The players who should be atop the leaderboard come Sunday sunset; Yahoo! group in ( )
Rory McIlroy (B): He was No. 1 on this list last week and he’s No. 1 again this week. His 74 on Sunday was rubbish but the way he handled the media afterwards told me all that I needed to know moving forward. He admitted he didn’t play well enough to win. He knows he threw away a chance to win with a four-OVER round on Sunday. A handful of bad holes on a Sunday and he still had the cajones to knock a five wood to 11 feet from 240 yards on the final hole to give him a chance to win. He’s opened the last two years with 73 and finished T8 and third so don’t panic if he gets off to a slow start. He’s fired 65 in each of the last two years. Oh, and he was T10 three years ago.
Sergio Garcia (C): After opening with two-over 72 last week at Honda, the Spaniard played the final three rounds in seven-under without any doubles or worse. If the new Doral favors ball-strikers even more, I have no problem looking in this direction. He has a pair of T3s in six starts on the “old” course as well.
Adam Scott (A): If he’s in the field, he’s in this column. All he does is split fairways and punish GIR. He has four finishes of T13 or better in seven starts at Doral including T6, T13 and T3 in his last three. Adding distance and difficulty, if that is the case, off the tee and into the greens will just enhance his chances this week.
Jason Day (B): Fresh off his first WGC title, Match Play, the Aussie is beaming with confidence and winning back-to-back events is not out of the question. The reason Day will be a popular pick this week is he’s massive off the tee and his short game is world class. Wait, that’s the reason he’s on this list EVERY week he’s entered. No point in overthinking this one, folks.
Dustin Johnson (B): He backed up his solo second in 2011 with T35 in 2012 and T12 last season. This season he’s teed it up four times in stroke play and has won, finished T6, T2 and second. Shall I go on? Gamers, if his Match Play early exit brings worry, don’t let it. He’s been knocked out in the first round six of the last seven years. All is well in the Johnson camp and the results are telling!
Keegan Bradley (B): Knock. Knock. Knock. His T18, T16, T20 and T12 are his stroke play finishes this season (MC at WMPO). Knock. Knock. Knock. In two trips to Doral, six of his eight rounds are in the 60s; the other two were 75 and 71 on Sundays. Those resulted in T8 and solo seventh the last, and only, two years he’s played. It’s time to kick that door open as he hasn’t won since the 2012 WGC-BI.
Webb Simpson (B): With five top 10s in seven starts this season that includes a win and a T3, Simpson is well on his way to another monster. He’s currently second in total putting, seventh in scrambling and 11th in ball-striking. After a quiet year, by his standards, off of his 2012 U.S. Open title, it looks like Simpson is trending in the proper direction for gamers.
Steve Stricker (B): He’ll probably be the most scrutinized HEALTHY player this week who is not named Phil Mickelson…Gamers, remember a couple of things. One, he made this schedule to optimize his game. Two, his brother had a successful liver transplant before Match Play and Stricker played in that event. Stricker has enjoyed Doral over the years as he has six of seven finishes T18 or better and that includes T8 in 2012 and solo second last season.
Bubba Watson (A): He backed up his disappointing T2 in Phoenix with a victory his next time out at Riviera. A very solid showing at Match Play (T9) followed and it looks like Watson is back to normal after a whirlwind 2012-2013. Gamers, there is no book on how players will respond after winning their first major. Most gamers saw that, especially in season-long salary cap games, Watson was a steal and he’s already paid dividends. He’s looking to bury some round four demons at the new Doral as he fell to Justin Rose in 2012 with a 74 in the final group on Sunday and his 75 last year on Sunday knocked him out of the top 10. I’m excited to see New Bubba at New Doral!
Jordan Spieth (B): If gamers are STILL looking for reasons to write him off, then it’s time to get the ol’ eyes checked. I’m not saying he needs to be on the frontline each week but there is no doubt he’s a top lieutenant. He’s coming off a three-week break so he should be refreshed and ready to go! He has seven, top-five since he broke on the scene last January. That’s tied for the most on TOUR. #2legit2quithim
Matt Kuchar (A): He’s posted T3, fifth and T8 in three of the last four years at Doral and does not have a finish worse than T9 in 2013-14. Sure he MC at Riviera breaking his 30-event streak, but he jumped back on the horse at Match Play and was beaten in the Sweet 16. I suggested to gamers that I was leaving Kuchar out at Riviera because I KNOW I’ll find 10 starts for him down the road at courses where he’s had more successes. This is one of those places!
Luke Donald (A): His horse-for-course-ness last week at Honda jump-started his 2013 as he posted his first top 10 since November in Dubai. Donald’s horse-for-course-ness shows again this week as he was T6 in 2012 and 2011. Remember, shorter hitters also enjoy four par-fives as well as their wedge games are usually ace. Donald only made five bogeys last week at a very trying Florida course!
Graeme McDowell (C): His hot start to 2014 fizzled on the weekend at Honda but he’s very fond of the Blue Monster. In his last two trips, he’s posted six of eight rounds in the 60s and has finished T13 in 2012 and T3 last year. His T6 in 2010 isn’t hurting his case either! He’ll hit all the fairways and he can chip with the best of them.
Zach Johnson (B): After back-to-back T9s the first two years of this event, ZJ hasn’t finished better than T17 in the last five years. He’s first in fairways and third in greens so far in 2014. He’s also won the HTOC, T8 at Sony and T3 at Humana. I’ll stretch for him.
Phil Mickelson (A): I mean, I don’t know. Does anyone? He smoked the field here to the tune of 19-under in 2009 and popped a T3 last year. His took almost a month off before teeing it up last weekend at The Honda and MC. He had a very similar start to 2013 before just making five bogeys here last year. Sadly, three of them were on Sunday as he couldn’t catch Woods. He only made one bogey, but two doubles, last week as he just missed playing the weekend. #confusement
There are the players who barely missed out on the group above but who are definitely worth a look this week.
Jimmy Walker (C): He’s been on fire but he hasn’t played in one of these before. Heck, he’s only played in three majors in his career. Well, that’s all going to change now! I’ll let him get his feet wet first before I go cramming him into my lineups but I have NO PROBLEM endorsing him this week if he’s paired with a traditional big gunner.
Harris English (C): In his last four stroke-play events, he’s finished fourth, T33, ninth and T10. He was also T9 in Match Play so he’s hardly intimidated playing against these fields.
Chris Kirk (B): After a cooling off after his solo second in Hawaii, Kirk backed up finishes of 76, T61 and a first-round KO in match play with three rounds in the 60s last week at a very difficult Honda Classic. His 68 on Sunday was excellent and he’ll enjoy fast, Bermudagrass greens this week. First-timers around these events, like English and Walker, are great supporting pieces this week.
Rickie Fowler (A): His solo third at Match Play was parlayed into a very decent T24 at Honda as all four rounds were par or better. He was perched in the top 20 last year at Doral before a final round 78 knocked him back to T35. He was eighth in 2011 and T45 in 2012 so he’s been here, done that. His new found form has piqued my interest. Or maybe it’s his new haircut. Whatever. PAY ATTENTION.
Victor Dubuisson (C): If nothing else, this mention is a sign of respect for his play in the Match Play final against Jason Day. But, once the numbers have been dug up, The Doobie Brother has been smokin’ as of late. In his last five events since November, the Frenchman has posted a win, a third, T20, T5 and a second. He’s 23. He has no fear.
Keep reading. It’s an All-Star lineup this week!
Tiger Woods (A): He limped off on No. 13 on Sunday with back problems similar to the ones he had at The Barclays last year during the Playoffs. Woods began the day at five-under but shot 40 on the front to knock him out of contention. Do you think he would have had a different attitude if he knew eight-under was good for a playoff at the end of the day? Anyhow, he said through a spokesman that he’ll be getting treatment up until his tee time on Thursday. He had no problem walking off last week. He had no problem walking off here in 2012 with a bad Achilles. I know he’s won on this course four times and seven times overall in this event. Usually, I would throw caution to the wind but with only nine starts left, I don’t see myself AS OF MONDAY going down this road.
Justin Rose (B): Another premium player who pulled out of The Honda Classic Wednesday morning with a lingering shoulder issue. Shoulders and backs in the world of golf are terrifying. Luckily for gamers, this field is as loaded as it gets so chancing it isn’t an option that has to be used. In his last 11 rounds on this course he’s par or better. He won in 2012 and was T8 last year. His 2014 has been quiet because of the shoulder so I’m going to wait until he’s healthier. I’d make fun of his puppet in the Taylor Made commercials but I think they are funny. Puppets make me laugh. Maybe because I’m a muppet. Shut up.
Hideki Matsuyama (B): A lingering wrist issue, we assume, is keeping the young Japanese lad on the fence for this week as he WD from last week’s Honda as well. This is not the first time he’s had an issue with this wrist and he’s played himself through it before. His last two WDs have come AFTER his first round, not before it! Again, each Yahoo! group is loaded this week so this decision is an easy one for me.
Louis Oosthuizen (C): After struggling during Match Play with a sore back, the 2010 Open champ WD early last week from the Honda. This is the second week in a row he’s on the injured/fade list. His best finish in this event is T18 so this wasn’t a tremendously complicated decision.
Henrik Stenson (A): Speaking of wrist issues, it’s still there and it’s not helping anything. After his MC last week, make it four consecutive stroke-play tournaments without a top 25. I’ll let my competitors take a chance on him as he was NINE-over last week. Pass.
Brandt Snedeker (A): He’s finished T58, MC, T61 and MC in his four, full-field, stroke-play events in 2014. In two visits to the WGC-CC, he’s finished T48 and T45. No form and no course history in loaded field is not what I’m stretching for this week. Snedeker is impossible not to like but gamers can’t win with their hearts making decisions.
Ian Poulter (B): His world ranking will bring plenty of eyes his way this week but one round of 10 in 2014 in the 60s won’t bode well around Doral this week if 16 and change is the average winning score. Only seven of 28 career rounds on this track have been in the 60s.
Miguel Angel Jimenez (C): He’s posted just three rounds of 20 at Doral in the 60s. He’s a lovely watch warming up, but I’m not stretching for him this week. Did you see what I did there? Well, I never…
The Man with His Own Section
Jason Dufner (C): He’s played this event three of the last four years and has racked up T18, T29 and T12 finishes. He had a nice rebound on Sunday at Riviera with 68 and that buoyed him to Sweet 16 appearance at Match Play. Does he carry that momentum into this week or should I even bother? It’s too deep of field to have to be “guessing” on what might be happening. Play the healthy chalk and don’t look back. Dufner, as I have mentioned and truly believe, will heat up with the weather. Be patient.