WGC Cadillac Championship: Players to Watch

Joe Wirth@JoeWirth11Contributor IIIMarch 4, 2013

Tiger struggled last week at the Honda Classic, but look for him to turn his game around and play well this week at Doral.
Tiger struggled last week at the Honda Classic, but look for him to turn his game around and play well this week at Doral.Scott Halleran/Getty Images

The Blue Monster Course at Doral is one of the most iconic courses on the PGA Tour. Highlighted by its signature 18th hole, Doral provides players with many risk-reward opportunities throughout the round. Although there are birdies to be had, with the strong winds and numerous water hazards, there is trouble lurking around every corner.

The excitement generated on this track is why the course is a favorite of tour players and its new association as a World Gold Championship has added depth to the fields. The event is annually one of the more exciting tournaments of the season.

There is no shortage of great champions at this event. From Nicklaus to Norman to Woods, many of the all-time greats have been victorious at the Blue Monster. This course has a tendency to bring the best golf out of the best players.

Here are three players to keep an eye on this week at the WGC Cadillac Championship.

Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods did not play this tournament very often early in his career. It was not until the mid-2000s that this event became a staple on his yearly schedule. Once Woods started playing, however, he immediately had success.

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Woods won at Doral three-straight years from 2005-2007. His 2005 Sunday duel with Phil Mickelson is still one of the most memorable tournaments in recent memory.

Even when Woods struggled and did not have his “A” game, he still managed to put himself in contention.

Doral favors the big hitters. The course has four par fives and, depending on the wind, provides birdie and eagle opportunities for the long drivers.

Doral does not have menacing rough, so driving accuracy is not as much of a premium this week. This bodes well for Woods, who can become wayward from the tee.

Although he has struggled with his game since his win in San Diego, look for Woods to contend this week in Miami.

Dustin Johnson

Dustin Johnson is another long hitter who has had success at Doral. He led through three rounds in 2010 before finishing second to Nick Watney.

Johnson won this year at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions with similar tropical conditions that he will see this week, but like Woods, has struggled with his game as of late. His best finish in a stroke-play tournament since his win was a T46 at the Honda Classic.

Johnson is ranked No. 14 on the PGA Tour in driving distance and can take full advantage of the birdie opportunities this week.

Johnson's aggressiveness on the course makes or breaks him. If he is on, he is one of the most exciting players on tour and can really go low. If he is off, however, then his aggressive nature will make him susceptible to some big numbers.

If Johnson can minimize his mistakes and hit his marks from 125 yards and in, look for him to be on the leaderboard come Sunday afternoon.

Phil Mickelson

Like Johnson and Woods, Mickelson is one of the game’s biggest hitters, but has been inconsistent so far in 2013.

Mickelson put on one of the best performances of the season at the Waste Management Open but has been quiet ever since.

Last year, Mickelson’s early win at Pebble Beach in a Sunday duel with Woods was supposed to propel him to a great 2012 season. Instead, 2012 was one of Mickelson’s worst seasons as a pro.

Mickelson will try and reverse that trend this week at Doral, a place where he has had success in the past.

He was a runner-up in 2005 and won the tournament in 2009. The 2009 victory saw him beat Nick Watney by one stroke while battling the flu during the final round.

Mickelson has made a living contending on tour without hitting many fairways and this was never more on display than in his 2009 win where, after a wayward shot on the 12th hole Sunday, he had to hit a shot right-handed out of the palm trees just to get the ball back on the fairway.

They do not call him “Phil the Thrill” for nothing.

Despite his penchant for missing short putts in crunch time, Mickelson has consistently been one of the best putters on tour throughout his career, and this prowess with the flat stick has more than made up for his erratic driving.

If Mickelson can keep the ball on the grid and out of the plethora of water hazards, his improved putting will put him in contention this week.

Low scores have been the norm in recent years at Doral. Since 2008, the winning score has been at least minus-16.

Because of these low scores, Donald Trump, the owner of the property, plans to renovate the course after this year’s tournament in order to see higher scores at future tournaments.

The new and improved layout will be ready for the 2014 tournament, but until then, prepare for a birdie barrage at the Blue Monster this week.