10 Players to Watch: WGC-Cadillac Championship

  1. Bubba Watson, United States — With nine PGA Tour victories, including two Masters titles, Watson already is enjoying a fine career, but he showed recently that he might be gaining the consistency the pundits expected all along given his immense talent. He took a week off after winning the Northern Trust Open, which came two months after his title in the Hero World Challenge, and he has a strong history at Doral despite never winning there. Watson, who has risen to No. 4 in the World Golf Rankings, finished one stroke behind Justin Rose of England in the 2012 WGC-Cadillac, tied for second one shot behind Patrick Reed two years ago and tied for third last year, two strokes back of winner Dustin Johnson. His only WGC title came in the 2014 HSBC Champions.
  1. Adam Scott, Australia — Another 30-something who has shown lately that he can stay with the young guns, Scott is coming off his 12th victory on the PGA Tour. He also has two runner-up finishes this season — including two weeks ago in the Northern Trust Open. His switch back to the conventional putter went well and helped him climb back up the World Golf Rankings to No. 9 by winning the Honda Classic last week. The Aussie will make his 10th start in the WGC-Cadillac Championship and has four top-10 finishes at Doral, including a tie for fourth last year and a tie for third in 2013, when he played the weekend in 68-64 to wind up five strokes behind champion Tiger Woods. His only WGC title came in the 2011 Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone.
  1. Dustin Johnson, United States — The defending champion in the WGC-Cadillac Championship heads to Doral this week in good form, even though he has not won this season. He has three top-10 finishes in five outings — including fourth place his last time out in the Northern Trust Open two weeks ago. Johnson, No. 8 in the world, is trying to extend his streak of winning in each of the last eight seasons, the longest active run on the PGA Tour. Johnson came from five strokes down in the final round last year to win at Doral, closing with a 3-under-par 69. He took the lead with birdies on the 14th and 15th holes before holding off 54-hole leader J.B. Holmes by one stroke for his second WGC title. He also won the 2013 WGC-HSBC Champions.
  1. Jordan Spieth, United States — The No. 1 player in the World Golf Rankings is looking to bounce back in the WGC-Cadillac Championship after tying for 21st in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and missing the cut in the Northern Trust Open at Riviera. Those results came after he finished in the top 10 in his previous six tournaments dating to last year, including victories in the Tour Championship and the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, plus seconds in the Australian Open and the Singapore Open. Spieth will tee it up at Doral for only the third time. He still has not completely figured out the Blue Monster, as he tied for 34th in 2014 before improving to a tie for 17th last year, which indicates he might be getting there. He hasn’t won a WGC event.
  1. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland — McIlroy’s hope of regaining the No. 1 ranking before the Masters is not going according to plan so far, as he remains at No. 3 behind Jordan Spieth and Jason Day after missing the cut in the Honda Classic last week. He did start the season strong on the Middle East swing of the European Tour, tying for third in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship and tying for sixth in the Omega Dubai Desert Classic. McIlroy will be making his eighth appearance in the WGC-Cadillac Championship, and he has finished in the top 10 on three occasions, including third in 2012 and a tie for ninth last year. He has two WGC titles, in the 2014 Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone and the Cadillac Match Play Championship last year at TPC Harding Park in San Francisco.
  1. Jason Day, Australia — The second-ranked player in the world has played sparingly in the early stages of this season, tying for 10th in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, missing the cut in the Farmers Insurance Open and tying for 11th in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He will start the run-up to next month’s Masters when he tees it up this week in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral for the fifth time. He has not fared very well at the Blue Monster. Day’s best result in the tournament was a tie for 20th in 2012, and he has broken 70 only twice in 16 rounds on the course. His only victory in the WGC events came when he outlasted Victor Dubuisson of France in 23 holes at the 2014 WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
  1. Rickie Fowler, United States — Fowler will try to continue his strong early-season play when he makes his sixth start in the WGC-Cadillac Championship. He finished in the top 10 in five of his past six tournaments, including a victory in the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, but he lost in a playoff to Hideki Matsuyama of Japan in the Waste Management Phoenix Open and faded to a tie for sixth last week when he had a chance to win the Honda Classic. The fifth-ranked Fowler, who has never won a WGC event, finished eighth in his first appearance at the Blue Monster in 2011 by playing the weekend in 66-68. Last year he tied for 12th when a 5-over-par 77 in round two kept him out of the top 10.
  1. Justin Rose, England — A solid yet not spectacular start to 2016 has Rose holding firm at No. 7 in the World Golf Rankings. He tied for sixth in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and tied for 16th in the Northern Trust Open after missing the cut in the Farmers Insurance Open on the West Coast swing. He claimed his only title in the World Golf Championships when he held off Bubba Watson by one stroke in the 2012 WGC-Cadillac Championship, and he tied for eighth in his title defense at Doral. However, Rose has not done very well since Gil Hanse redesigned the Blue Monster after the 2013 tournament, tying for 34th in 2014 and finishing 55th last year, failing to break 70 in any of his past eight rounds there.
  1. Phil Mickelson, United States — Mickelson came into the Florida swing last week excited about his game after he finished second in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and tied for third in the CareerBuilder Challenge on the West Coast. However, he had to be disappointed by his tie for 37th in the Honda Classic. He hopes to rebound in the WGC-Cadillac Championship, which he is playing for the 10th time. Mickelson claimed his first WGC title in 2009 at Doral, when he held off Nick Watney by one stroke, and he added the WGC-HSBC Champions later in the year. He also tied for third in 2013. Since Gil Hanse reworked the Blue Monster, he tied for 16th in 2014 and tied for 31st last year.
  1. Louis Oosthuizen, South Africa — Oosthuizen is playing on the PGA Tour for the first time this year, but he comes to the United States off a one-stroke victory over Alexander Levy of France last week in the ISPS Handa Perth Invitational, part of a solid start to his season on the European Tour. He also tied for seventh in the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters and tied for 12th in the Maybank Championship in Malaysia. Oosthuizen is making his ninth start in the WGC-Cadillac Championship, and he posted his only top-10 result in the event when he finished solo sixth last year, six shots behind winner Dustin Johnson. He started the final round two back before shooting 73. He captured the 2010 Open Championship at St. Andrews but has never won a WGC tournament.

–Courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

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