Tuesday, March 3, 2015

WGC Cadillac Championship - Fantasy Picks

Hideki Matsuyama has been a fixture on leaderboards in recent months. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Golf is a gentleman's (and -woman's) game. So, when Patrick Reed proudly proclaimed that he felt that he was one of the top-five golfers in the world a year ago, fans bristled. Even if you took a moment to dismiss the specificity of his comment, he was suddenly the Richard Sherman of the PGA TOUR. Well, given the test that he aced en route to a one-stroke victory at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, he had reason to be beaming with confidence. He had just become the youngest champion in a WGC.

In its debut, the redesigned (and renamed) Trump National Doral became the hardest course to host a non-major since the 2013 season. The stock par 72 averaged +1.852 strokes to par. (A second-round split of 76.00 was inflated by gusty winds.) Reed's 4-under 284 was the highest in relation to par for a winner in a non-major since Keegan Bradley won the 2011 AT&T Byron Nelson Championship in 3-under 277. And Reed's aggregate was the highest of a non-major champion since David Duval posted 3-under 285 at the 1999 PLAYERS.

Trump National Doral's Blue Monster Course ranked as the hardest of the season in fairways hit, proximity to the hole and par-3 scoring. The Bermuda greens offer some relief, but getting to them is still a challenge. The track ranked fifth in greens in regulation and seventh in scrambling in 2014. The strength of an invitation-only field and the WGC badge further support Reed's immediate takeaway.

The overall yardage is 7,528. That's an increase of 47 yards from last year's foray. The par-5 first (+18 yards), par-3 fourth (+24) and par-4 18th (+5) were further tweaked in advance of this week's edition. That measurement from the tips slots Trump National Doral inside the top-five longest host courses on TOUR.

Early indications are that Mother Nature will be taking it easy on the back half of the fortnight in south Florida. While rain cannot be ruled out, the threat doesn't pack the same punch that last week's carried at this time. High temperatures in the low 80s will be accompanied by moderate breezes.
  1. Rory McIlroy - World's top-ranked golfer couldn't make the grade at PGA National. The MC was just his fourth finish outside top 15 since T25 here in 2014.
  2. Dustin Johnson - One of many notables to miss the cut at PGA National. Finished a respective T4 and T2 prior to it. Tied for fourth at Doral last year.
  3. Bubba Watson - Twice a runner-up by one stroke at Doral, including last year. Three top 15s to start 2015, including a T2 at the WM Phoenix Open.
  4. Hideki Matsuyama - Four top fours since winning Dunlop Phoenix in November. Second on TOUR in strokes gained: tee-to-green and T16 in proximity.
  5. Patrick Reed - The defending champ got caught in The Bear Trap on Monday at PGA National, but still finished T7. Currently third on TOUR in scrambling.
  6. Jason Day - Getting his first look at the redesign. Six top 10s in last eight official starts, including a win at the Farmers Insurance Open.
  7. Jordan Spieth - Only hiccup over the last four months remains a missed cut at Torrey Pines. Three top sevens in 2015. T34 in Doral debut a year ago.
  8. Jamie Donaldson - Last year's co-runner-up is a personal best in 32 PGA TOUR starts. Took solo sixth at PGA National on Monday.
  9. Adam Scott - First start anywhere in 2015 and first start as a father. Ended 2014 with top fives in all three Aussie stops. Shared 25th here last year.
  10. Paul Casey - Secured entry via the OWGR with a T3 at PGA National. That chased a P2 at Riviera. Co-led field at the Honda in greens in regulation.
  11. Graeme McDowell - Missed cut at PGA National was his first anywhere since the 2014 Masters. Top 15s in last three trips to Doral, including T9 last year.
  12. Justin Rose - Arrives having missed his last two cuts, but he often scores well on the most challenging courses. Winner here in 2012.
  13. Henrik Stenson - Second start of the season (T24, WGC-HSBC Champions). Finished 2014 strong aboard. T13s in last two starts of 2015. T16 here last year.
  14. Phil Mickelson - Winner here in 2009; tied for 16th last year. Bouncing off rejuvenated T17 at The Honda Classic, ranking T12 in putting inside 10 feet.
  15. Bill Haas - Second child born last Friday, so it's only fair to dismiss the missed cut at Riviera. Won Humana six weeks ago. T6 at Doral in 2014.
  16. Sergio Garcia - Placed T31 at PGA National after disappointing T4 at Riviera. Closed out a T16 here in 2014 with a 3-under 69. T3 two years ago.
  17. J.B. Holmes - Back at Doral for the first time since 2010. Top 25s in last three starts entering this week, including a T22 at the Northern Trust Open.
  18. Jim Furyk - No better than T35 in his last four tries at Doral, but he's finished outside the top 25 just once since last year's stop (T51, Colonial).
  19. Joost Luiten - T13 here last year. Fresh off a personal-best T11 on the PGA TOUR. Ranked second in putting inside 10 feet at PGA National (65-for-68).
  20. Jimmy Walker - The FedExCup leader is making his second appearance (T25, 2014). Tied for 41st place at Riviera in his last start. Opened 2015 in P2-Win.

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This article was written by Rob Bolton, originally posted on PGATOUR.com. (Connect with Rob on Twitter @RobBoltonGolf)