WGC Cadillac Championship 2013: Underrated Players Ready for Big Week at Doral

Matt Fitzgerald@@MattFitz_geraldCorrespondent IIIMarch 7, 2013

DOHA, QATAR - JANUARY 26:  Chris Wood of England celebrates after his eagle putt on the 18th green during the final round of the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters at The Doha Golf Club on January 26, 2013 in Doha, Qatar.  (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images

The WGC-Cadillac Championship consists of just a 65-man field with no cut line. That's how exclusive this tournament is, which means that even the relatively underrated players who will take on the TPC Blue Monster at Doral shouldn't be discounted as possible winners.

Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and Luke Donald are going to be grouped together as the top three players in the world, and several other marquee stars will share the spotlight on Thursday and Friday.

However, here is a look at some under-the-radar Europeans who have a chance to put up a big week seemingly out of nowhere.

Chris Wood

With George Coetzee and Sergio Garcia knotted atop the leaderboard, Wood came to the final hole at the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters needing an eagle to pull off a victory and a birdie to force a playoff.

After blowing all of his three-shot lead after three rounds, the 25-year-old Englishman pounded a drive down the par-five's fairway and hit a beautiful five-iron to the green to set up a 12-footer for a three, which he drained.

That late-January maiden victory on the European Tour was a long time coming for Wood, who has had several prior brushes with greatness. His 19 top 10s on the circuit that preceded that triumph included a fifth-place finish at the British Open in 2008—as an amateur.

To prove that wasn't a fluke, he finished in joint third at Turnberry the next year—missing a short putt at the last hole to get into the playoff with Tom Watson and eventual champion Stewart Cink.

Now that Wood has finally gotten it done on a major tour and shined in majors past, it's time for him to make an impact on this side of the pond. Wood is a towering 6'5" presence who doesn't have many holes in his game and is continuing to improve on the greens.

In the Bristol Post, Wood said he is relishing the chance to tame the Blue Monster. It remains to be seen how he will fare in his inaugural appearance in this event, but since his strength is from tee to green, Wood should have plenty of opportunities to make some noise this week.

Jamie Donaldson

An extremely tough course got the best of Jamie Donaldson last week at the Honda Classic, although he did fire a second-round 66. Donaldson also conquered difficult conditions to start the season at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship—where players like Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods missed the cut.

That win backed up several encouraging results from 2012, including a tie for seventh at the PGA Championship and his first European Tour win at the Irish Open.

Ironically enough, Donaldson had to overcome Justin Rose's two-shot lead to notch his season-opening victory. Rose is the defending champion at Doral and missed an eight-footer on the last hole as Donaldson avoided a playoff.

Talent has never been a question with Donaldson, but he has been held back due to years of back problems that kept him from reaching his full potential. He reflected on that after his breakthrough win:

Perseverance is a big word. I suppose if I look back at my career, I was in the wilderness for sort of four years after an injury, I didn't really know where I was at after then. It was a case of just starting again and finding out what works.

The key to Donaldson's turnaround has been putting, where he is averaging less than 28 putts per round in Europe thus far. At age 37, the Welshman can definitely be considered a late bloomer in golf, but his persistence has clearly paid off to the tune of a world ranking of No. 32.

He ranks above big names such as Rickie Fowler, Jason Day, Padraig Harrington and several others, yet most fans in Miami will likely not have heard of him before this week.

If he can continue striking it the way he has and draining putts as frequently, Donaldson has a great shot at a top 10 at least.

David Lynn

A 2004 European Tour win at the KLM Open was about all that was impressive on Lynn's resume entering the 2012 PGA Championship. 

However, he was able to manage a runner-up finish at Kiawah Island, which opened up the opportunity for him to join the PGA Tour. Had McIlroy not been so dominant in an eight-stroke romp, the discussion surrounding Lynn could be vastly different.

Lynn hadn't had any positive results remotely near what he did at last year's final major—until the Honda Classic. An opening round of 72 was disappointing, but Lynn was the only man in the field to shoot in the 60s in the final three rounds.

That result should give the Englishman a lot of confidence, especially since only one golfer—Peter Hanson—bested Lynn's 69.4 greens in regulation percentage last week.

All of that was in spite of literally being caught by the PGA National Champion Course's "Bear Trap." In case you were wondering if "planking" is still a thing, it is for Lynn at the very least.

It's not as though Lynn hasn't made a huge mark in the U.S. before due to his second-place effort at the PGA. But this time around, he may be less of an afterthought and more of a contender to take home the trophy if he can maintain his form from Palm Beach Gardens.


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