Rude: Players are making it look easy at Doral
DORAL, Fla. – Touring pros don’t easily gush. But Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion, marveled at the rash of low scores this week as well as last on the PGA Tour.
Players shot 61, 62 and 63 at last week’s Honda Classic on a supposedly difficult PGA National course. This week, Doral’s Blue Monster has yielded a 62 and a couple of 64s.
“Just astounding scoring,” McDowell said after shooting 67 in the third round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship. “Just says a lot about how good these guys are ... how much the attitude becomes hit driver everywhere and go get it and score. It’s impressive stuff.”
The track meet at Doral can be explained by ideal scoring conditions during the past two days and soft, flat greens. Justin Rose, co-second at the moment, said his understanding is Doral has the “easiest greens to putt we have all year.”
Hence, they’re making golf look easy.
At the top of the show-off list the past week is world No. 1 Rory McIlroy. He shook off a finals loss at the WGC-Match Play with Honda victory and then played the first 12 holes Saturday in 9 under par. He finished with a day-best 65 that moved him into a tie for eighth, eight shots back.
Top of the current leaderboard, though, is the long-hitting Bubba Watson, who is excelling even though he maintains he doesn’t like the golf course. He dismantled the place with a second-round 62 for a one-stroke lead, then stretched it to three over Rose and Keegan Bradley on Saturday with a 67 in ideal scoring conditions.
Watson had a dream eagle-birdie start and tacked on five more birdies against three bogeys.
Rose rode four consecutive birdies at Nos. 8-11 into a tie for the lead, but Watson sandwiched birdies around the Englishman’s bogey at 13. Watson held that three-shot edge until bogeying 16, where he drove into a bunker and skulled an approach that hit a television tower behind the green. His lead settled at three, at 17 under par, when Rose bogeyed the last.
“Three back is a lot to Bubba on this golf course because he seems to make birdies pretty easily,” Rose said after shooting 69.
If we’ve learned anything this year, a three-shot lead on Sunday is nothing. In consecutive weeks on the West Coast, players had seven-shot leads in the final round and did not win.
That means Watson, a three-time Tour winner, figures to be nervous heading to the first tee Sunday. But he would’ve been anyway, recent history aside.
“If anybody says they are not nervous going into Sunday when around the lead ... they are just lying to you,” Watson said. “Their psychologist is telling them to lie to themselves.”
Watson not only is a free thinker and free swinger, he is an anomaly because he hasn’t had a swing counselor since his father Gary taught him the basics at age 10.
“I swing funny, and it somehow works,” said Watson, excelling this week largely because of accurate wedge approaches. “It’s more fun doing it on my own. Like a math problem.
“Except I probably couldn’t get a math problem right.”