An elite field of 74 players (Thomas Bjorn withdrew after eight holes) teed it up in the WGC-Cadillac Championship on the famous Blue Monster at Trump National Doral and what we know for sure is that it is a very hard golf course. With winds blowing 15 to 25 miles per hour in the morning before they tapered off, only two guys had their way with the course and even they thought it was very hard.
J.B. Holmes somehow managed to shoot a 10-under 62 which not only amazed the rest of the field, but amazed him too:
It’s a very difficult golf course. I played great today but it is a very difficult golf course, and today a lot of tees were up. They could definitely put the tees back and make it play a lot harder, and it’s already playing hard. The best players in the world are here, and the average is over par today, already tells you how hard the golf course is, and they had a lot of tees up.
He managed to master it on this day because he “put it all together:”
Even out here, it’s tough to make some putts, and if you can get below the hole, you have a better chance. Even if it’s 25 feet, you have a better chance of making that than a 10‑ or 15‑footer downhill. Was able to hit the shots where I envisioned and hit good shots, and today the putter was on. Made a lot of putts. Put that combination together, you do everything pretty good, you’re going to shoot a good score.
Ryan Moore was 8-under through 17 before the 18th hole nipped him for a double bogey. Even then, players were amazed that anyone could shoot 6-under. He described the issues they will face all week at 18:
I mean, it’s a really tough golf hole. No matter what wind and whatever conditions; if there was no wind, it’s a tough golf hole. I hit a tee shot that was just a couple yards left of perfect, and it started left and goes in the water, and then you’re standing there with a 200‑yard shot straight back into the wind for your third shot over water the whole way with nothing but trouble everywhere.
So honestly, it was hard enough that I even considered today — I was playing a great round of golf. Obviously was 8‑under through 17 — and I considered laying up off the tee there today, and just hitting a 5‑iron or 4‑iron, laying up again, and taking my chance with a wedge. Just because there’s so many bad things that can happen to you if you hit it right, because there’s so many palm trees in there now; you could be stymied and taking a drop in a second over there.
But the reality is, there’s still a fairway there, and you can hit it. You’ve just got to stand up and hit a good shot.
Easier said than done. Even this elite field was held to a stroke average of 73.400.
Others who had good days included:
4-under – Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Alexander Levy (France)
3-under – Brooks Koepka, Henrik Stenson
2-under – Adam Scott (playing with a short putter), Gary Woodland, Charley Hoffman, Jamie Donaldson, Jim Furyk.
Scott was pleased with the way the transition back to the short putter is going:
It was good. I putted really good today I thought. It was tough, tough golf course out there except for a couple guys obviously who shot really low. But it was tough. I made my mistakes, just on 13 and 14 but I played a really good round of golf other than that, and I made plenty of putts, very happy.
Happy because there were a couple of 30- and 40-footers in there, the nemesis of players working to transition back to the feel of the short putter:
It was good. Look, like I said I shouldn’t be surprised. I’m pleased with how I putted and I said yesterday that it really isn’t that big a deal. It just takes a little while to adjust and change a couple muscle memory things that happened in different styles of putting.
Yeah, a couple of the longer ones today weren’t quite perfect. But there was nothing bad at all in there. It was good and I made a lot of putts to be fair.
A little surprisingly, No. 1, Rory McIlroy still isn’t able to get things back on the straight and narrow; he’s at 1-over after an up-an-down round. And it’s a little annoying to him:
Yeah, because it is very good on the range and it is very good in normal play when I’m not playing a tournament. Then I’ve got a card in my hand the last couple weeks and it just hasn’t quite been there.
Like I said, it’s nice you can get four rounds this week and sort of try to play your way into some sort of rhythm.
I don’t feel like it’s that far away. That’s the frustrating thing. I feel like there’s stretches of holes like on that front nine where three birdies and an eagle in the space of five holes; I know that it’s in there. It’s just all the other stuff, and then I was a little wasteful around the greens. Seemed like every green I missed today, I wasn’t able to get up‑and‑down and that’s not going to help either.
And now another challenge arises. The forecast for Friday has the winds down substantially to 5 to 10 miles per hour, but with a 40% chance of rain showers in the afternoon and into the night. Rain is also in the forecast for Saturday and Sunday.
The good news? These guys are no strangers to playing in the rain.