As we take an early look at the field that will tee it up on Thursday morning at The WGC-Cadillac Championship we have some burning questions. Will the defending champion be healthy enough to make the field? Can Rory McIlroy overcome the Sunday meltdown at The Honda Classic, and will the newly designed Blue Monster be able to live up to its reputation as one of the PGA Tours toughest stops?
They blew up the Blue Monster only minutes after Tiger Woods lifted the Trophy at the 2013 Cadillac Championship last year, and legendary golf course designer, Gil Hanse has completely changed the iconic old golf course. Most players who have played the new Donal Trump tract have said you can throw away your old book, as it is for all practical purposes, a new venue.
Each of the 18 holes has a new measurement. While eight of them are shorter than pre-overhaul, the aggregate yardage is up 147 yards to a beefy 7,481. Lengthened 63 yards, the par-5 10th hole was extended the most; it’s now the longest test on the course at 614 yards. It’s also one of seven stretched at least 20 yards. The largest cut occurred at the par-3 fourth, which now read 203 yards on the card, a reduction of 33 yards since last year. Updated irrigation and stadium seating are modern benefits that have been added to the overall value.
Each of the 18 greens has been recreated, too. This was arguably the area that required the greatest improvement on the property. While last year’s field ranked a respective eighth and 13th in fairways and greens hit as compared to all courses on the PGA TOUR, scrambling, one-putt percentage and three-putt avoidance ranked among the easiest. Blue Monster’s scoring average of 71.354 ranked seventh-lowest among 19 par 72s, a fact not lost on new owner Donald Trump.
The biggest question facing the 68 other players in the World Class field, is will they have to face number one. Tiger Woods withdrew from the Honda Classic last Sunday after experiencing back spasms. Woods said he felt a twinge in his back on the practice tee, and picked up his ball on the 13th hole. He left playing partner, Luke Gutherie to finish the day by himself.
You have to think that if there is any way that the 2013 defending champ can make it, he will be in the field when they get underway on Thursday.
Rory McIlroy had one of his better days on Saturday in 2013, and made a mini comeback during the third round in a year that the former number one would like to forget.
McIlroy is playing as well as anyone at this point in the season, and I personally think he got a case of the nerves at PGA National, and will learn how to win again. If not this week, then very soon.
With so many great players in the field, it’s tough to point to one of them and say, “that’s your winner” but based on what we have seen in the early going this year, you have put McIlroy, Jason Day, and Dustin Johnson pretty high on the probability list for winning at Doral.
There are some question marks out there as well. Some of the top players have struggled early on, and The Cadillac will provide a measuring stick for players that expect to compete at Augusta next month.
You can be sure that the $9 Million Dollar purse has everyone’s attention as well as the FedEx and Race To Dubai points that are on the line.
You can follow Les on Twitter @Spin_47 and in the Golf Community at Google+