Five Things: Watson making best of it at Doral
Friday, March 9, 2012
DORAL, Fla. – Two wind-blown rounds are in the book, and though more players (44 of 74) are in red numbers than are in black, no one is ready to say that Doral’s TPC Blue Monster is toothless.
Danger still lurks, but clearly we have a shootout here at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.
We also have five things from Friday’s second round worth noting:
CAN’T FIGURE HIM OUT: It’s hard to determine what’s more confounding, the 18th hole at the Blue Monster or Bubba Watson. Each presents its challenges.
The 18th has water down the left, annoying palm trees down the right, water in front of the green and deep bunkers guarding the right side of a green that slants in a devilish way.
Watson presents his own challenges. Enormously talented and powerful enough to push over most golf courses, Watson doesn’t profess much affection of the Doral resort’s showcase course. He has said in the past that if it weren’t a World Golf Championship event, it wouldn’t be on his schedule, and his record here doesn’t exactly shine: 72nd in 2009, did not play in 2010 and withdrew a year ago.
So go figure. Watson, with a sizzling 62, is at 12-under 132 and one in front of Justin Rose.
Which means he likes the place, right?
“This golf course doesn’t really suit me,” Watson said, though he had an explanation that makes sense.
“When you hit the ball well and you putt good, every golf course you can score on.”
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SOFTER, GENTLER: For the fifth straight day, the wind came from an easterly direction, so by now, players are used to the main defense that the Blue Monster can throw at them.
But whereas the wind came barreling at them at about 25 mph Thursday, it wasn’t nearly that strong Friday, and the numbers showed that it wasn’t much of a “monster.”
With the course playing more than 2 1/2 strokes easier (72.662 field average Thursday, 69.919 Friday), 27 players rushed forth to post scores in the 60s, against just 12 Thursday.
“It was a little easier,” said Charles Howell III, who shot 67 and is joint seventh, five off the lead. “It’s not often you look up and see a 62 (by Bubba Watson), and while I thought it was scoreable, I didn’t think it was that scoreable.”
One thing that remained constant, however, was the start and the finish. The 529-yard, par-5 first hole played easiest for a second straight day, while the 467-yard, par-4 18th was toughest.
Nine more eagles were made at the first, for a total of 19 through two days as it has played to a field average of 4.054.
The only thing is, what the Blue Monster giveth at the first, it taketh at the 18th. For two days and 148 tries, there have been just seven birdies. The field average at the 18th is 4.615.
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WEEKLY FIXTURE: Don’t look now, but a familiar face is lurking on the weekend leaderboard once again.
Playing in his eighth tournament, Bradley has yet to miss a cut, and his worst finish is a T-22. And by backing up a 69 with a bogey-free 67, Bradley has positioned himself beautifully for the weekend; at 8 under, he’s tied for fifth, four off the lead.
“I’m in a great spot,” Bradley said, “and I love this golf course.”
You could say that seems to be his refrain of late, because every course seems to fit Bradley nicely, and doesn’t he always seem to be in a good spot heading into the weekend? At the Sony Open, he was 6 under and just four off the lead after 36; at the Northern Trust Open, he challenged right down to the final holes before losing in a three-way playoff; and last week at the Honda, Bradley was 5 under, just three off the lead headed into Saturday.
In other words, you have to love his chances for finishing top 25 for the eighth time in eight starts this year. Of course, he has got his sights set on something better. For inspiration, he needn’t look far, because Bradley’s aunt, Hall of Famer Pat Bradley, has been walking the entire route thus far.
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MR. CLEAN: Having rejuvenated his career, Thomas Bjorn is back in the Cadillac Championship for a second straight year, and thus far no one has put forth a tidier effort.
Though he sits four off the lead, Bjorn is the only player in the 74-player field to be bogey free for 36 holes.
Hard to argue with the Dane’s consistency, either. With back-to-back 68s, Bjorn has made his eight birdies on eight different holes.
At 41, Bjorn has regained a spot in the Masters for the first time since 2007, thus has he committed to a lengthy stretch in America. It hadn’t gone too well, what with a first-round loss at the Accenture Match Play Championship and a missed cut last week at the Honda Classic, but it appears that he’s got things going here at Doral. At 8 under, Bjorn is joint fifth as he looks for his first top 10 on American soil since being T-2 at the 2005 PGA.
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MR. DIRTY, PARTS I and II: You want the antithesis to Bjorn’s deft work? How about Sergio Garcia, especially over the Blue Monster’s back nine?
Stunning when you look at the scoreboard to see Garcia tied for 68th and a whopping 17 strokes off the lead, because he played his opening nine holes in 5 under Thursday and was still at that number coming off the 12th green.
Then he went bogey, bogey, bogey, bogey, bogey, triple bogey.
With an inward 44, Garcia was gone from view. He continued that trend when he had to go right back to the back nine to start Friday’s second round. Garcia played it in 3-over 39. For two days, he is 11 over on the back nine with but one birdie.
Then again, he has company, because Ian Poulter shot 41 Thursday and added a 42 Friday. That, too, translates into an 11-over sum, which is hard to fathom, because it’s not like the homeward nine is that much tougher. Justin Rose, in fact, has played the back in 8 under, as opposed to 3 under on the front, and Adam Scott is also 8 under on the back, compared to 2 under on the front.