than that?