Inside the Ropes
Doral Resort and Spa Doral, FL
TPC Blue Monster
Par 72 (36-36)
Rough: 2.75 inches
6,600 square foot (on average) greens
Stimpmeter rolling 11.8 feet
11 water hazards
Course Architect: Dick Wilson (1961); Redesign PGA Tour/Doral (2006)
Notes: Bermudagrass greens with Bermudagrass rough and fairways.
FedExCup Points: 550 (winner’s share)
Winner’s Share: $1,400,000
Defending Champion: American Nick Watney fired 16-under-par 272 to defeat Dustin Johnson by two shots.
Notes: Gamers, remember that this tournament has been held at TPC Blue Monster at Doral ONLY since 2007. All other results and winners from 2006 and before are from different courses. The field will consist of 74 golfers and there is NO CUT this week.
Date: Mar 8-11, 2012
The TPC Blue Monster at Doral ranked 34th-hardest of the 51 courses played on Tour in 2011. Bermudagrass rough and greens will test the player’s patience as will the 110 bunkers and 11 water hazards.
The WGC-Cadillac Championship has been played at Doral only since 2007. The Ford Championships at Doral have been played at the TPC Blue Monster since 1962 through 2006. The course was redone by Doral and the PGA before the WGC arrived in 2007. In 1996 the greens and fairways were brought back to their original design by Jim McLean and Raymond Floyd. Doral Resort and Spa is the longest standing tournament host-site on Tour (1962).
In the five years that the TPC Blue Monster has hosted this event, there have been no repeat winners. Nick Watney came closest when he finished second to Phil Mickelson in 2008.
Speaking of winners, here’s the list:
2007: Tiger Woods (-10); 22 players broke par; highest winning score; won by two
2008: Geoff Ogilvy (-17); 60 players broke par; won by one
2009: Phil Mickelson (-19); 60 players broke par; won by one
2010: Ernie Els (-18); 55 players broke par; won by four
2011: Nick Watney (-16); 41 players broke par; won by two
The only runaway winner in the five years of this tournament, Ernie Els, isn’t eligible and won’t be playing this week.
So What? So Let’s Dance!
Welcome to the World Golf Championships. You better have game if you’re going to win in one of these events. Woods, Ogilvy, Mickelson, Els, Watney have won this tournament and all of them, save Watney, have also won a major or majors in their career.
Last week at The Honda Classic, par was a decent score; that won’t be the case this week. Even though Doral is known for plenty of sand and plenty of blue water, birdies and more birdies will be the order of the week. The average winning score over the last five years has been 16-under-par, including that exact number last year from Nick Watney.
The keys to victory this week are making plenty of birdies and taking advantage of the par-fives. Look for guys who enjoy putting fast (11.8 on Stimpmeter), Bermudagrass greens to do well this week.
This will be only the ninth tournament since 2005 with all top 50 ranked golfers playing and the first since last year’s Masters. That’s a big field. No need to go fishing this week, as you can see from the previous winners here.
Super six of the bunch in honor of Crockett and Tubbs
Tiger Woods: One could argue that playing the extra events early in 2012 has helped Woods get back to “tournament” golf. He added AT&T and Honda to his schedule and those extra reps in tournament conditions have made a difference. He can hit all the balls on the range he wants; but the real test is how he performs when the lights are on during the weekend. Based on his closing 62 last week, I would say he’s right on schedule. His history at Doral is not bad either. In four events in the last five years (missed 2010 with injury), he’s finished T10, DNS, T9, fifth and WIN. There’s only two ways his game goes, forwards or backwards. Last year, he was 186th in total driving. This year, he’s currently first. Sounds like “forward” to me.
Charl Schwartzel: The South African would have been in with a shout last week if he could have avoided the dreaded double bogey. Not once, not twice but THREE times Schwartzel made double during the week. He still finished T5. Take those out, and he’s 13-under and who knows what happens. His game looks to be rounding into shape. After finishing T24 and T2 in his last two starts at Doral, there is no reason why he can’t be flying high again this week as he gets his reps in before defending at Augusta National next month.
Rory McIlroy: After finishing second in the WGC-Match Play two weeks ago and first last week, I’m trying to find reasons why “Rors” won’t repeat this week. Too much travel? Too much tennis with his girlfriend? In his last three appearances at Doral, he’s finished T10, T65 and T20. I keep forgetting he’s just 22 years old. He’s number one in the world and must finish better than both Donald and Westwood this week to keep that title. Winning back-to-back events doesn’t happen very often on Tour so I have him second this week.
Phil Mickelson: The Rory McIlroy of “old guys” tries to keep his top-two-finish streak alive this week after taking the last two weeks off for family time. Most guys wouldn’t bail on the easy money of WGC-Match Play or a warm-up at Jack’s Place South but Phil, as we’ve learned over the years, ain’t most guys. Five Guys, maybe, most guys, no. The message it sends is that he’s so comfortable with his game right now that he can leave it for two weeks and then pick it back up against the best field he’s seen this season. In his five appearances here, he’s finished T55, T14, WIN, T20 and T23. Can’t wait to see what happens when Rory, Tiger AND Phil are all firing on the same week!
Lee Westwood: His record at Doral is nothing to write home about. Glad I’m not writing home…He’s best result is T18 in his four tries at “The Blue Monster” but that does not dissuade me this week because his recent form has been excellent. Buoyed by a putter that is starting to cooperate, Westwood was fourth in the WGC-Match Play two weeks ago and backed that up with fourth alone last week at Honda. Remember, if Woods doesn’t fire 62 on Sunday last, EVERYONE is talking about Westwood and his 63. Don’t overlook this. I’m sticking with the hot hands this week.
Dustin Johnson: The last two times he’s teed it up for stroke-play on Tour he’s finished T5 at AT&T and T4 at NTO before being knocked out in the third round at WGC-Match Play his last time out. He finished second here last year and only made four bogeys. After a week off to tune up, his length and strength should have no problem going low this week.
Vanilla Ice Division. Ice, Ice Baby.
Sergio Garcia: He was knocked out in the first round of the WGC-Match Play by countryman Miguel Angel Jimenez. In his last stroke play event at NTO, he closed with a seven-under 64 at Riviera. He’s in a hot pocket over the last five months and I will gladly ride along. His tee-to-green game should put him in excellent position this week to contend.
Hunter Mahan: In three stroke-play events, he’s finished T6, T15 and T24 before winning his last time out at WGC-Match Play. His new-found short game was the catalyst to his victory in the desert and he’s had a week to improve on that. His record at Doral included a T9 last year preceded by finishes of T30, T53 and T44 so he has plenty of experience here as well. Big events don’t scare him as he is one of just a few to have multiple WGC event wins.
Nick Watney: 2012 has gotten off to a quiet start for the reigning regular-season FedExCup champion. Wait; is there a trophy for that? Anyhow, in his three full-field events of this season, his best finish is strangely T34 at NTO. If there is any track in the States that will cheer up his game, this one would be it. In his only three starts at Doral, he’s WON, T26 and finished second alone. He knows what it takes to be a field of this quality and has almost done it twice. This is the week he gets back in the groove.
Matt Kuchar: Speaking of “ho-hum” starts in 2012, Matt Kuchar has been meandering through stroke play events as well. His three finishes are T22, T33 and T24 before losing in the quarterfinals in WGC-Match play to eventual champion Hunter Mahan. Kuchar returns to Doral where he’s finished fifth and T3 in the last two years. He’s a horse for course pick.
Martin Kaymer: In his last six world-wide events, Kaymer has five, top-13 finishes including a WIN at HSBC in Hong Kong. He was knocked out in the third round at WGC-Match Play his last time out by Matt Kuchar. The German has four starts at Doral and has finished T24, T3, T35 and T57.
Keegan Bradley: This will be his eighth event of 2012. He’s played five, full-field events and has hit the top 25 each time. His last three times out in stroke-play he’s been T15, P2 and T12. Playing courses for the first time didn’t bother him at the PGA last year so I wouldn’t foresee that being a problem this week either. Ride that wave.
Bill Haas: Another one that goes quietly about his business if you choose to forget about him. I have been hit-and-miss on Haas this year from a timing standpoint; I say he’ll fire and he’s quiet and vice-versa. His last time out in stroke-play he defeated Mickelson and Bradley with a 43-footer on the second playoff hole at NTO. The reigning FedExCup Champ has finished T31 and T6 his only two events at Doral.
Graeme McDowell: In his last six stroke-play events worldwide, he’s finished T9, 59th, T3, T11, T13 and T3. Last week at Honda, he overcame an opening 73 with a course-record-tying 64 in round two before playing the weekend two-under. His best finish in four events at Doral is T6 in 2010.
Webb Simpson: Webb makes his first trip to Doral this week. At Hyundai and WMPO, he needed to make birdies to be in contention. He did, finishing T3 and T8. Simpson is right up there in birdies made and birdies or better on par-fours. He was knocked out of WGC-Match Play in the first round so he has some extra motivation heading into this week.
Bubba Watson: In his three stroke-play events in 2012, Watson has finished T13, T5 and T13. His recent form off-sets his history here at Doral where he finished 72nd in his only start back in 2009. Watson’s biggest weakness this year has been putting but he’s second on Tour in ball striking. If he makes anything this week with the putter he’ll be in the thick of it come the weekend.
Not exactly “Swamp People”, but guys you will have to find off the beaten path this week with such a powerful field assembled.
Vijay Singh: Now ranked 75th in the world and only finishing in the top 25 twice makes Singh an “outsider” this week. He’s had two good weeks of practice via his Twitter feed and his history at Doral in impressive: T22, T11, T53, T2 and T11. Definitely worth a look this week as he tries to move back up the FedExCup standings in 2012.
Rickie Fowler: After carding his first top 10 of 2012 last week at Honda, Fowler looks to have finally found some form with his new equipment. Playing the weekend in seven-under shows me he’s ready to start chasing up the leader board again. Fowler has also started sporting a moustache and as Johnson Wagner will tell you, that can’t be a bad thing in 2012!
Aaron Baddeley: The last time I touted “Badds” he ended up playing “Badds” in the WGC-Match Play, getting knocked out in the first round. No matter, I’m a glutton for punishment and in his last two stroke-play events he was T11 and fourth alone. His recent history at Doral is spotty, finishing T28, DNS and DQ. Now that he’s gone back to his childhood coach and his swing is back to normal, I’ll focus on 2008 and 2007 results where he was T15 and T9.
Bo Van Pelt: Another tout from the WGC-Match Play that didn’t turn out…I get it, I stink at picking match play, calm down…Anyhow, in his last two stroke-play events he’s finished T8 and T8. Van Pelt makes plenty of birdies to keep up with a field of this much class and he played here last year for the first time finishing T35. He’s third on Tour in birdie average, 16th in strokes gained putting and fourth in total driving. I’ll take it.
Anders Hansen/Francesco Molinari: Absolutely horses-for-courses picks as Hansen finished T3 2011, T45 in 2010 and T12 in 2008; Molinari was T3 in 2011 and T14 in 2010. You wanted long-shots? You got long-shots!
There’s plenty of fun and sun in Miami (just ask Will Smith!) and these guys might find most of their time in the sand or at the cabana bar this week. Remember, there is no cut this week so never-say-never!
Miguel Angel Jimenez: The lovable, cigar-smoking, stretching Spaniard has absolutely no track record at Doral. The last four years he’s finished T55, T63, 75th and T26. Meet him in South Beach instead for some fine Rioja and a nice Cuban…
Ian Poulter: As of Tuesday morning, he was still in the field, but if he missed last week with pneumonia, I doubt he’ll be in any shape to complete four rounds in Miami. The field is too deep this week to take a chance on a guy who could possibly WD.
Paul Casey: If you read this column regularly, you know that I don’t take guys on their first week back from injury. This definitely applies when the field is the strongest in 11 months on Tour. You’re on your own here.
Peter Hanson: The Swede has been playing great lately but his record here is average at best with his best finish in four starts T26. His game is more suited for tracks where single-digits under par contends. Save him for the U.S. Open where he’s finished the last three years heading in the right direction T24, T16 and T7.
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: WGC-Cadillac Championship
Team Name: Mike Glasscott
Group 1: Tiger Woods
Group 2: Bubba Watson
Group 3: Aaron Baddeley
Group 4: Vijay Singh
Ned Said, “…
Ned Brown is a long-time contributor for Rotoworld Golf. He's had documented success in Yahoo!'s game for years. Even if you're confident in your selections for that game, give his insight a read.
And remember, I AM NOT NED!!! He’s smarter AND better looking!
Phil Mickelson: After a slow start to the season Mickelson has been hot with a victory at the AT&T Pebble Beach and a playoff loss at the NTO. Phil did win at Doral in '09 in impressive fashion as he was battling the stomach flu that weekend.
Webb Simpson: Normally I would pick Nick Watney or Matt Kuchar in this spot but both are off to slow starts this season. I'm going to take Simpson because he ranks on the Tour first in greens in regulation and that is an important stat at Doral.
Matt Kuchar, Nick Watney, Sergio Garcia, Luke Donald
Rory McIlroy: It has been quite a run for McIlroy who gained the world's number one ranking last week with his victory at the Honda. He has three starts in the WGC-Cadillac with his best finish being a T10 last year.
Tiger Woods: A super impressive final round last week at the Honda, plus he has won at Doral three times; twice as the Ford Championship ('05, '06) and as the WGC-CA ('07).
Lee Westwood: Lost in the hoopla during Tiger's final round at Doral is that Westwood had an impressive final round of 63 to finish fourth. I would like to see him have a better record at Doral, but he is playing so well right now that he's worth using this week.
Bill Haas: A very tight choice between Haas and Rickie Fowler. Fowler had a nice T7 at the Honda, plus an eighth place at Doral last year. Haas won last time out at the NTO and he had a T8 at Doral in '10. I'm using Haas based on his win at the NTO, but I can't argue if you want to roll with Rickie.
Rickie Fowler, Hunter Mahan, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose, Jason Day
Charles Schwartzel: His T5 last week at the Honda now gives him a T9 finish or better in eight of his last 11 world-wide starts. His best finish at Doral was two years ago, when he finished in second place.
Martin Kaymer: I thought Kaymer looked good at the WGC-Match Play. Looking back over the past six months he has played steady, good golf. He has four career starts at the WGC-Cadillac with his only top-10 being a third place in '10.
Graeme McDowell, Martin Laird, Francesco Molinari, Peter Hanson, Aaron Baddeley
“And Another Thing”
The analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat with GolfChannel.com's Ryan Ballengee on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. ET. They will be breaking down the field at WGC-Cadillac Championship and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.