Inside Track – WGC Doral
Harry Emanuel gives you the lowdown on this week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral in Florida.
Course: TPC Blue Monster, Doral Golf Resort & Spa
Location: Miami, Florida
Low Winning Total: 269 (-19) Phil Mickelson (2009)
Course Record: 61 Stephen Ames 2000
Cut: No Cut
Tee Off: Thursday 16.20 BST
The WGC-Cadillac Championship is the second of four World Golf Championships in the 2011 calendar.
The tournament is a limited filed event and only the best players from 2010 earn their way into the tournament with places for the top 30 from the FedEx Cup standings, the top 20 from the Race to Dubai and the top two players from the season ending lists of the Asian Tour, Japan Tour, Australasian Tour and the Sunshine Tour.
Players with good starts to the 2011 season have also earned their way into the field via the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking, the top 10 in the Race for Dubai and the top 10 in the FedEx Cup standings as of March 7th.
This year the field is made up of 69 players from 19 countries including all the players from the top 50 in the world rankings.
Doral was home to a regular PGA Tour event from 1962-2006. In 2007 it became the permanent home of the WGC-Cadillac Championship.
Last Time Out
Ernie Els opened with a first round 68 and a share of second place one stroke behind fellow South African Charl Schwartzel. A second round 66 gave Els the outright lead at the halfway stage.
Els couldn’t extend his lead after a third round 70 and he went into the final round tied with Schwartzel at 12-under-par. However Els’ superior experience won through on the final day and a final round 66 was enough for a comfortable four stroke victory and his second WGC title.
The key to Els’ victory was a solid all round game. He ranked 16th in driving distance, 19th in driving accuracy, 2nd in greens in regulation, 3rd for scrambling and 6th in putting average.
The Blue Monster Course is a typical Floridian resort course with wide palm tree lined fairways, raised undulating greens, light Bermuda rough and an assortment of water hazards.
Last year new tees were added to the second and seventh holes extending the yardage of each hole by 47 and 27 yards.
With six par fours measuring less than 420 yards and four par fives on the scorecard players are often faced with little more than a wedge for their approach shots and low scoring is common place.
There are water hazards in play on 11 holes and over 100 bunkers so players need to drive the ball well.
Last year frosts in early January all but killed off the Bermuda grass and the rough was a little inconsistent and only 2 ¼ inches long. This year better growing conditions will see a return to thicker 3 ½ inch rough.
Long hitters have an advantage on the short par fours (particularly the drivable par four 16th) and the reachable par fives (1st, 8th and 10th). However the longer rough will make it tougher this year for those who are slightly wayward off the tee.
The raised Bermuda greens are large, undulating and heavily protected by bunkers. Accurate approach shots are required to the right part of the green or players will be left with very difficult long putts.
The greens are firm and fast running at around 12 on the stimpmeter and good putters often thrive.
“Conditions are pretty good. Fairways, greens look good. Rough is higher than I’ve seen it in the past. I didn’t play last year, so there was some new tees. But it was good. I thought the greens were in good shape. I think that putting is going to be a little easier.” – Bubba Watson
“It’s good for a change not to worry about making a cut, and like last week, I had to make an 18-foot to make the cut on the number. It’s good not to worry about that this week. Besides that, it’s fun. I love Miami. It’s a place where a lot of Latin people and a lot of Venezuelans live. It’s good to have their support.” – Jhonattan Vegas
Horses for Courses
There are five previous course winners taking part – Ernie Els (2010/2002) Phil Mickelson (2009), Geoff Ogilvy (2008), Tiger Woods (2007/2006/2005) and Jim Furyk (2000).
Tiger Woods won a hat-trick of events at Doral from 2005-2007 and has finished inside the top 10 on all nine visits to Doral. He has played in 34 WGC events claiming 16 wins and 29 top 10’s.
The finishing hole at Doral is one of the most intimidating on the PGA Tour and it was toughest hole on Tour in 2004 and 2007. In 2009 it was the second most difficult hole the players faced all year with an average score of .479 strokes over par.
It is very similar to the 18th at The Players Championship requiring a long accurate drive over water to a very small landing area. The danger does not end there as the second shot often requires a long iron to the narrow green which is bordered by water on the left hand side.
Last year with a westerly wind (downwind) it was not so difficult but with strong easterly winds forecast this weekend expect it to once again prove a formidable test.
There’s a 50% chance of thunderstorms on Thursday but clear skies are forecast for the rest of the tournament.
The Blue Monster may show more teeth this year with winds in the region of 10-20mph expected on all four days.
With a limited field and no cut it is possible for players to make up ground after a poor start but in the last four years the second round leader has gone on to lift the trophy so it pays to get off to a good start.
Strong winds and higher rough will make playing conditions tougher this year but with the top 50 players in the world and good putting surfaces we should continue to see low scores.
Long drivers can be at an advantage but accurate approach play to the big Bermuda greens and a hot putter are the keys to success.
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