I’m still trying to catch my breath from the Poulter scare last week. When your life flashes before your eyes like that, it makes you really look around and be thankful for the things you love. Hug someone close to you today. You never know when it could all come crashing down.
The Blue Monster course at what is now known as Trump National Doral has played host to this event since 2007 (before that it was home to some form of the Doral Open). Gil Hanse has made some significant adjustments to the track under the watchful eye of the Donald, which we saw for the first time last year. Specifically, the greens have been rebuilt and the bunkers moved all over the place to the point where its been said to be almost a brand new golf course. You can read more about the course changes here in Ryan Herrington’s piece for Golf Digest, and also here in Randall Mell’s piece for Golf Channel.
One quick note about Gil Hanse–he’s one of the hottest names in the game of golf course redesign, just don’t ask Luke Donald about it, he’s NOT a fan. Here was what he had to say of Hanse’s redesigned 18th green at TPC Boston:
The Blue Monster had become anything but that, with the winning scores coming in at -16 or better for the last six years before the redesign. Last year, the wind blew, and it played absolutely brutal, and there were some complaints registered. I expect it to be slightly toned down, but the winner will likely be under -10.
The WGC events lack any discernible vibe. They’re essentially glorified trips to the ATM (last place got $45,000 in 2014) for the wealthiest players in the world, and when you throw in the Donald’s presence and Cadillac’s title sponsorship, the result is officially the most corporate, lily-white event on the calendar (and that’s saying something!). This event is so white, it just asked me to go to brunch on Sunday. It’s always strange to me to see all of these elite players in one place, yet have the event lack any aura or serious drama. There’s something missing from these WGC events, and for once, I don’t have a half baked idea on how to fix it (however, Tron does…. see the Fringe below).
Patrick Reed went full Patrick Reed for the first time on a public stage.
Worth mentioning, and definitely worth tracking this weekend, is the race for DFL. Our boy Kiradech Aphibarnrat clipped a couple guys at the line last year to claim the honor with a total score of +26, 314. And lest you get the wrong idea here, please note, we’re saying this with complete reverence. All of these WGC events are the absolute best opportunities to see who can maximize their apathy and get ridiculously far out of contention on the weekend. Nothing but total respect (the Tour Championship is probably the best example of one of a no-cut apathy-fest for the back half of the field).
- The redesign of the course is mentioned (finish your beer if the Olympic Course is mentioned)
- Drink when Donald Trump is mentioned, and finish your beer when he inevitably ends up in the booth.
- Finish your beer when they show Craig Parry’s hole out to win in a playoff at Doral in 2004.
- Finish your beer when they show the highlight of Gary Koch winning here, and the entire broadcast team ribs him for it.
- Patrick Reed (20/1) – The odds are a sign of respect (hell, he was 20/1 to win the 34 person Hyundai to start the year), but it’s impossible not to like him this week. Coming off a strong showing that fizzled out on Monday at the Honda Classic (it’s hard to not seriously blame the pace of play at least partially), at a course he won at a year before.
- Brooks Koepka (35/1) – Showed signs of life at the Honda, but the opening round 78 held him way back. I like him to at least top 10 this week, and I think he’s got a better than 35/1 chance to win.
- Jamie Donaldson (40/1) – He was 90/1 at the Honda last week, and now he’s 35/1 against the best possible field in golf. Respect! We were on him last week, and we’re on him again. He was T2 here a year ago.
- Martin Kaymer (45/1) – Hunch play. This kind of feels like one of those weeks where just runs away with one, doesn’t it? No? Just me? Ok.
- Graeme McDowell (55/1) – Good track record here. Was not expecting odds this long. His MC last week was a true rarity.
- Jason Dufner (60/1) – As Shane Bacon pointed out, are we obligated to call him the “Slimmed Down Jason Dufner” now? T9 last year, T17 a week ago. I think 70/1 is tremendous value.
Fantasy Corner: Err’ybody in this club gettin tipsy, this week, so I’m not going to try to go too far in depth on who to take out of all these BSD’s. Bubba loves this track, and DJ should be in good shape to do some damage though.
(Tracker: +30 units in 2015. Last week: -7)
- Doral played host to one of the better non-major events in recent memory: the 2005 Ford Championship. Tiger and Phil were paired together Sunday, with Lefty holding a two-stroke lead entering the final round. As was the norm back then, Tiger stalked him quickly and effectively, evening things up by the turn and ultimately winning by one shot after Mickelson juuuuust missed a birdie chip on #18. For the day Tiger went 66 to Lefty’s 69. It was vintage Tiger. Breathtaking.
- We’d be remiss not to point out a couple specifics about Mickelson from the same 2005 tournament: 1) He actually did used to wear plain Ford golf shirts. Like, that actually happened. From the guy who came up repping the Hugo Bossiest shit to Plebeian Ford schwag…tragic. 2) The missed chip on #18 provided one of the greatest golf photos of at least my lifetime, if not ever:
- Anirban Lahiri is ranked 35th in the world, and is going to the Masters. He’s 220/1 to win this week. Jake Nichols has really opened my eyes up to the bias in OWGR (ignore the Koepka part), and I just can’t get behind the guys that dominate the third tier tours to leverage their way into these events. I hope I’m wrong, and that Lahiri proves himself on the big stages that we’ll see him at this year, but I would prefer you earn our stripes on a big boy tour before getting these exemptions. Yes, I know he won against a strong field in Malaysia. But I’m talking about consistently competing against the world’s best, week in and week out.
- Tron’s WGC Take: Be warned, this take is so hot it probably deserves it’s own hozzle rocket but whatever, we’ll do it live! – Can we just go ahead and fix the WGC stuff??? Why not just play the Match Play at Doral (or float it to Cypress, Bandon, Streamsong, Cabot Links (probably a bit far-flung), Westchester CC (a regrettable casualty of the Tour going bust on Buick events – that track was sweet) – nobody attends the event, anyway. Make it as visually appealing as possible, move the current “Cadillac Championship” to the start of the year and float it around the globe (like can we get to Japan at some point? What the actual hell. Has there ever been a big tournament in Japan? Logistics nightmare, yes. But rabid fans, great young talent, and truckloads of corporate cash await. The Dunlop Phoenix doesn’t count as a big event. This is an injustice! Consider it, Finchy!), maybe even prior to the Hyundai. Finchy, Billy Payne, the R&A – everybody is talking a big game – and yet we have the “World Golf Championships” playing a whopping 1/4 events worldwide, and that one event is a silly season afterthought (HSBC). Instead, we’re treated to sites like TPC Harding Park (not a bad course according to NLU’s West Coast Office, but definitely not top shelf) and a brand new suburban Atlanta Capital City Crabapple track that doesn’t even get much regional acclaim. What the actual hell.There’s too many good courses out there that would love to host a one-off event to waste it on a mediocre site. At some point, think beyond the quick dollar. How about some cross-branding with Euro Tour or South African Tour every few years? There’s an insane amount of wealth to go around, share it! The crazy part is, whatever you lose in short-term corporate sponsor revenue you gain in long-term allegiance. Take the World Cup of Golf last year – I was absolutely transfixed by Royal Melbourne. Have a WGC event there (make it a primetime spectacle, market it (the Tour’s marketing arm legit pisses me off – enough with the fluff commercials about these guys being good (no shit) and how much personality they have (Duff) or how well they treat the fans (Kuch), cut to the substance and feature the best guys in the world going at it in a truly exotic locale (i.e. not Dubai)).Not a huge David Stern fan, but he understood the value of in-roads. It’s a global tour now, and yet I still feel like Greg Norman’s mid-90’s plea for a world tour is as far off as ever. Even if you have to cede a little control to some of the other world tours (isn’t that what the WGC’s are about), it’s for the good of the game. Not everything has to be about corporate boxes (tv money still exists if you package it right). Sack up, Finchy (and for that matter, Ty Votaw, since this is the shit you’re specifically tasked with). I realize I just waded into stuff above my pay-grade, but who gives a shit? I’m tired of these guys in power not even attempting to think outside the box.Rant over.
- Lastly, an editorial note on these previews: A lot of the stuff that applies to multiple years (course, vibe, etc.), you’re going to see some stuff that’s just rolled forward from last year’s preview (mostly Tron Carter’s work). Is this poor journalism? Absolutely. Do we pretend to be real journalists? Hell no. Rest assured that the picks section will always be completely current. But previews are hard to do, we all have real jobs, and there is no point in trying to recreate some of the better stuff from last year.