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Biggest Storylines Heading into the WGC-Cadillac Championship

Mike DudurichContributor IMarch 5, 2014

Biggest Storylines Heading into the WGC-Cadillac Championship

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    Gil Hanse (left) and Donald Trump discuss the new Doral.
    Gil Hanse (left) and Donald Trump discuss the new Doral.Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    You knew as soon as "The Donald" got involved with the Doral resort and renamed it the Trump National Doral Miami that the WGC-Cadillac Championship would never be the same.

    And now that tournament week is here, there is all sorts of buzz surrounding this South Florida golf retreat.

    Will Tiger play? What kind of reaction will the pros have for the complete makeover done by Gil Hanse since last year's tournament?

    Can Rory McIlory get over Sunday's crushing defeat at the Honda Classic?

    Will anyone hear "You're Fired!" this week?

    Check out some ideas that might turn into big deals this week with the next 10 slides.

     

Tiger Woods

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    Because of his ailing back, Woods hit the ball in some strange places in the final round at the Honda Classic.
    Because of his ailing back, Woods hit the ball in some strange places in the final round at the Honda Classic.Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

    There's only one person who can take the spotlight away from Donald Trump, a renovated and beefed-up golf course and the strongest field of the year to date on the PGA Tour: Tiger Woods.

    And this time he's doing it in something of a negative way.

    The spasms and lower back issues that forced him out of the Honda Classic on the 13th hole could have far-reaching effects, starting with this week at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

    Woods is the defending champion and has won the event seven times. Losing the No. 1 player in the world doesn't help the tournament, but Woods has to decide whether trying to play with a back that's not 100 percent is the thing to do with The Masters just over a month away.

    It looks like after some strong rehabbing, Tiger will be defending his ranking after all.

     

New-Look Doral

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    The 18th at Doral is beautiful, but all sorts of trouble lurks.
    The 18th at Doral is beautiful, but all sorts of trouble lurks.Wilfredo Lee/Associated Press

    It's amazing what over $200 million, a famous course designer (Gil Hanse) and The Donald can do for a golf course that had begun to show its age a bit.

    That's what has happened to the TPC Blue Monster at Trump National Doral, site of this week's WGC-Cadillac Championship. When Trump bought the resort, he could have easily spruced things up a bit, made some cosmetic changes and had a fine facility.

    But, as described by Bradley S. Klein in a Golfweek.com story, Trump went all in the other direction. He upgraded the clubhouse, made the course more fan-friendly and more challenging for the players.

    The course will play to 7,481 yards with plenty of water, sand and palm trees to the players' attention.

    The 18th is the signature hole at Doral and it hasn't been changed significantly. At the first Doral Open in 1962, the professionals combined for a 104-over par total for the week on the 18th. It doesn't play quite that hard now, but last year it did rank as the sixth-toughest hole not played in a major.

TV-Radio

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    There is great scenery everywhere at Doral.
    There is great scenery everywhere at Doral.Brad Barr-USA TODAY Sports

    It's easy to determine the amount of importance a tournament has by the amount of television coverage it gets.

    This week is obviously a big event.

    Thursday and Friday, Golf Channel will provide coverage from noon-6 p.m. ET. Saturday, Golf Channel will be on from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and NBC will show the tournament from 2-6 p.m.

    On Sunday, Golf Channel will be on from noon-3 p.m. and NBC from 3-7.

    And if you're out and about PGA Tour Radio on SiriusXM will have coverage from noon-6 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and Sunday from 1-7 p.m. PGATour.com will have coverage as well.

The Field

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    Kevin Stadler was all smiles after winning for the first time on the PGA Tour.
    Kevin Stadler was all smiles after winning for the first time on the PGA Tour.Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    It's not very often that a golf tournament can boast of having all of the top 50 players in the Official World Golf Rankings, but coming into Monday, the WGC-Cadillac Championship has that.

    Things, of course, can happen between Monday and Thursday when the first tee shot is launched, but if it happens, it will be the first time since the 2012 PGA Championship. The biggest concern at this point is if Tiger Woods will be healthy enough to play on Thursday, which it appears he will be.

    One player making his first appearance in the event is Kevin Stadler, who won his first PGA Tour event at the Waste Management Open a few weeks ago. 

Record Setting

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    Sergio Garcia had one of his hot rounds in 2002 in this event.
    Sergio Garcia had one of his hot rounds in 2002 in this event.Osama Faisal/Associated Press

    Just for a little perspective, considering how much the course at Doral has been changed since last year, here are a couple records to think about.

    The best-ever Trump Doral 72-hole total is 264, authored by Tiger Woods in 2005. He also owns the lowest total at any venue, a 261 he posted at The Grove in 2006.

    The lowest individual round at Trump Doral was a 61 by Stephen Ames in the second round in 2000. Sergio Garcia and Retief Goosen fired 62s in the fourth round in 2002 at Mount Juliet and Bubba Watson did the same in second round in 2012 at Trump Doral.

Keep an Eye on These

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    Justin Rose would love to be smiling more, but can't because of a sore shoulder.
    Justin Rose would love to be smiling more, but can't because of a sore shoulder.Kamran Jebreili/Associated Press

    Yes, there are other storylines to watch this week beyond what Woods does.

    1) Last week the Bear Trap attracted a great deal of attention at the Honda Classic. Trump Doral has its own  collection of intriguing holes, the 15th and 16th. With the changes by Hanse, water comes into play much more on the par-three 15th and on the drivable par-four 16th.

    2) Justin Rose hasn't done a great deal since his stirring victory in the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion, but there's been a reason. He's been nursing a sore shoulder that has been very slow to heal. He played at the WGC-Accenture Match Play, lost in the second round, and when it flared up again later he was forced to withdraw from the Honda Classic. By the way, Rose won the 2012 WGC-Cadillac Championship.

     

A Little Help from a Friend

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    Steve Stricker giving some advice to Tiger Woods last year at Doral.
    Steve Stricker giving some advice to Tiger Woods last year at Doral.Alan Diaz/Associated Press

    Lost in a year's time was the incident that caused a great stir in the world of golf.

    It was on Wednesday of Doral week that Steve Stricker gave Tiger Woods some putting tips and those worked wonderfully. Woods required just 100 putts, matching his career best in a 72-hole event, and won by two shots over, yep, you guessed it, Stricker.

    Even if Woods is healthy enough to play, he can't be expected to play at the kind of level that enabled him to win 17 World Golf Championships.

    It's a safe bet that Woods was looking forward to playing at Doral, hoping the success he's had there in the past might kick-start what has been the poorest start to a season in his career.

     

This and That

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    Jason Day poses with his trophy
    Jason Day poses with his trophyAssociated Press

    1. One player definitely good enough to win this week is Jason Day, the marathon winner of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Arizona. He has the game for the big course and big events and you know he's fine-tuning for Augusta National where he almost won his first major last April. If he happens to win this week, he'll join Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson as the only two to have won a pair of WGC events in the same year. Woods has done it five times and Mickelson once.

    2. With the top 50 players in the world scheduled to play at Doral, there's not much room for new talent to break through. And this week only one player will be making his WGC debut. Dawie van der Walt, the Order of Merit on the Sunshine Tour in South Africa is the lucky guy.

McIlroy Rising or Falling?

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    Rory McIlroy let one get away at the Honda Classic.
    Rory McIlroy let one get away at the Honda Classic.Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    For a while Sunday afternoon, it looked as though Rory McIlroy was going to provide a story that might even knock Tiger Woods off the front page.

    The young Irishman, on a difficult comeback journey that seems out of place for a player so young, was on the verge of winning again, signalling he was ready to start chasing major championships again.

    But the wheels came off in the middle of the round when he dropped five shots in 11 holes. He hit only 10 greens in a final-round 74.

    On the final hole of regular play, McIlroy hit a spectacular fairway wood to a very tight pin location from 245 yards, but missed the eagle putt that would have won the tournament.

    So it appears as though short game issues might be something to be addressed during practice rounds this week.

    The golf world is waiting with open arms to welcome McIlroy back. He just needs to finish a win to complete the comeback.

And the Winner Is

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    There's plenty of hardware in Jason Day's future and he's the favorite to add to his collection at Doral.
    There's plenty of hardware in Jason Day's future and he's the favorite to add to his collection at Doral.Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

    When a discussion takes place and it gets around to Jason Day, the question that always comes up is: What's not to like about this guy?

    Certainly not much this year. He's made six starts, finished in the top 10 in five. He could putt a little better, but he's still made nearly $1 million already this year.

    I just have the feeling that Jason day is on the verge of a very big run, and when you get a guy at this point in his career, winning the event with the best field of the year seems like a perfect statement.

     

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