Justin Rose is the winner of 2012 WGC-Cadillac Championship at TPC Blue Monster Doral after a one-shot victory over Bubba Watson. World No. 1 Rory McIlroy was third and Charl Schwartzel and Peter Hanson tied fourth. With this victory, Justin Rose secured his fourth win on Tour and his first since the BMW Championship last year at Cog Hill. Rose now has a victory in his last three seasons on Tour adding to his wins in 2010 at The Memorial and AT&T. Rose played all four rounds under par, carding a 16-under-par 272 for his victory. This winning score matched the average winning score from the previous five WGC-Cadillac Championships. Rose’s victory was not complete until Bubba Watson’s ten-foot birdie putt just slid past the hole on 18.
With the 50 best golfers in the world on show this week in South Florida, it was the 22nd–ranked player who came out on top. After only having one round of his first eight in the 60’s and being eliminated in the first round of WGC-Match play, it’s easy to see why Rose could have been overlooked (gulp) this week. Yet, there was a sign of life last week as the Englishman was T5 last week at The Honda Classic.
His final round, two-under 70 wasn’t as spectacular as it was solid. He began the day three-shots behind Bubba Watson and was playing in the second-to-last group. After making birdies on one and four, he found himself in the hunt. Rose’s 23 birdies on the week were T1 and after Sean Foley remarking earlier in the week that he’s the best iron player in his stable, this shouldn’t have come as a surprise. He absolutely feasted on holes one and ten where he birdied both of them all four rounds. He also birdied 11 three of four rounds. On Sunday, whenever he needed to hit fairways and greens he did, except for the closing bogey at 18. In the end, that bogey didn’t matter. He finished a respectable T17 in GIR but he never found any trouble on the much-maligned Blue Monster and held off the world’s best 50 golfers to do so.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
Bubba Watson has one win when leading after 54 holes in now six attempts in his career. He shouldn’t feel too badly as this has been the theme on Tour this year. Coming from behind on the Sunday has been the rule, not the exception.
Justin Rose bogeyed 18 on Saturday and found himself playing in the second-to-last group on Sunday, instead of the final group with Watson.
After the final group had played four holes on Sunday, Rose was suddenly in the lead.
A bogey on six moved him back into a tie and he turned in one-under 35. He started the back nine with his fourth consecutive birdie of the week on 10 and backed that up with another birdie on 14 to put the pressure on the leaders coming in. Rose’s lead was three at one point and was two as he stood on 18 tee with the large lake looming on his left. Smartly, he took the water out of play by blasting his tee shot into the gallery wide right of the fairway. Smartly, part two, his second was again well right, away from the trouble. Even though he didn’t get it up-and-down, he was smart enough to take the big number out of play. Sounds easy, right? Don’t forget last week when he was chasing down Rory McIlroy at The Honda Classic. “The Bear Trap” swallowed up his tee ball on the par-three 15th and he scrambled for bogey on the par-three 17th knocking him back to fifth. He learned his lesson last week and applied it this week.
Those “smarts” added up to 550 FedExCup points, a nice check for $1,400,000 plus moving up the ladder in the OWGR.
Young Guns vs Old Guns
In 12 tournaments this season, the Young versus Old argument is now 8-2-2.
For the young, Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24) and Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan (29), Rory McIlroy (22) and Justin Rose (31) lead the way for the Young guys.
Mark Wilson (37) is now joined by George McNeill (36) in the middle, a half-point for each.
Steve Stricker (44) and Phil Mickelson (41) are flying the flag for the old folks on Tour.
The “rest of the world” claims back-to-back victories this season but McNeill kept the Stars and Stripes waving again this week in Puerto Rico. I’ll have more on Puerto Rico later in the column.
Tiger Woods: Whether you love him or hate him, he tends to be the story every week he’s in the field. This week was no different, sadly, for all the wrong reasons. Woods called it a day on Sunday after smashing a drive on 12, citing tightness in his Achilles tendon in his left leg. That’s the same leg that has endured four surgeries already in his career. Woods was carted to the clubhouse where he gathered his stuff, told officials he had a leg problem, and then drove off in his black Mercedes-Benz. How do we know this? Because NBC had the blimp-cam focused on his exit from Doral. It started with the golf cart. Then, it was in his Mercedes, which he was driving. Finally, it was the Mercedes driving off the property. You can’t make this up. It was absolutely “Tiger” for all the wrong reasons. It was the Tabloid Tiger, which, until he wins, will now be the story. Again. It seems like his 62 last Sunday was 10 years ago…
Jarrod Lyle: The Australian was diagnosed with Leukemia last week. Again. He’s beaten it once and he will have to beat it twice. He begins chemotherapy on Monday just days after his first child, Lusi, was born. It was great to see the tour players who wrote his initials on their gear this weekend, but just a terrible reason to have to do so. Here’s to Jarrod and his family kicking Leukemia’s ass again. Cancer sucks.
Bubba Watson: Watson slept on the 54-hole lead for the sixth time in his career. He previously had won once while doing so. After Sunday, that number remained the same. Watson fired a majestic 62 on Friday, including nine birdies, an eagle and one bogey for 10-under. . He backed that up with six more birdies, one more eagle and three bogeys for 67 on Saturday. He tied Justin Rose with 23 birdies made on the week. He was second in putts per GIR. He was T9 GIR. And he didn’t win. Watson had birdie chances on both 17 and 18 that would have been enough to force a playoff with Rose or to win outright, but neither putt hit the hole. On the season, Watson has been excellent off the tee and fantastic hitting GIR, but he was 164 in strokes gained-putting. Watson’s last three stroke-play events have been T13, T5, T13 and now second. Imagine if he starts holing putts on a regular basis? He absolutely has to been on your radar if he’s playing.
Rory McIlroy: The world’s No. 1 player began Sunday eight shots off the lead. He gave the leaders something to think about on Sunday afternoon as he climbed his way into it after being six-under through 12. Bogeys on 14 and 18 knocked him out of contention but he handled the best field of the year pretty well. He began the week with 73 on Thursday before steadying the ship to finish 69, 65, 67 and retaining his perch atop the world rankings. He did all of this while finishing 61st in strokes gained-putting. Recapping, his first three starts in the States in 2012: Second, first and third. He’s the favorite for The Masters at 4-1. He’s the favorite every time he tees it up for the foreseeable future.
Charl Schwartzel: After finishing T5 last week at The Honda Classic, Schwartzel showed no signs of slowing down this week down the road at Doral with T4. His bogey from three feet on 18 cost him a share of third, which was strange because he was 14th in strokes gained-putting and was T3 in putts per round. Schwartzel only made seven bogeys on the week. The defending Masters champion’s game looks like it’s at a championship level already in 2012. Remember, he finished T16 or better in all four majors last year.
Peter Hanson: Two WGC events, two top-five finishes. Sadly, I faded Hanson this week as I thought his game was more suited for the more difficult courses played on Tour. I was wrong. The Swede made 19 birdies and only six bogeys on the week to finish T4. He was T4 in GIR plus 21st in strokes gained-putting. He was five off the lead heading into today but could only put together 71. Here’s another reminder to keep an eye on him for the U.S. Open.
John Senden: When Australian golfers are mentioned, it usually takes until the fifth or sixth-named player before anyone mentions John Senden. Adam Scott. Jason Day. Stuart Appleby. Robert Allenby. Geoff Ogilvy. Maybe even Greg Chalmers after his December. Senden has been quietly killing it this year but just hasn’t broke through with a win. He was T6 at Humana, T9 WGC-Match Play, and T6 this week. He started with 76 on Thursday. He played Friday through Sunday 16-under, making 19 birdies, including a bogey-free 65 on Sunday. That’s smoking hot. It’s time to move John Senden into the conversation in 2012 if you haven’t already.
Luke Donald: After closing with a 78, that included five consecutive bogeys at one point, in his last stroke-play event at Riviera, and getting knocked out as a No. 1 seed at WGC-Match Play, I left Luke Donald alone this week. Not smart. Donald rallied after a week of practice to hit the top 10 for the first time in 2012, finishing T6. Donald’s game looks like it’s rounding into shape as he made 19 birdies and only three bogeys. If not for his two doubles on the week, we could be talking about how he regained his number one ranking again. It usually takes these guys a few events to get into shape and Donald looks like he’s back to his solid play.
Bo Van Pelt: If you lead the tournament in strokes gained-putting, you should probably hit the top ten. Bo Van Pelt is one of the best putters on Tour and his flat stick bailed him out this week. After firing a first round 73, BVP played the next three rounds in 12 under. His favorite hole on the week was number one as he played that hole alone six-under for the week.
Steve Stricker: The USA’s highest-ranked player at number five, Stricker bounced back into the top 10 stroke play after finishing T38 at Sony. Stricker, whose schedule has been limited by a nagging neck injury, played solid golf this week. He only made 15 birdies this week but paired that with only six bogeys for T8. Stricker’s injury status and schedule will make me leery of selecting him every week he’s in the field.
Matt Kuchar: Sandwiched two great rounds of 67 and 66 between opening and closing rounds of 72. Kuchar struggled with his putter this week, finishing T63 in strokes gained-putting on the week but still finished inside the top 10 at T8. Kuchar couldn’t find any momentum on Sunday as he made just two bogeys but those offset his two birdies. In his three appearances at Doral, he’s finished T3, fifth and T8. Kuchar is horse for course at Doral. His T8 is his best stroke play finish in 2012 and his third top 25.
Keegan Bradley: After 54 holes, Keegan Bradley was 14-under with 15 birdies and one bogey. After 63 holes, Bradley was 16-under par and leading the golf tournament. But, for the second consecutive week, he ran out of gas on Sunday. Bradley followed up his closing round 73 at The Honda Classic with a final round 75 this week at Doral, including 41 on the back. Bradley’s last four stroke-play events have been T15, P2, T12 and T8.
“Hey, what ever happened to…”
If we have the 50 best golfers in the world in the field, it’s probably responsible to track the progress of the top 10 and how they finished (OWGR in parentheses).
Lee Westwood (3): Usually, if you make 20 birdies and finish T4 GIR, you should be having a good week. Westwood dug himself a hole on Thursday with 76. He rallied in the middle rounds to make 14 birdies only to be undone by two doubles and a bogey which crush all the momentum he was building. Westwood finished T29 after an even par Sunday. This was his second-best finish at the WGC-Cadillac Championships at Doral so not exactly a horse for this course.
Martin Kaymer (4): Finished T20 after only having two rounds under par for the week. The highlight was Friday when the German made two eagles and five birdies on his way to 64. Kaymer putted well but spent too much time on the beach as he finished T51 in sand saves.
Webb Simpson (6): Finished T35 after a tough start and a tougher finish. He played 18 in 5-over for the week which included two doubles. Similar to Westwood, he played Friday and Saturday great, carding 12-under, but he couldn’t carry it over to Sunday. This was Simpson’s maiden voyage at Doral.
Jason Day (7): Day only has one round of eight this season in the 60’s. His putting this week was solid as he was T8 in strokes gained-putting but his usual steady iron game off. He still managed to finish T20. He and his wife are expecting their first child in the next few months, don’t forget.
Dustin Johnson (8): Johnson backed his T5 at Pebble and his T4 at Riviera with a T35 at Doral. Johnson rode the roller-coaster all week due to 19 birdies and three doubles. His 68 on Sunday would have been better if not for one of those doubles on eight. He played 18 in four-over for the week which didn’t help things either.
Hunter Mahan (10): He had it to 10-under after two holes on Sunday before making triple on three. Mahan rallied with birdies on seven and 10 before bogeying 16, 17 and 18 to finish T24. He was seventh GIR but just 38th in strokes gained-putting.
Puerto Rico Open:
George McNeill birdied his last three holes to win the Puerto Rico Open for his second-career Tour title. He held of Ryo Ishikawa, who finished second, and Henrik Stenson and Boo Weekley who finished joint third. McNeill made 22 birdies and an eagle to put his name on the trophy this week. He also was T4 in GIR and 4th in putts per GIR. Nice combo, that. In six other starts in 2012, McNeill’s best finish was T19 to start his season in Hawaii. Last year at this tournament, he finished fifth in his first appearance. Time to watch out Michael Bradley!
Ryo Ishikawa: The Japanese phenom backed up his special invitation to the 2012 Masters by finishing second this week. This is his best finish of his career surpassing his T4 at 2011 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Ishikawa has had an uneven 2012 as he was CUT at Sony, T13 FIO, T72 NTO and was beat in the second round at WGC-Match Play. The kid has bags of talent. Time will tell if he decides to play more in the States to hone his skills. After his second place finish, he has 60 days to decide if he wants to take special temporary membership which would enable him to take unlimited sponsor’s exemptions in 2012.
Henrik Stenson: His game was showing some signs of life as he finished T21 last week at Honda. Stenson hit the top 10 for the first time since 2010 British Open. Stenson finished T28 here last year.
Boo Weekley: The stat that always amazes me is that he led the Tour in GIR in 2010 but yet didn’t keep his card. Why? His putting numbers were at the exact opposite end of the spectrum. His T3 was by far the best finish of 2012 as he was T76 FIO and T71 Mayakoba. I didn’t see this coming but good for Boo!
Matt Jones: After coming off CUT, CUT, the Aussie started hot but fizzled on the weekend. His T5 finish was his highest of 2012 and best since The Zurich Classic T6 in 2011.
Scott Brown: I’m not going to lie, I had to look him up. He missed six cuts in six coming into this event. His only round in the 60’s was the first round of The Humana Challenge. Brown was eighth on the Nationwide money list last year and that’s how he got his card. He shot his best round of the season, 65, on Saturday and his T5 is his best finish on Tour.