Five Things: Mahan in new position at Doral

Hunter Mahan during the second round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

Hunter Mahan during the second round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

DORAL, Fla. – It was catch-up day at the Blue Monster, players at the Cadillac Championship forced into a marathon session thanks to a storm that had halted the early going Thursday.

With only 11 players completing their first rounds Thursday, 55 players had to play more than 18 holes on a day that started cold and windy and ended warm and breezy.

But chalk it up as mission accomplished, because we are halfway home at the season’s second World Golf Championship and with exactly half the field (33 of 66 players) sitting in red numbers, it appears that we have the makings of a weekend shootout.

Though Hunter Mahan pushed it to 11 under with three birdies in 12 holes, he coughed up two coming in – bogeys at 14 and 16. Still, at 71–135, Mahan put himself into new territory, one clear of Euros Martin Kaymer (70–136) and Francesco Molinari (68–136). He’s had at least a share of the lead six times after 18 holes, but never after 36 and never after 54. (All three of his PGA Tour wins have been of the come-from-behind variety.)

An interesting storyline, but it was just one of many, none more compelling than three members of the Japan PGA – Ryo Ishikawa, Yuta Ikeda, and Hiroyuki Fujita – playing on a day of tragedy in their homeland.

Five other storylines to consider:

1) Ah, Tiger, you’re away

Rarely have amateurs been able to witness a Tiger Woods moment and think, “I could do that.”

The second round of the Cadillac Championship delivered two such moments, both of them misfires on tee shots that had to leave spectators speechless. We’ve heard of driving for show, but, hey, this was silly.

Into a stiff wind coming in from the left at the 418 yard, par 4 second, Woods hit a fat smother hook. Barely had the ball gotten airborne when it seemingly dove hard left, and came to rest in the rough, a whopping 122 yards off the tee.

You read correctly, 122 yards.

At the time, it’s doubtful that Woods would have found any humor in it, but by round’s end he could rationalize it – somewhat. “It’s not the first time I hit a snipe,” he said. “I did it at the Masters. I hit a bad shot. No big deal.”

Slamming his next shot 264 yards, Woods was short and right of the green, from where he proceeded to make bogey.

The next misfire didn’t result in a blemish, but it was stunning, nonetheless. Popping up his shot, Woods’ measured drive at the 461-yard, par-4 14th was 188 yards. On this one, Woods was able to advance his next shot to the front of the green from where he got it up-and-down.

The remainder of his round didn’t include anything quite as dramatic, but it won’t go down as testimony that Woods is back. His best shot of the day, a laser from 132 yards to set up a kick-in birdie at the par-4 third, was followed by bogeys at Nos. 4 and 5, then after 10 consecutive pars, Woods missed a 6-foot birdie try at the 16th, then bogeyed 17.

He appeared poised for a positive finish – his fairway-splitting drive leading to a 138-yard shot to 7 feet at the 18th – but Woods’ birdie try hit a spike mark, jumped off line, and his day ended in frustration. At 74 – 144, Woods is at level par, tied for 34th, but a whopping nine strokes back.

Tournament officials might think that’s too far back for their purposes, but here’s good news for them – Woods will be alongside Phil Mickelson for a third straight day, the two of them going off at 10:20 a.m.

2) The stars were out

The toughest ticket in town wasn’t so tough – at least for the PGA Tour’s most heralded names.

Rushing from the Blue Monster late in the afternoon to get across town for the Lakers-Heat game, a small gang of PGA Tour stars got a kick out of the Hollywood-like gathering.

No, Woods did not go, but among those who did were Ian Poulter, Adam Scott, Nick Watney, Hunter Mahan, Dustin Johnson, Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose. In fact, McDowell had some fun at the expense of his colleague from Northern Ireland when he was reciting the list of stars he saw Thursday night.

“Lil Wayne, Snoop Dog, Busta Rhymes . . . and Rory McIlroy,” McDowell said, tongue firmly planted in cheek.

When apprised of McDowell’s ribbing, McIlroy shrugged it off and actually added another celebrity he saw: “And Kourtney Kardashian.”

The young man apparently knows his celebrities.

3) Staying in shape is costly

McIlroy brushed aside questions about his sore right toe.

“It’s OK. I’ll just ice it,” said the 21-year-old.

He was, however, a bit embarrassed by the way in which he hurt it. It happened during a workout spell in the gym when McIlroy dropped a dumb bell on his foot. Kidded that it was a 5-pound weight, McIlroy cringed.

“Very funny,” he said, then confirmed that it was 50 pounds.

He was, however, a bit embarrassed by the mishap. “I looked around to see if anyone saw me,” McIlroy said.

Having opened with a 68 – the bulk of which was played in warm and calm conditions “when you can hit your shots” – McIlroy did not deny that he wasn’t thrilled with the cool, windy conditions for Round 2.

4) Down in the cellar, some concern

The curious saga of Anthony Kim continues. He played a good portion of his first round in sultry conditions, yet signed for an 80 when the field average was 70.727. It was the worst score of the first round as Kim recorded just one birdie and actually managed to bogey the par 5 first, a hole that yielded three eagles, 43 birdies, and a 4.303 field average.

Making his eighth start of the year, Kim has played only nine rounds since February 1 thanks to a stretch of golf that goes thusly: missed cut, withdrawal, first-round loss in the match play, missed cut.

Kim signed for a 73–153 and enters weekend play last of 66 players. He’s broken 70 just once since a T-6 finish at Torrey Pines in late January.

5) Add one for the road

Before leaving the scorer’s hut, Graeme McDowell watched his score go up – thanks to his honesty.

The reigning U.S. Open champion had been noted all round for a two-putt par at the par 3 ninth, but he called over rules official Andy McPhee before signing his card. McDowell told McPhee that as he made his putting stroke at the ninth, the ball moved. He said he didn’t even need to look at it again, McPhee told McDowell it was a one-stroke penalty, so the hole became a bogey.

McDowell conceded that because he continued with his stroke, he didn’t think it was a penalty.

“I figured I had to ask before I signed my scorecard,” he said. “I was surprised to see it was a one-shot penalty, but it’s just one of those horrible Rules of Golf that catches us all out from time to time. One of those things, unfortunately.”

Instead of 72, McDowell was put down for a 73–143, leaving him tied for 28th.

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