Hopefully you have all recovered from one of the most exhilarating, exciting and bizarre final day watches last week as Russell Henley defied the odds (literally… he was 300/1) and overcame a 4-man playoff to win at the Honda Classic. Obviously, one of those men was former World Number 1 Rory McIlroy and how on earth he lost the title is remarkable, but that approach on the 18th to try and claw back the victory will go down as one of the greatest shots of the year.
Onto this week and it’s time for the second WGC event of 2014 as the Cadillac Championship rolls into Florida and the historic Blue Monster Course at Trump National Doral.
However, history has undergone an extreme change over the past year, with a mega re-design being made to the classic Dick Wilson track. Barring the signature 18th hole, there have been drastic alterations on pretty much every hole, making it longer, tighter and more challenging, whilst bringing water into play on 4 more holes (now 10 overall).
It was one of the easier courses on tour, with windy conditions being its only defence at times, but with this new look, it will be a unique and theoretically inaugural WGC event. Therefore, we have decided you can throw out a lot of the previous course form, although you can’t completely disregard it.
Donald Trump, Gil Hanse and his team have turned The Blue Monster into a 7,481 yard par-72, which makes you think about the bombers, especially with there being 4 par-5s, but do not be fooled. There are also 4 par-3s, so in other words the complete, all-rounded player will be the one to prevail come the end of the week.
Check out this video back in December with Hanse himself describing the changes to the course. The most impressionable quote came right at the beginning
“It started as a restoration, turned into a renovation and now it’s a complete re-model. It’s basically a brand new golf course”
With all the touches, it seems obvious that your tee-to-green stalwarts will have a big say, as will competent putters and accurate yet longish drivers. Basically, the best of the best.
It is still worth noting that the 6 previous winners did have a top 10 in ONE of their previous 2 strokeplay events. This could be even more prevalent considering the tougher test they will now face…
Webb Simpson (40/1 various)
We couldn’t help but be intrigued by Webb Simpson this week. After researching the ins and outs of the course, we instantly thought about him and how he could be one of the top guys in with a shout.
Then, seeing his odds at 40s made us incredibly excited and we jumped on it straight away. A major champion who is looks in good form at the moment (barring the T70 finish at the Northern Trust Open). We were impressed by his displays at the matchplay, before succumbing to an outrageous performance from Louis Oosthuizen and his T10 at the Waste Management would tie in with the top 10 trend and shows his form.
Before that, he was scintillating and there is no reason he can’t continue that here. He has the game for the new design and if he can get it all clicking, then he could really electrify. T34 in driving accuracy, 23rd in total driving, T11 ball striking, T17 GIR, strokes gained putting 2nd and 1st in par 5 birdie or better.
When you have finished digesting those incredible stats, then you will have realised that this is a man who has that all-round perfect package to overcome the new design. We all know how good his irons and tee-to-green efficiency is; with a couple of appearances here before, he will know the area and set up and Simpson could wrap his hands around that coveted trophy.
Sergio Garcia (22/1 PaddyPower)
Oh, oh, oh, Sergio. We have had tumultuous times with the tempestuous Spaniard recently, after he gave away that infamous 17-footer to Rickie Fowler at the matchplay. The fact we are still standing strong by Garcia, is testament to how much we like him again this week.
He shot an outstanding –3 67 on Sunday at The Honda Classic to move him up to T8 and whilst it was one of the best rounds of the day, it also showed us the fine form he is in once again.
He won the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters in January as well, so everything is looking to be in fine working order.
Because of his lack of playing time on the PGA Tour, his stats aren’t available, but we all know what he can do. He hits the ball a fair distance – usually around 300 yards, is a tee-to-green specialist when his irons are in full flow and the new lease of life he has with the putter is incredibly encouraging. Last year he was 23rd for par 5 birdie or better, so he knows how to attack the longer holes.
And, whilst the course will be different to previous years, he has played some great golf on The Blue Monster in the past, even with a T3 in 2013.
Last chance saloon Sergio? Well, we shall talk after Augusta.
Zach Johnson (35/1 Paddy Power)
Zach was THE hottest player on the planet just over a month ago and after a few weeks off to recharge the batteries, he will be up for the challenge of claiming his first ever WGC title. He went win, win, T8 and T3 at the start of this year, which was some going. This week he comes in off a 1st round exit at the match play (on a course he does not like) and a very up and down T33 at last week’s Honda Classic. He started the first round off with a quad-bogey and then somehow dragged back a top 10 finish on day 1. But he still played some consistent stuff and the stats do not lie.
He ranks 1st for driving accuracy, 3rd GIR, 37th strokes gained-putting, 3rd par 3 birdie or better, 1st scoring average, 16th ball striking and 11th proximity to the hole. The increased length at Doral will be no worry to Zach as his game has adapted brilliantly to the ever-increasing yardage on PGA courses. And when you are always hitting the fairway, you give yourself plenty of chances. And when he was in Masters form a few years back, he recorded 3 top 10’s in 4 years around this track. He’s arguably in better form now.
Ryan Moore (70/1 Paddy Power)
We use the phrase ‘one of our favourite players’ a lot, but Ryan Moore really is. He is what they call a ‘ball striker’ and it is these type of players that will thrive around Doral. He won his first title of this season back in October at the CIMB Classic and has since recorded another two consecutive top 10s. Despite a missed cut in his only other recent stroke play outing, the American is dominating the Tour stats.
He lies 9th in driving accuracy, 2nd in GIR, 26th strokes gained-putting, 7th birdie average, 1st par 3 birdie or better, 17th ball striking and 5th proximity to the hole. It is a game that is perfect for Doral and although he is yet to make his mark on this tournament, this could certainly be the year.
Hunter Mahan (40/1 Various)
You can never go wrong picking Hunter with the way he is playing at the moment. Just like Moore, he is a ball striker and arguably the very best. He drives it straight and his iron-play is unrivalled on his day. He is someone who also really enjoys the WGC events having already won both the Match Play and the Bridgestone. So the Cadillac would fit nicely in his set.
Hunter has been playing really solid of late, with T4 at the Waste Management followed by a 6th at Pebble Beach. His last appearance was at the Match Play where by all accounts he was robbed by McDowell and should have at least had a spot in the last 8. His stats, like all of our picks, are impressive with him lying 4th strokes gained-putting, 4th total driving, 15th scoring average, 15th ball striking and 40th GIR. He is sure to put in a solid performance it will be just a question of whether he can push on over the weekend.