*Queue up the ESPN ’30 for 30′ music*
“What if I told you that while the top 50 golfers on the planet would be taking their talents to South Beach, the world’s eyes would be glued to the hot golf action on a tiny island in the Carribbean. The passion. The drama. The 2014 Puerto Rico Open, brought to you by www.seepuertorico.com….”
I get it, I know you guys are pumped for the #SixthMajor (Peep our preview of the event here), but we’re also obligated to cover the WGC-Cadillac Championship in South Beach (I know it’s not in South Beach, but it’s cooler to say than quasi-weird area near the Miami airport). WGC might as well stand for Woods Golf Championship, as he’s managed to win 18 of the 49 individual WGC’s since their debut in 1999. Let’s be honest, it’s a World Golf Championship pretty much in title only.
PGA National: Trump National Doral
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. 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:
After the event this week, Hanse will be heading back to Rio to continue work on the Olympic Course (we hear things are going great down there!)
The WGC events lack any discernible vibe. They’re essentially glorified trips to the ATM (last place got $45,500 in 2013) 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!). Put it this way: this event is so white, it listens to Mumford and Sons (Ohhh Kill’em!).
Tiger beat Steve Stricker after The Savage infamously gave him a putting lesson right before the event. The four major winners from 2013 all finished in the Top 12, and along with Rory and Sergio in the top 8, you had the most stacked top of the leaderboard of the entire season.
Worth mentioning, and definitely worth tracking this weekend, is the race for DFL. Robert Garrigus clipped a couple guys at the line last year to claim the honor with a total score of +12, 300. 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).
(all lines courtesy Ladbrokes.com, the Official Bookmaker of NoLayingUp.com)
Horses for Courses
- Rory McIlroy (7/1) – #Trending. Three top 10’s here the last three years. We think Sunday was an abberration, and he’s back to playing with confidence. Not great odds to win, but a must play for your fantasy team.
- Adam Scott (12/1) – Nearly a copy/paste from above. T3, T13, T6 in the last three years.
- Bubba Watson (20/1) – We’ll grit our teeth as we mention he was runner-up here in ’12, finished T18 last year (75 on Sunday), and is in top-notch form this year overall.
- Keegan Bradley (25/1) – 7th, and T8 finishes in the last two years, and a solid showing at the Honda on a challenging track. Solid WGC track record with a win at Firestone in 2012. Guy seems to love the big stage events, and this one’s in his backyard.
- Phil Mickelson (25/1) – You know he’s due. Hasn’t played particularly well thus far this calendar year, absolutely no momentum after MC’ing last week, which means it’s an ideal time for him to snatch one. Time to start getting serious for His Lefthandedness (and NLU QB1).
- Steve Stricker (50/1) – You likely forgot he still plays golf, but he showed last year that his limited schedule actually helped his play. Worth the flier.
- Vic Dubuisson (50/1) – He’s obviously in form and has to be at an all time high in terms of confidence. Why not? Also, LONG.
- Patrick Reed (80/1) – Currently on a run of six straight Top-25’s or better this year. In a small field and the way he can make birdies, this is real value (still need to get him with the physio though).
- Billy Horschel (100/1) – There’s not a golf tournament on the planet that he should be as high as 100/1 in. Just assume he’s going to be in our picks on an ongoing basis, even if his form has been a touch off recently. He’s gonna win once in his next 20 events, believe in the value now?
- Kiradech Aphibarnrat (200/1) – No one can ever accuse NLU of not being faithful to our homies.
- Might be a little risky to put this in here, but a small sip every time you hear a reference to Tiger’s back, or health in any matter.
- 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.
1.) 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. Check out Big Cat’s physique and dominant aura in the highlights below. Breathtaking.
2.) 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:
3.) At the risk of a Mickelson overload, one last tidbit we want to mention. We included him in our picks and said he’s due, well allow us to expand with a kinda crazy stat line for your consideration–each of the last seven years (dating back to 2007), Phil has won at least one tournament by early April (up to and including the Masters). His first win of each year came directly on the heels of the following results: MC (’07), MC (’08), T55 (’09), T35 (’10), T24 (’11), T26 (’12), T51 (’13). Phil will get a win by the end of Augusta, and it will probably be on the heels of a shitty week. With his past success at Doral (though that may not mean much due to the redesign), and his unceremonious MC last week at the Honda, this just feels like his spot. (Note to the degenerates: he’s currently 14/1 for Augusta. That could end up being peak value).
4.) 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 this past 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.