The second round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship was as difficult as golf in South Florida can get.
After the completion of the first round Friday morning at Trump National Doral, 14 players were under par, with Patrick Reed leading at 4 under. Eighteen holes later, only four players were under par.
Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan and Reed share the lead at 1 under overall after the foursome combined to shoot 9 over in the second round.
Luckily for everyone, the weather is forecast to be better with 10- to 15-mph winds from the northwest in morning, and 15- to 20-mph winds from the northeast in the afternoon.
Here are 5 Things you need to know from Friday’s action in Doral, Fla.:
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1. WINNER, WINNER: If difficulty was what Donald Trump and Gil Hanse were looking for, then Mother Nature granted their wish.
The Blue Monster has always been the moniker of the championship course at Doral and on Friday afternoon with a scoring average of 76, four strokes above par, the term Blue Monster was more than appropriate.
“Was it difficult? You’re damned right it was difficult,” said Slugger White, PGA Tour vice president of rules and competition. “It was very difficult. It was a tough day to score, a tough day to play, probably a tough day to keep from losing your mind if you think about it.”
In setting up the golf course for Friday’s second round, White worked off a forecast of wind speeds of 15 to 20 mph gusting at 25 mph. He got wind far exceeding that and gusts as high as 36 mph.
Only three rounds were under par on Friday. Jamie Donaldson shot a 2-under 70 while Chris Kirk and Graeme McDowell each shot 71. From there it gets worse – four players at even-par 72, four shot 1-over 73 and nine shot 2-over 74.
And then you have five rounds at 80 and over.
“Someone could shoot 84 today, and they actually haven’t done an awful lot wrong,” Ian Poulter said after shooting 6-over 78. “You can throw the yardage book out the window today. In some respects it’s not golf when you’ve got holes out there where it’s under 200 yards to the front of the green and you’re hitting 3?wood in. You’re not playing a number game, you’re playing a visual, feel game.”
The seventh hole, a 471-yard par-4, played to a stroke average of 4.706. Adam Scott laid up from 168 yards. Tiger Woods and Brandt Snedeker did, as well. None of them wanted to chance seeing their ball land on the green and then roll off into the bordering water.
“It’s a new golf course,” White said. “It’s going to be a learning process for us for probably two years, and again, we were dealt a hand we couldn’t lay down.”
Everyone agrees that the wind was a difficult situation to deal with. But with basically a brand new course and the best players in the world, the comments about Friday’s second round varied.
“I think that the nuances and subtleties will come out under different conditions like this, and there were probably some things that could have been done a little bit better,” Phil Mickelson said of Hanse’s design. “There were some holes that were, under these conditions – there wasn’t a viable way to play the hole.”
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2. SAVING THE BEST FOR LAST: Provided with the final starting time off the 10th tee in the afternoon, Jamie Donaldson of Wales quietly and with very little fanfare made his way along to the tune of 2-under 70.
Much to his surprise, he discovered that it was the best round of the day.
“Didn’t know that,” said the Welshman. “But now I do.”
Having opened with 74 in Round 1, the unheralded Donaldson pushed himself into contention at the halfway pole, at level par sitting just a stroke behind. Not a bad way to leave for dinner after a long, grueling day at the office.
Donaldson birdied his second hole, the par-4 11th, added another at the par-3 15th, but gave one back at the demanding, par-4 third. Piling up the pars, he was seemingly cruising along when there appeared a bump in the road – his ball came to rest on the edge of the fairway down the left side of the eighth hole.
Big problem, because water was to his left.
No problem, Donaldson demonstrated, because he rolled up his pants, hopped in, and punched his shot back into play. That he wound up holing a slippery putt for birdie, then navigating the par-3 ninth in three tidy strokes to finish of his 70 had the 30th-ranked Donaldson smiling.
“When it’s like that (ferocious winds), you’ve just got to control the spin of the ball and just try and keep it in play,” said Donaldson. “It was really, really tough.”
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3. I FELT STRESSED ALL DAY: Tied for the lead after two rounds, Hunter Mahan played survival better than most on Friday.
Mahan was even par through 12 holes in his second round, and tied for the lead at 3 under overall. Then he found the water off the tee at the par-3 fourth hole and ended up making triple bogey. He added a bogey at the par-4 seventh to drop another shot.
But he bounced back with an eagle at the par-5 eighth, hitting his second shot to about a foot, to get back to 1 under for the tournament.
“It was a really tough day,” said Mahan, who finished with a second-round 74. “I had to hit really good quality shots. There wasn’t an easy shot out there, and you’re going to have to find a way to make some putts, because you’re going to have some par putts out there.”
Mahan hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since the Shell Houston Open in 2012. At the same time, Mahan has won two WGCs, the 2010 Bridgestone Invitational and the 2012 Accenture Match Play Championship.
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4. HEADED NORTH: Battered and bruised, there was plenty of proof up and down the leaderboard that this was not a day for good cheer. Five players failed to break 80, including the author of the recent dramatics at the Accenture Match Play Championship, Victor Dubuisson.
Having finished with a first-round 72 in the morning, the 23-year-old opened Round 2 with a par at the first, then got on an ugly bogey train. He bogeyed the second, doubled the third, bogeyed the fourth, and bogeyed the fifth. He added a double at the seventh for an outward 43 and shot 81.
More shockingly, Luke Donald posted his highest PGA Tour score, an 82. Previously, he had shot 80 twice, but not since the 2005 U.S. Open.
The others who failed to break 80 – Martin Kaymer, 80; Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 82; and Dawie van der Walt, 83.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: In 14 previous Cadillac Championships, a second-round leader/co-leader has gone on to win the event nine times, with Tiger Woods winning five times. . . . Tiger Woods made a 91-foot, 7-inch putt on the fourth hole. It was the seventh longest putt in non-majors since 2003. . . . There were a record 113 balls in the water during the second round, previously the most in the water was 88 in 2004. . . . Jonas Blixt was the only player to have a bogey-free round in Round 2 with an even-par 72.