World Golf Championship
Trump National Doral
Yards: 7,528 as per the scorecard
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: Bermudagrass; 6,600 square feet on average
Rough: Bermudagrass & perennial rye grass at 3”
Water Hazards: 26. How many holes on course again?
Course Architects: Dick Wilson (1961); Jim McLean (2000); Gil Hanse (2013)
Winner’s Share: $1,570,000
FexExCup Points: 550 to the winner
Dates: March 5-8
Notes: 74 players, stroke-play with no cut.
Notes II: This is year II of the NEW DORAL and it’s no longer easy. I’m not sure how much course history is going to factor this week. Keep reading to figure out why.
Notes III:James Hahn qualified but will skip this week as he awaits the birth of his first child. According to PGA TOUR Media, this is the first time since 2012 that the top 50 players will participate in a tournament (PGA Championship).
Patrick Reed, Jimmy Walker, Bill Haas, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Brandt Snedeker, James Hahn and Padraig Harrington are the first eight winners of calendar 2015. The first five winners all resided inside the top 40; Snedeker checked in at (No. 63) and Hahn and Harrington (BOTH No. 297) broke it open. Steve Webster, the 297th-ranked player in the world is playing the Africa Open. Time for FREE MONEY. Somebody call Tindall!!!
After 28 wins in 45 events last season Hahn joined Snedeker, Brooks Koepka, Bill Haas, Jimmy Walker and Patrick Reed as the USA winners in 2015. The stars and stripes already picked up wins in 2014 from Charley Hoffman, Bubba Watson, Ryan Moore, Robert Streb and Ben Martin. The USA won 11 of the first 15 events. Padraig Harrington joined Jason Day and the foreign contingent with his win at Torrey as he, Sang-moon Bae (Korea) and Nick Taylor (Canada) are the international winners.
After 13 first-time winners in 2013 there were only 10 last year. Through 15 events in 2015, Hahn, Koepka, Martin, Streb and Taylor have broken their maidens.
The Florida Swing continues as the elite of the elite tee it up this week at another beast of a course. We saw the vitriol of the classic Riviera holding a fantastic field to a winning score of six-under-par two weeks ago to wrap up the West Coast Swing. Last week, we saw the “new” beast, the Champions Course at PGA National, continue to force these great players to scratch their collective heads as six-under was also the winning score. This week, the grind continues and as I wrote last week, it’s not going to “break” until the Shell Houston Open. Innisbrook, Bay Hill and TPC San Antonio all have their own set of teeth that are quite sharpened and ready for fresh meat.
Last year, we got our first look at the Gil Hanse remodel done on the dime of the Donald, Donald Trump. We’ve learned over the years that Trump is quite serious about his golf and even more serious about his design. If he’s going to purchase property he’s going to make the track memorable and Gil Hanse has done this at Doral. Every green complex was redone so throw out the green charts. Fairways have been tilted, pinched and ran out. Bunkers have been extended, remodeled and moved to today’s modern ball flights in the way Dick Wilson had intended back in the late 50’s. As we learned last week, the word “resort” usually means wide fairways, light rough and greens where birdies can be easily attained. Doral Resort and Spa is just that; this course, one of many on the property is not a resort course.
Last year’s winning score of 284 (-4) was the highest ever at this event. It tells us two things: the new design is legit and the previous design was outgrown by the modern player as Woods made 27 birdies here in 2013. #DifferenceMade
2014: 3rd-hardest overall; Hardest non-major; three players under par
The landing areas, the green complexes, tee boxes and length have all been added or in some cases, subtracted. The ball-strikers should prosper because nobody should have an advantage on greens they’ve seen in only one tournament week. Remember, a great course design should test all facets of the game. I always like the guy who hits 18 greens as he has 18 chances at birdie instead of the guys who hits three greens and has to get up and down all day.
Tournament and Course Records
Reed’s 284 last year is the new standard. If the wind blows and the unsettled tropical weather acts up, hoo boy…
Bizarre Stat of the Week:
Kevin Sutherland is the only player to win a WGC event (Match Play) and never represent his country at Ryder or Presidents Cup level.
That’s saying something. Oh yeah? Go on and argue then!
In order, these are the players that I believe project the best this week (Yahoo! group in parentheses).
Bubba Watson (A): He figured it out on Sunday last year as he closed with a bogey-free 68 to share second. If there are four par fives, Watson is on my list. If there are 18 holes on the course, Watson is on my list…He won the last WGC event, the HSBC Champions, in a playoff in China.
Patrick Reed (C): His meltdown on three of the final four holes at Honda should light the fuse for a stout title defense this week. Last year, Reed was one of two players to place two rounds in the 60s for the week. His power and putting have always been his strength and it’s obvious that the magnitude of the moment shouldn’t bother him. Oh, and his 73 Monday at Honda broke a streak of 22 rounds UNDER par so he’s not been chopping it around by any means.
Rory McIlroy (A): Well, there’s no cut this week so gamers rejoice!! There’s nothing I saw last week that would change my mind for THIS WEEK on McIlroy. If he hits it crooked again this week I’ll start worrying but I’ll take my chances with the best player in the world.
Jason Day (B): Like Reed, he has exactly one round over par in 2015 but in just 16 events. It’s hardly a wonder that he’s posted T3, WIN and T4 in three of those four starts. His other was a ho-hum T17 at Sony. The FIO champ claimed his first WGC title last year in his epic playoff with Victor Dubuisson at the final Match Play at Marana. It’s hardly a secret that guys who can bomb it and crush par fives are the way to go this week. Seemed to work at Torrey South…
Dustin Johnson (B): Speaking of guys who crush it, if DJ has any balls left in his bag, he’s in my lineup again this week. He bag got lighter by the hole last week at PGA National before succumbing to a MC but I’m confident that he’ll bounce back nicely. He was knocked out in the first round of Match Play the week before Doral last week and came across country to post T4. Nasty.
Jamie Donaldson (C): I’m not sure how one spells “acclimation” in Welsh but I’m guessing it has lotsa of consonants. LOTSA. Each week in the States has been better for Donaldson and last week at Honda he racked up solo sixth. He keeps grinding out top 10s around the world and they usually come on the more difficult courses. He was T2 with Watson here last year on the back of strong ball-striking. When course form, what little there is, meets current form…
Matt Kuchar (B): The former Match Play champ slides under the radar in this event because the “bigger” names get the attention. Not here. His short game, No. 1 in scrambling plus No. 1 in scrambling from the rough, and his ability to keep in the fairway interests me this week.
Adam Scott (A): Tough event to jump into as the first event of the calendar year and first event as a new dad! Scott is premium grade in the ball-striking department and I admire his stones for taking on the best field in golf to get his season started. He had two finishes last season outside of the top 16, T25 at Doral (?!?!?!?!?) and T38 at THE PLAYERS. Maybe I should rethink this…
Paul Casey (B): The resurrection of Casey has been solid but still remains incomplete as he searches for his first win on U.S. soil since the 2009 Shell Houston Open. Sure, he’s picked up wins in 2013 and 2014 across the pond but that doesn’t help gamers over here! After P2 at Riviera and T3 last week at Honda, he’s trending in the right direction. The next step is killing it off and picking up the trophy! That run of P2-T3 is how he’s in the field this week. Saddle up!
Jordan Spieth (B): Ok, it’s no secret that I’m a Spieth-guy but he’s taking the 2014 Matt Kuchar Award of my most mismanaged golfer. With three top 10s in four starts, I’m having a hard time finding any reason to leave him out this week. He’ll remember his second round 79 last year here more than his 69 on Sunday and that’s why I like him.
Henrik Stenson (A): A pair of T13s in the Middle East has quietly opened the big Swede’s 2015 but he hasn’t played in a month. Again, in a field of this quality, it’s hard to turn a blind eye to the 2014 R2D winner. It’s also difficult to omit one of the most consistent ball-strikers from the last five years.
Sergio Garcia (A): A stretch of difficult golf courses should be exactly what the doctor orders for the Spaniard. He missed an opportunity at Riviera with bogeys on his final two holes to miss the playoff. Last week he was T31 with nothing above 72 or below 70 in tough conditions. All the shots in his bag are now defunct of rust. Time to fire this week!
Shane Lowry (C): His time in the U.S. this winter has been well spent as the Irishman cashed T7 at Torrey and racked up another top 25 (T21) at Pebble Beach. Not bad for courses where he’s never teed it up before! His worldwide form is quite impressive as he hasn’t MC since the Irish Open last June. He won’t miss this cut either…
Graeme McDowell (B): He led the TOUR in SGP last season and his accuracy off the tee won’t hurt him this week either. He knocked the rust off last week at Honda and always seems to be sniffing around the leaderboard when the biggest fields get together. His bad week with a putter is most guys good weeks and if it’s windy that short game will be a difference.
J.B. Holmes: I’m having a hard time getting off a guy who has been on form early in the season on the West Coast. His P2 at Torrey was backed up with T10 at Pebble and supported the following week with an excellent start at Riviera before a closing-round 76 dropped him to T22.
Brendon Todd: Checking in at No. 51 in the OWGR on the back of three top 14s in his first five events of 2015 including T10 at Pebble and T14 at Riviera. He’s sixth on TOUR in fairways and 49th in GIR. His short game has been spot on as well and the first-timer will need all facets firing this week.
Joost Luiten: He figured out PGA National on the weekend as he carded 67-69 to just miss out on a top 10 (T11). He figured out “new” Doral last year after 76 in round one as he played the rest of the week one-under to finish T13. He’s 13 of his last 14 since MC at The Open. Call him Juice Newton, Jewst Lootin’, Yaust Lautahn or whatever but make sure he’s properly addressed this week.
Anirban Lahiri: Can you name the multiple winners in the world since November? If you said Andy Sullivan and Lahiri, CONGRATS! I’ll be mailing out #FGN badges later today! After qualifying for the European Tour in late November, the Indian is four from four and has WON two of his last three events. This is a huge step up in class but hot golf is hot golf. I’m not building around him but Doral doesn’t hold any “secrets” that he needs this week. Cheeky.
Alexander Levy: Ok, speaking of being on fire, Levy qualifies as well. After winning the Portugal Masters in early October he’s ran off a streak of T13-T2-T14-T11-T26-T21-T20-MC-T29. Oui, oui! He’s just turned 25 in January and has a bright future.
Alex Noren: I’ve had to hide him down here so the vultures in my league don’t get to him. The Swede has returned from wrist problems, finally, fully healthy and the results have followed. Oh, and he changed his name to Alex from Alexander like Fredrik went to Freddie. Keep up! He returned to the ET in Abu Dhabi and his first event back was T37. He backed that with ninth, second and T11 before T43 at Joburg last week. He’s played five of seven weeks and he’s been in WGC events before. DING.
Gary Stal: He opened 2015 with T5 before holding off some heavy hitters to win at Abu Dhabi the following week. After MC the week after his win he popped back up to claim T4 in Dubai. He’s had a month off since MC in Malaysia in early February. He’ll turn 23 in September and it looks like his last name is missing a letter.
Ryan Palmer: His only MC was at Pebble where he was five-under. His other four starts are T17-T10-T2 and T25 last week with a closing 68 on another difficult course.
Horses for Courses
This segment returns next week at Innisbrook where we’ll have, well, history!
Off the Radar
Outside of the OWGR top 100; AKA “long shots”
Well, we’ll put this on the shelf as well until next week because I don’t want Noren to have his own category.
Out to Sea
Hideki Matsuyama: The field is too deep to WONDER if his wrist is bothering him. There will be plenty of other chances to line up this awesome, young talent. How much better can his wrist really get in 10 days?
Louis Oosthuizen: RUN, RUN, RUN, RUN, RUN
Jim Furyk: Save him for Innisbrook next week and every track that is tight and not over 7,500 yards.
Charl Schwartzel: Course form at Riviera = MC. Course form at Honda = MC. I’m not getting fooled three weeks in a row!
Keegan Bradley: I don’t even know where to start. So consistently inconsistent again to start this year I’m scared to death. I though the breakthrough was Sunday at Riviera. It will DEFINITELY be this week when I’m on the sideline.
Danny Willett: Coming off an injury in a field like this isn’t what I’m looking for to fill my roster.
Puerto Rico Open
Trump International Golf Club
Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
Trump International Golf Club
Yards: 7,506 as per the scorecard
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: Seadwarf Paspalum
Water Hazards: 18
Rough: Paspalum at 1.5”
Course Architects: Tom Kite and Bruce Besse, Jr (2004)
Winner’s Share: $540,000
FexExCup Points: 300 to the winner
Dates: March 5 - 8
Notes: Opposite field event is stroke play with top 70 and ties making the weekend. The winner gets a two-year exemption plus a ticket to the PGA and PLAYERS but no Masters or WGC-BI.
2008: Greg Kraft 274 (one-shot win)**
2009: Michael Bradley 274 (one-shot win)**
2010: Derek Lamely 269 (two-shot win)**
2011: Michael Bradley 272*
2012: George McNeill 272 (two-shot win)
2013: Scott Brown 268 (one-shot win)**
2014: Chesson Hadley 267 (two-shot win)**
*Won in a playoff
**First TOUR victory
Inside the Ropes
Where I’ve praised Trump for his masterful redesign of the Blue Monster at Doral Resort and Spa, Trump International is a classic resort course that will be birdie fest. Easy-to-hit fairways combined with light rough and greens that only run 11’ on the Stimpmeter will have the birdie brigade drooling this week after a tough run at Riviera and Honda. The tournament record has been broken the last two years and unless the wind is a major factor, I don’t see why it won’t be three in a row!
Brendon de Jonge: He’s 42-under in four events here and that includes a 78 in 2012. That’s so de Jongian! Nice bounce back last week at Honda (T25) after 80-73 MC at the difficult Riviera the week before. JUST WIN ALREADY!
Jeff Overton: Gamers have learned that when he gets hot he usually stays hot for a few in a row. I’m jumping on this week as he’s posted three top 15s in five tries. His final three rounds at Honda were all under par.
Boo Weekley: With T3-T8 in his last two in paradise, Weekley confirms the angle that guys who hit the most greens can flourish in birdie-fests as well as they will have that many more chances to hole putts. Weekley’s strength is not putting but he’s 29-under in his last two here.
Chesson Hadley: The Thin Man is one-for-one is course horse status from 2014 as he came from back-to-back MCs to finish T10 at Pebble. He’s MC the last two weeks entering his defense. Get out the trophy polish!
Vaughn Taylor: The most consistent of this bunch, Taylor’s game has traveled on both TOURS this season. In five events he’s made all five weekends and they’ve all been T22 or better including T10 at Pebble Beach.
David Toms: He figured it out quickly here last year after opening with 72 as he finished 16-under and T4.
Peter Uihlein: He was five-for-five on the Euro tour to start the year before food poisoning knocked him out of the weekend in Thailand. He has no problem getting low and there’s nobody in this field that’s going to scare him off. T6 here in 2013 doesn’t hurt either.
Jerry Kelly: Who likes paspalum? THIS guy! He was fifth at Mayakoba and has three top 10s in six tries here.
Martin Flores: This will be his fourth trip in a row and fifth in six years. The last three have trended in the proper direction MC-T64-T19. He’s five of six in 2015 and two of his best three rounds were last week at, gulp, Honda.
Chad Collins: Nice little wild card to end the proceedings this week, Collins had played six weekends in a row (all T41 or better) before MC by a shot last week at Honda. He was T10 here in 2010 but MC last year so he shouldn’t register on most folks radar.
Rookie/Up-and-Comer of the Week Last Week
Once called the “Jordan Spieth” of the week, I had to retire that name after his last two seasons on TOUR. Now, we’ll keep a broad view of newer names/faces that gamers should pay attention to as the season moves on. Some former examples in this column include Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed and Chesson Hadley.
Shriners: Tony Finau, T7s
McGladrey: Robert Streb, WIN
CIMB: Cameron Smith, T5
HTOC: Nick Taylor played his sixth event as a pro. He’s won 1/6 of the events he’s entered. That’s worth keeping an eye on for the foreseeable future.
Humana: Sung Joon Park (T2) is new to the TOUR but is hardly a rookie; Oh, look: Justin Thomas in the top 10 again (T7).
WMPO: Koepka won so he graduates from this column like Reed, Spieth and Matsuyama before him. Justin Thomas is now the current mayor. Daniel Berger was T10, Thomas T17 and Finau returned with another top 25.
Northern Trust: Barber checked in at T12 and all that took was firing a tournament-low 65 on Sunday. No shame in Carlos Ortiz’s final round 75 from the final group as he played two very tough SoCal courses, Torrey South and Riviera T11 and T20. Noted.
Honda: Berger lost in a playoff. He’s played 10 TOUR events.
Coming Later TUESDAY Afternoon
Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game, DFS plus the European Tour! Oh, and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it around 4ET every Tuesday for the rest of the season.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at 12 ET. We will be breaking down the field at the WGC-CC and PRO and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/MikeGlasscott) on Twitter.