5 Things: Faint winds leave Doral exposed
DORAL, Fla. It was a low-scoring first round at the World Golf Championship-Cadillac Championship. Here’s 5 Things you need to know from Thursday’s play at Doral:
1. GOING LOW: The greens were firm and fast at Doral, but a lack of wind allowed players to go low. Forty of 65 players broke par, with 23 of them shooting in the 60s. “A little breeze here and there, but not too bad,” Sergio Garcia said. “If you played well, you could score. It was good for us that the wind didn’t pick up, ... because as firm as those greens were getting, and as fast as they were getting, it would have been quite tricky out there.”
Garcia was one of five players to shoot 66 Thursday. He joins Tiger Woods, Freddie Jacobson, Graeme McDowell and Bubba Watson atop the leaderboard. Hunter Mahan, Peter Hanson, Phil Mickelson and Steve Stricker are one shot back.
The 65 players at Doral were a combined 81 under par. The Blue Monster was toothless Thursday, playing to a 70.75 scoring average. “This is probably the easiest wind we’ll have,” Woods said. “Some of the hardest holes were playing downwind, and it really wasn’t blowing that hard most of the day.”
Scoring seemed downright ridiculous Thursday, but it's nothing compared to other rounds played in the last six years at the TPC Blue Monster.
The WGC-Cadillac Championship has been held at Doral since 2007. Nine of 32 rounds (28 percent) before Thursday had a lower scoring average than Thursday's 70.75. The final round in 2010 was the lowest, with a 69.87 average. It was one of two times since 2007 that Doral has had a sub-70 scoring average.
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2. PATH TO VICTORY: Phil Mickelson’s 67 was highlighted by a birdie off the cart path at the par-4 17th. Mickelson’s tee shot on the 419-yard hole hit the cart path several times before coming to rest pin high, next to the grandstands right of the green. He took relief onto the cart path, then pitched to 8 feet.
“You hit the ball in as much trouble as I do off the tee, you learn to hit those kind of shots,” Mickelson said. “It’s sometimes a better option than trying to drop in the rough, or in this case a sandy bare lie.”
Mickelson won the 2009 Cadillac Championship, but has finished outside the top 40 each of the past two years here.
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3. BUBBA FEELING BETTER: Bubba Watson’s game appears to be back on track after some early trials in 2013. He finished fourth at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions despite having strep throat, then withdrew from the Farmers Insurance Open with the flu. The lack of energy led to some bad swing habits, but he seemed in form after a first-round 66 at Doral.
“I lost some weight, I had some sicknesses the first part of the year,” Watson said. “My swing, because I was so tired, trying to fight these sicknesses off, my swing was getting off, hitting some hooks. But then the last, I don't know, three weeks or so, being able to eat, being able to work out, do all the things that I want to do, obviously I'm getting better each day.”
Watson was runner-up at last year’s Cadillac Championship, missing a 9-foot birdie putt that would have forced a playoff with Justin Rose. Watson held a three-shot lead after 54 holes but shot 74 in the final round.
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4. PART-TIME PLAYER: Some have said Rory McIlroy’s struggles are the result of a shortage of playing time. Being a part-time golfer has worked well for Steve Stricker, though. Stricker, No. 13 in the Official World Golf Ranking, shot 67 Thursday and is one off the lead. The Cadillac Championship is just Stricker’s third start of the year. He finished in the top 5 in the previous two, the WGC-Accenture Match Play (T-5) and Hyundai Tournament of Champions (2nd).
“I’m enjoying it,” Stricker said of his limited schedule. “I feel rested every time I’ve been out so far. I still work on it a lot at home when I’m getting ready to come here and play.”
The Shell Houston Open will be Stricker’s final start before the Masters. His wife, Nicki, is on the bag for him this week. She was his full-time caddie earlier in his Tour career, and now carries his bag once per year. She last caddied for him at the 2012 Greenbrier Classic, where he finished 22nd while playing alongside Webb Simpson and Tiger Woods. Stricker played with Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson on Thursday. Their threesome was a combined 16 under, with Watson shooting 66 and both Mickelson and Stricker firing 67.
“So she’s been thrown into the den both times,” Stricker said. “She loves being inside the ropes and it’s a great group to watch, Phil and Bubba, go around.”
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Freddie Jacobson had two eagles in his first-round 66. He hit 5-wood to about 15 feet on both the par-5 eighth and 10th holes to make 3 on both. ... Tiger Woods shot 66 after receiving a lengthy putting lesson from Steve Stricker the previous day. “He got me into the same posture that I was at Torrey (Pines, where Woods won this year’s Farmers Insurance Open),” Woods said. “I felt comfortable, basically just like I did then.” ... Rory McIlroy is T-50 after a first-round 73, as is another 2012 major champion, Ernie Els. ... Michael Thompson, who won last week’s Honda Classic, shot 69 and is T-16. ... Thailand’s Thaworn Wiratchant shot 69. Wiratchant, 46, won last year’s Asian Tour order of merit, the oldest player ever to do so. He also has a special invitation to this year’s Masters. ... Graeme McDowell, who's tied for the lead after shooting 66, has finished in the top 10 just once in five WGC-Cadillac Championship appearances at Doral. ... Hunter Mahan had just five pars Thursday. He also had nine birdies and four bogeys in his first-round 67.