WGC-Cadillac Championship: Big-hitting Bubba can go back-to-back, says The Punter

Bubba Watson - The Punter's sole selection at Doral
Bubba Watson - The Punter's sole selection at Doral

We have just the one tournament to concentrate on this week but fortunately it's a cracker. Read what Steve thinks it will take to win the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump Doral here...

“Bubba’s not a huge price at 14.013/1 but that’s more than fair given his course and current form and it’s a price I’m happy to take.”

Tournament History

First staged in 1999 and known as the American Express Championship, the WGC-Cadillac Championship began life as a nomadic event, visiting Spain, Ireland, England and various venues in the States before the tournament was given a permanent home at Doral in 2007.

The WGC-Cadillac Championship is the first of the year's four World Golf Championships and with no halfway cut and a limited field made up of the world's best players, there's plenty of cash up for grabs.


Venue

Trump National Doral, Doral, Florida


Course Details

Par 72, 7,506 yards
Stroke index in 2015 - 73.24

Doral has been a regular on the PGA Tour since it first hosted the Doral Open in 1962. That event was later known as the Ford Championship and it was staged until 2006 when this event replaced it on the PGA Tour schedule. It earned the nickname "The Blue Monster" because water is in-play on the majority of holes and it was a really tough test - the first two winners of the Doral Open won with a score of -5.

Technological advancements meant that year-after-year the winners were easily reaching double-digits under-par and the "Blue Monster" tag was a becoming a bit of a joke - Tiger Woods won here in 2013 with a 19-under-par total, but that was to be the last time the field enjoyed an easy ride.

The TPC Blue Monster was bought by Donald Trump in February 2012 and all 18 holes were reworked by Gill Hanse prior to the 2014 tournament. The result was dramatic. There were just seven bogey-free rounds all week and 318 balls found a watery grave. The previous record was 220. Patrick Reed went on to win with a total of just four-under-par and Dustin Johnson could only get to nine-under-par last year.

Just like last week's venue, PGA National, Doral is a wind-affected Bermuda course.

There's a strong possibility that this will be the last time we see this course used. The players have moaned that the changes made were too severe and I suspect the WGC committee will be keen to distance themselves from the often outspoken Trump.


Weather Forecast

TV Coverage

Live on Sky all four days, starting on Thursday


Last Five Winners

2014 - Dustin Johnson -9
2014 - Patrick Reed -4
2013 - Tiger Woods -19
2012 - Justin Rose -16
2011 - Nick Watney -16


What Will it Take to Win The WGC-Cadillac Championship?

Prior to the course changes, five winners in-a-row made more birdies than anyone else but the two winners since have only ranked seventh for Birdie Average. In 2014, only three of the top-12 ranked inside the top-ten for birdies made and last year only four of the top-11 ranked inside the top-ten.

Last year's winner, Dustin Johnson ranked first for Greens In Regulation but the 2014 winner, Reed, ranked 34th. Johnson played the par threes better than anyone else last year and Reed won because he outscored everyone on the long holes. He played the par fives in nine-under-par, compared to Dustin's -6 last year, but both men played the par fours in over par.

This isn't a birdie-fest anymore. It's a bit of a grind now and it's a really tough slog if you're not long off the tee. As already alluded to, playing the par fives well is vital and no stat really sticks out, apart from Driving Distance.

Length has always been an asset around Doral and it proved to be so again last year when the first three home ranked first, second and third for DD. And four of the first five home in 2014 ranked inside the top-ten for DD too. Reed ranked fourth, joint runner-up, Bubba Watson, ranked third and Dustin Johnson, who finished alongside Richard Sterne in a tie for fourth, hit it further than anyone else.

At over 7,500 yards long, this is, without any doubt, a bomber's paradise and the shorter hitters simply have very little chance of competing.


Is There an Angle In?

The West Coast Swing and the Florida Swing are very different and nobody advertises that better than the 2008 winner, Geoff Ogilvy, who missed three straight cuts out West before a 10th and 14th in Florida preceded his win here, but we can't just dismiss form on the West Coast Swing - four of the nine winners of this event, since it switched to Doral, had previously won on the West Coast and being in-form has been crucial. And since the course has been toughened-up, that's been even more evident...

Of the first four home in 2014, Reed had previously won the Humana Challenge (now the CareerBuilder Challenge), Bubba the Northern Trust Open and Dustin Johnson had been runner-up twice - behind Bubba at Riviera and behind Jimmy Walker in the AT&T Pebble Beach. And Jamie Donaldson, who finished runner-up, was playing better than his form figures suggested given he'd been inside the top-six at halfway at the Honda the week before.

Last year's winner, Dustin, had finished fourth at the AT&T at Pebble and runner-up at Riviera prior to winning here. Holmes had been beaten in a playoff at the Framers Insurance, exactly a month before finishing second here, and Bubba had finished runner-up in Phoenix.

This doesn't appear to be a course where you can find your game from seemingly nowhere and a recent top-three finish looks a huge plus.


Is There an Identikit Winner?

Since moving to Doral, five of the eight men to win here (Tiger Woods has won it twice since 2007) have won a major and the three that haven't have been US Ryder Cuppers straight out of the top-drawer.

At only 25, Patrick Reed has much of his career ahead of him and was he to end it with one or two majors in the bag, I certainly wouldn't be surprised, and the other two, DJ and Nick Watney, really should have already won a major.

Dustin's major mishaps are staking up and Watney traded heavy odds-on in the 2010 USPGA Championship at Whistling Straights.

Expect the cream to rise to the top here and even more so now that the course is so much more demanding.


In-Play Tactics

A year after winning the final Ford Championship at Doral, wire-to-wire, Tiger Woods won the first staging of this event here in 2007. He trailed by four strokes after round one before leading all the way from halfway and prior to last year, that's the furthest any winner had trailed after round one in this event.

Woods was tied for 10th in 2007 but every winner since has been inside the top-five after just 18 holes. Even though he trailed by six strokes, Dustin Johnson sat third after round one last year and Holmes (who led by four after round one) very nearly became the fifth wire-to-wire in ten years. This really is a front-runners course and we need to be concentrating on the front runners from very early on.

Although you need to be up with the pace throughout, it is possible to get some drama here. Holmes led by fully five strokes through 54 holes last year but was soon collared, having been matched at just 1.4640/85 during round three and Bubba threw the event away on Sunday, having been matched at just 1.341/3!

If you're trading the event in-running, look out for the demanding par four final hole. Dustin Johnson bogeyed it the first three days last year before making a brilliant up-and-down for par to win by one on Sunday.


Market Leaders

It's not a surprise to see Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth heading the market but they both arrive here on the back of a missed cut and neither makes any appeal.

Rory McIlroy has the length to contend and he has form here too, having finished inside the top-ten in four of the last five years. His third place finish in 2012 is by some distance his best effort though and he has to really step up on last week's performance to contend.

Having missed the cut at Riviera two weeks ago, Spieth also needs to improve considerably but even if he does, his slight lack of length is a worry. This is just his third appearance at Doral and we can't draw too much encouragement from his first two efforts. He finished 34th in 2014 and 17th last year. Others are preferred.

Big hitters, Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson, are the next pair in the market and both have very solid claims. Bubba comes here on the back of victory at Riviera and DJ's the defending champ. Of the two I prefer Bubba. He's finished inside the top-three in three of the last four years and the course clearly suits him perfectly. Johnson's chance is just as obvious but he was disappointing in-the-mix again last time out at Riviera and it's never easy to defend.

Adam Scott has finished inside the top-six in three of the last six renewals and could easily contend again but it's even harder to win back-to-back events as it is to defend titles and that puts me off. Although he has managed to do just that in his native Australia, the competition will be considerably stiffer here.

Jason Day and Rickie Fowler are the next two in the market but neither makes much appeal. Day has never taken to Doral, despite his length off the tee, and Fowler's best effort here is his eighth place finish on debut in 2011. Day hasn't recaptured his 2015 form yet either and Fowler will do well to lift himself after a poor weekend at the Honda.


Selection

The week off for Bubba Watson last week could turn out to be the difference here. As already stated, winning back-to-back tournaments is really tough but that's the only negative I can see for Bubba and the fact that he's had time to recover, reflect and rejuvenate, having taken last week off is a plus.

He's not a huge price at 13.5 but that's more than fair given his course and current form and it's a price I'm happy to take.


Selection:
Bubba Watson @ 14.013/1


I'll be back on Friday with the In-Play Blog.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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