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Destination Doral: WGC-Cadillac Championship Preview

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By Pete Pappas

GolfWRX Staff Writer

I never imagined these words would be uttered from my lips; let alone believing I’d have the thoughts to begin with.  So forgive me.

But golf is starting to take on a sort of superhero-like meaning to me.  And it’s become the most exciting sport on the planet to watch as well.

Just take a gander at this week’s World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, the second WGC of the 2012 PGA Tour season.  Showcasing Florida’s TPC Blue Monster, I dare say it approaches a DC Comics “Hall of Justice” type of gathering.

But instead of a congregation of “Super Friends” in deranged costumes and wacky tights, you have a field of PGA Tour superheroes consisting of 49 international players from 16 different countries, including 16 major championship winners.  And every player from the Official World Golf Rankings Top 50 will be at Doral for only the third time since 2005.

It’s a bird!  It’s a plane!  It’s Bubba Watson’s drive off the tee!  If you have a favorite player, he’s probably in the field.  And every winner from each of the nine PGA Tour events this year will be present.

OK, so who’s the villain?  Why the course itself, of course.  The Blue Monster might not be quite as fabled as the Lock Ness Monster, but it’s definitely far more harrowing, even wicked to the players.  Particularly No. 18, the signature hole; considered by many to be the toughest hole on the PGA Tour.

“If the winds come into you, though, you’ll see all sorts of numbers, “ said Paul Casey, the No. 26-ranked player in the world.  “You never know what’s going to happen on that hole.”

No. 18 is a threatening par 4, 467 yard gauntlet, with a “monstrous” water hazard running up the entire left side (some might recall that Sir Nick Faldo baptized his tee shot in 1995), and a glutinous sprawl of palm trees sitting in deep, wiry Bermuda rough on the right side (flyers and knucklers from these parts).

Players fortunate to be lying unscathed in the fairway should wait to count their blessings though.  On approach they will fire into a severely sloped green, with wayward shots finding miscreant water (still) on the left, and an ungenerous host of bunkers on the right. 

“Tough tee shot, tough second shot, take your four and run, said the No. 15-ranked player in the world, Graeme McDowell.

Yeah, good luck with that. It’s right out of Dante’s Inferno, the PGA Tour’s version of the “Ninth Circle of Hell” (Treachery).

Never Tell Me The Odds

RORY MCILROY (6/1).  Can lighting strike twice?  McIlroy is the frontrunner to be the first back-to-back winner, and multiple-winner on the PGA Tour this season.  Yes he’s the world’s No. 1 ranked player.  Yes his ability is extraordinary.  But he’s also won on the PGA Tour a total of (drum-roll) three times.

McIlroy is still only an “idea”.  He’s a player in gestation.  His potential not yet realized in any outward form.  And it wasn’t so long ago McIlroy was being called the new Sergio Garcia: emphatically talented, prodigiously whiny, and extremely immature (recall McIlroy lamenting the British Open weather in 2011).

I’m not saying McIlroy is overrated, or that he won’t prosper for many years.  He has abundant and uncommon talent, no question.  And he is currently playing better than anyone on tour.

But I am saying the young Irishman has the same number of major wins as guys named Vic Ghezzi, Mungo Park, and Dow Finsterwald.  Let McIlroy win a few more times before he’s crowned greatest player in the game today.

TIGER WOODS (7/1).  Tiger has clawed his way back to No. 16 in the World Golf Rankings.  He’s a six-time WGC winner, including one victory at Doral.  And he’s never finished outside the top 10 at the WGC-Cadillac Championships.

However what might be most important, is what Tiger’s final-round 62 last week at The Honda Classic meant. It was the best final round of his career.

No one’s asking “What’s wrong with Woods?” anymore.  A charging Tiger with birdie-eagle finish on No. 17 and No. 18 at the Honda put everyone on notice that he’s still very dangerous. And it’s no longer a matter of process (Tiger often referring to his comeback many times as a process), but a matter of time.

And don’t think Tiger didn’t hear what McIloy said when asked about a Woods-McIlroy rivalry?  “I think it’s more the media that build up the rivalries more than anyone else.” McIlroy said.  “In golf, you can have a rival if you want, but at the end of the day, your biggest rival is the golf course.  You have to beat that,” he said.

We saw what happened last week when reporter Alex Miceli made Tiger mad.  You mess with the Tiger; you get the teeth (something like that).  A Woods-McIlroy final grouping on Sunday is very possible.  And very intriguing.

PHIL MICKELSON (12/1).  His days are numbered.  He’s too old.  Diminishing skills.  He’s playing with a debilitating injury.

You remember those yahoos don’t you?  Heck, you might have even been one of the howling naysayers.  It’s ok, you weren’t alone.

Well after winning the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and nearly winning the Northern Trust Open after forcing a playoff with a flabbergasting putt on No. 18, you now know that his days aren’t numbers, right?

And with Tiger joining Mickelson in the field for the first time since Pebble, “Lefty” gets an opportunity to wax Woods.  Again. 

LEE WESTWOOD (14/1).  Westwood has to be the PGA Tour’s version of Rodney Dangerfield.  How else do you explain going out Sunday at Honda, shooting a final round 63, and barely getting mentioned on Monday?

Yes it was the Rory-Tiger Show last week.  But we’re talking about a final round 63.  We’re talking about the No. 3 player in the world.  We’re talking about his best final round score in America.  And no one made a peep in the mainstream media.  No one said a word about it.

So I’m putting Westwood in the top four on principle alone.  Westwood’s two fourth-place finishes in two PGA Tour events entered this year (WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and Honda) also signals his readiness to take on the TPC Blue Monster.

Of course he could always just bounce his tee shot down a spectator’s sweater again (like he did on the par 5, No. 13 at Northern Trust) to get noticed.  But it’d probably be easier if he just wins the WGC-Cadillac Championship. 

The Super Sleepers

LUKE DONALD (25/1).  Last year’s “Donald Double” (finishing on top of the money list on both the PGA and European Tours) was unprecedented.  And the PGA Tour’s reigning Player of the Year finished inside the top 10 a staggering 20 times in 26 events entered last year

But Donald, who spent 40 weeks at No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings before losing his spot to McIlroy last week, really hasn’t been in the mix yet in 2012 (T-33 at WGC-Accenture, T-56 at Northern Trust).

A T-6 finish last year at TPC Blue Monster bodes well for Donald.  However he’ll need to find his touch around the greens that made him the world’s best golfer in 2011 (fifth best on tour last year in sand saves, compared to No. 168 this year; and No. 41 last year in GIR, but outside the top 150 this year).

MATT KUCHAR (30/1).  In 2010 Kuchar finished T-3 at TPC Blue Monster.  In 2011 he finished T-5.  Kuchar likes Doral, no two ways about it.

And his T-5 finish this year at WGC-Accenture showed he’s currently in a good place with his game.  Don’t be surprised to see the World No. 14 pick up his fourth career win on the PGA Tour this week.

HUNTER MAHAN (30/1).  Mahan defeated McIlroy two-and-one at WGC-Accenture two weeks ago, jumping up to No. 10 in the world with his victory.  And a win Sunday at Doral gives him the opportunity to become only the third player to win three or more WGC events (Woods and Geoff Ogilvy).

Mahan’s ball striking has been sharp in 2012.  He’s No. 21 in GIR.  But at T-87 in driving distance, he’ll be at a marked disadvantage from the rest of the field on the long fairways of TPC Blue Monster.

Boulevard of Broken Dreams

DUSTIN JOHNSON (25/1).  I hate to put Johnson in this group, but given his talent and near misses, he remains one of the biggest disappointments on tour.  To his credit he did finish well (T-5 at Pebble, and T-4 at Northern Trust), and has three top 10 finishes this year.

But he just seems to have a knack for taking holes off, and falters when it matters most.  He had the 54-hole lead last year here at the TPC Blue Monster, but I haven’t seen anything this year to suggest he’ll avoid breaking down at some point and contend at Doral.

NICK WATNEY (25/1).  I probably shouldn’t put Watney in this group; clearly he’s the defending champion, and has a runner-up finish here to boot.  He played well knocking out Woods at the WGC-Accenture, before being eliminated by Westwood the following round.

Like Donald, he’s been somewhat slow to start the season, at least by Watney’s own standards.  He’s grabbed one top 10 finish in his five events played in 2012.  But every tournament he’s had trouble scoring (he’s ranked 114th in scoring with a 71.33 average).  And I don’t see him turning it on at Doral.

Perfect Pairings

McIlroy, Donald, Westwood

With the top 24 players being grouped by their place in the Official World Golf Rankings, this is unquestionably the spotlight pairing.  No. 1 McIlroy, No. 2 Donald, and No. 3 Westwood also are the last three men to hold the No. 1 ranking in the world.  When the sun falls over Doral on Sunday evening, any of them could be No 1.

And don’t discount the little feud between McIlroy and Westwood that kindled late last year when McIlroy fired mutual agent Chubby Chandler.  When Westwood learned about the dismissal, he publicly tweeted “bizarre decision” to McIlroy. That of course led the mercurial McIlroy to “unfollow” Westwood on twitter.

Woods, Sergio Garcia, Watney

Woods is third in scoring average on tour, and fifth in driving accuracy.  Watney is No. 131 in driving distance at 283.6 yards, and No. 18 in GIR at 70.14 percent.  Sergio Garcia looks to build on the momentum he gained at Northern Trust, when he shot seven-under on Sunday, jumping 45 spots up the leader board.

Mickelson, Mahan, Adam Scott

Mickelson is the PGA Tour Player of the Month.  Mahan is ranked No. 10 in the world, and No. 10 in scoring average.  Adam Scott is ranked No. 11 in the world.

Alvaro Quiros, Kyle Stanley, Gary Woodland

Big bombers in this group; and that gives them a distinct advantage at Doral.  Quiros averages 315.9 yards on the European Tour.  Stanley, winner of the 2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open, is second on PGA Tour in driving distance averaging 307.6 yards (behind only Bubba Watson).  And Woodland is ranked No. 23 in driving distance at 298.9 yards.

Justin Rose, Bubba Watson, Mark Wilson,

Rose was in contention one shot back of McIlroy last week at Honda until he put one in the drink at No. 15.  Wilson is already a winner this year at the WGC-Accenture, and has played well all season with two top 10 finishes.  And there’s talk Bubba might incorporate a “Lebron James’ chalk toss” into his pre-shot routine.  “You’re welcome!”

Notes:

Television Coverage:

Thursday 2 – 6 p.m. EST, Golf Channel.

Friday 2 – 6 p.m. EST, Golf Channel.

Saturday 12 – 2 p.m. EST, Golf Channel; 2 – 6 p.m. EST, NBC.

Sunday 1 – 3 p.m. EST, Golf Channel; 3 – 7 p.m. EST, NBC.

Radio Coverage:

SiriusXM Satellite Radio

Thursday – Saturday, 12 – 6 p.m. EST.

Sunday, 1 – 7 p.m. EST.

Odds:
Odds provided by Las Vegas PGA Tour Golf Betting Odds.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

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Pete is a journalist, commentator, and interviewer covering the PGA Tour, new equipment releases, and the latest golf fashions. Pete's also a radio and television personality who's appeared multiple times on ESPN radio, and Fox Sports All Bets Are Off. And when he's not running down a story, he's at the range working on his game. Above all else, Pete's the proud son of a courageous mom who battled pancreatic cancer much longer than anyone expected. You can follow Pete on twitter @PGAPappas

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2017 GolfWRX Holiday Gift Guide

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It’s that time of year again, GolfWRX members… the moment we start filling our wish lists with the golf gear we want this holiday season.

The GolfWRX Holiday Gift Guide was created to ensure that our readers give (and receive) the very best golf gifts on the planet. And whether that special person you’re buying for is into apparel, equipment, technology or cool accessories, our Holiday Gift Guide has you covered. These gift ideas will suit any budget, and each item was hand-picked by our staff.

When you’re done reading, be sure to pass the link along to drop a not-so-subtle hint of what you really want this holiday season.

Uther Tour Towel: $24.99

The first golf towel the golfer on your list will actually be excited about receiving. Uther has a wealth of cool designs, but we’re partial to the large 20 x 40-inch Flamingo Lake Tour Towel.

Buy it.

Sunfish The Declaration headcover (fairway wood): $59.99

We like the idea of making a statement with one of your wood or hybrid headcovers. There are fewer cooler statement designs than one of the greatest statements in world history: the Declaration of Independence.

Buy it. 

True Linkswear Originals: $149

If you haven’t heard, True linkswear has returned to its spikeless roots with a vengeance this year. Whether the golfer on your list prefers a more traditional style or something more sporty, the Originals will satisfy.

Buy it.

A dozen custom Titleist Pro V1s: $56.99

Titleist’s My ProV1 custom creation portal keeps getting cooler. We’re partial to the new holiday graphic options. Custom number + more than 200 logo/icon options + personalization of three lines per side = the best custom ball holiday gift.

Buy it.

Imperial Headwear Ugly Visor: $40

 

You’ve heard of the ugly Christmas sweater. Take that concept and apply it to a tour visor from Imperial Headwear. Enough said. Plus, Imperial is running a “Black Friday Buy More, Save More Sale” through Sunday.

Buy it.

Bushnell Pro X2: $499

A top-of-the-line rangefinder with bells and whistles aplenty for the demanding golfer on your list.

Buy it.

TecTecTec VPRO500: $149.99

If you don’t want to pony up 500 bucks, here’s an excellent rangefinder at a reasonable price. Measures up to 540 yards and is accurate within one yard. And 20 percent off through November 27!

Buy it.

Sugarloaf Social Club Pimento Pack: $125

The folks at Sugarloaf Social Club have done it again. Their latest offering: The Pimento Pack, featuring SSC’s signature pimento loafwich. Pack includes: Made in the USA dancing pimento putter cover. Olive five-panel cap w/ pimento logo embroidered on front panel. Made in the USA club towel.

Buy it.

The First Major by John Feinstein: $16.99

Feinstein’s latest. Like the dust jacket says: “a dramatic chronicle of the bitterly-fought 2016 Ryder Cup pitting a U.S. team out for revenge against the Europeans determined to keep the Cup out of American hands.” If you’re buying a book, make it this one.

Buy it.

Holderness & Bourne Robbins Long Sleeve Heathered Claret: $125

Holiday red? Sunday red? H&B’s Robbins Long Sleeve Heathered Claret layer feels like a sweatshirt but looks like a sweater. Wearable on course and off. The golfer on your list will appreciate the versatility of this garment in contrast to getting the proverbial “another sweater.”

Buy it.

Linksoul Professor Art Print: $65

A touch classic. A touch modern. A great golf print that’ll satisfy a range of tastes.

Buy it.

Golftec Silver Holiday Package: $295

We end with the gift of better golf (in the form of a Golftec gift package). Boasting a 95 percent success rate, GolfTec students improve their games. The company is offering a range of holiday options, but we like the Silver Package, which includes an evaluation, lesson, practice session, and custom fitting.

Buy it.

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Tour Mash: Rahm wins in Dubai, Cook sizzles to victory

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Two more points races reached their end this weekend. The LPGA season culminated in Florida with the Race to the CME Globe, while the European Tour concluded its Race to Dubai in, where else? Dubai! The PGA Tour played its final event until the new year, in Georgia, while the Ladies European Tour played its Sanya Open in China. Before American Thanksgiving revelry and remembrance set in, it’s time for one more tour mash.

LPGA Tour: A day of twos ends in a win for Ariya

Ariya Jutanugarn birdied her final two holes to win the CME Tour Championship. She was given the opportunity to win in regulation when Lexi Thompson pushed a 2-foot putt for par at the last. Although Thompson did not win the year’s final event, she captured 2 titles of her own: Vare Trophy for low scoring average and Race To CME Globe, the season’s points race.

How Ariya Jutanugarn tasted victory

The power game has arrived on the LPGA Tour, in case you missed it. Golfers such as Lexi, Ariya and Sung Hyun Park obliterate the orb, leaving little yardage to the green. When her game is firing, Ariya Jutanugarn is unstoppable. After bogey at the first hole on Sunday, the young golfer from Thailand etched six birdies into the final 17 holes, for a second-consecutive 67. Her birdie at the last came from 23 feet, an amazing putt to hole with victory on the line. Down it went, and up went the smile of a champion.

How the rest came up just shy of a win

With eerie similarity, Lexi Thompson’s card was the flip side of Ariya’s. Thompson made six birdies over her first 17 holes, but the hiccough at the last, her only bogey on the day, dropped her to 14-under par and opened the door for Jutanugarn. Thompson was on absolute fire on Sunday, hitting all 14 fairways and using the putter 28 times. Ariya, Kim Kaufman, Michelle Wie and Suzann Pettersen stood tied atop at 10-under, heading into round 4. Pettersen’s 72, Kaufman’s 71 and Wie’s 70 were simply not enough to keep pace with those coming from behind on Sunday. Ariya, however, was up to the challenge.

European Tour: Rahm wins in Dubai and Fleetwood breathes again

For a time, it seemed as though Justin Rose would win his third consecutive event in Europe and would squeeze past Fleetwood for the season points title. The former Englishman was in the midst of the greatest scoring run of his career, while the later Englishman seemed to have little petrol left in the tank. Then the back nine on Sunday happened, and everything changed.

How Jon Rahm won the DP World Tour

Shane Lowry made 10 birdies on Sunday, but he had one bogey. Rahm had half as many birdies and zero bogeys, and that last number made the difference. The young Basque played a stellar 132 over the closing 36 holes, eclipsed only by Lowry’s 131. Rahm fearlessly navigated his way around the Jumeirah Estates course, eeking out a one-shot win over Lowry and also hard-charging Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

How the others went home trophy-less

We all want to know about Rose. four birdies on the outward 9-holes staked him to a lead, and the greatest season comeback on a major tour was nearly written. With only three bogeys in his first 63 holes, Rose proceeded to bogey 12, 14 and 16, with only a birdie at the last to bring him to 17-under. He ended up two behind Rahm, and in second place in the Race to Dubai points race. It was a glorious campaign for Rose, and cements him as world player to watch in 2018. The Englishman tied for fourth with Sergio Garcia, Dean Burmeister and Dylan Fritelli, both of South Africa, on 17-under par.

PGA Tour: Cook collects First Tour win in Georgia

Fall is a time for young aspirants to make a mark on the PGA Tour. Austin Cook followed the script, birdieing 3-of-his-final-4 holes to stretch a single-shot lead into a four-stroke triumph. J.J. Spaun, a Web.Com tour graduate in 2017, was in the mix for the second consecutive week. He played well down the stretch, and earned a runner-up finish.

How Cook caught fire

Austin Cook played a veteran front-nine, with one bogey and one birdie. None of the chasers caught him, so the Arkansas alum continued to manage his game in the fairways-greens style. On the inward half, Cook took charge, with birdies at 15, 17 and 18, to move well in front of the runner-up. With the precision of a surgeon, Cook took apart the Sea Island course in impressive fashion. After his second-round 62, many expected him to have one weak round on the weekend, but 66-67 showed the his mettle.

How the others flamed out

Spaun really didn’t flame out, not like last week, when he caught the double-bogey train. A proven winner on other tours, Spaun should win in 2018. His game was solid, mixing in more birdies than bogeys, and his second-place finish was well-earned. Brian Gay might have been more comfortable than any other golfer this week, but he was just as erratic. Case in point: back nine. From holes 13 to 18, Gay made one birdie, two eagles, two pars and one double. Still, his numbers were low enough to secure solo third, one stroke behind Spaun and two in front of the fourth-place finishers.

Ladies European Tour: Boutier sizzles on back nine for win

Celine Boutier imagined a top-10 or top-5 when the third day dawned at Yalong Bay, in China. After bogeys on holes 4 and 5, she needed to gather herself in order to preserve her standing. From this day forward, “gather herself” in the dictionary will forever show a picture of Celine Boutier. Her six-birdie finish vaulted her past all challengers, to her first European Tour victory.

How Boutier bloomed

The recent Duke University graduate posted three rounds in the 60s, the only competitor to achieve that distinction at the Sanya Open. The Frenchwoman didn’t make a bogey until the 15th hole of her second round, but she was stuck in neutral from that hole through the 9th hole on Sunday, making only pars and bogeys. Something clicked at the turn, and Boutier regained the confidence that had produced 10 birdies during the tournament’s first half.

How the others gave chase

Solar Lee was in good standing on Sunday’s outward nine. She bounced back from an opening bogey with three birdies through the 9th, and held the top spot on the leader board at 7-under. Lee reached 9-under through 13, but made bogey at 14 to drop to 8-under. Then came the blossoming of Boutier, and Lee had to be satisfied with the runner-up spot. One spot behind Lee was Valdis Thora Jonsdottir, Iceland’s reigning professional golfer, at 7-under.

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Wednesday’s Photos from The 2017 RSM Classic

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GolfWRX is live this week from The 2017 RSM Classic at Sea Island Golf Club — the Seaside course plays as a par 70 measuring 7,005 yards — in St. Simons Island, Georgia.

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Headlined by last week’s OHL Classic champion Patton Kizzire, and 2015 RSM Champion Kevin Kisner, this week’s field is filled with notable names including Ricky Barnes, Zac Blair, Luke Donald, Ernie Els, Harris English, Tommy Gainey, Bill Haas, Beau Hossler, Zach Johnson, Smylie Kaufman, Matt Kuchar, Davis Love III, Graeme McDowell, Ollie Schniederjans, Brandt Snedeker, Hudson Swafford, Bubba Watson and others.

In last year’s RSM Classic, Mackenzie Hughes won in a five-man playoff to secure his first PGA Tour victory. He’s back in the field this year to defend his title.

Check out out photos from Sea Island G.C. below!

Wednesday’s Galleries

 

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums.

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