Like a Lumber Liquidators floor plank, there were few safe picks once the winds and rains started at PGA National. Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson, and more found themselves far afoul of the cut line as their long and high ball flights fell victim to the storm. Struggling, aging stars should take note, though, because Padraig Harrington's victory proves that it is possible to comeback from the depths with plenty of hard work. Not that I would know anything about hard work. I don't even do my own laundry.
The fact is, Paddy H's 6-under victory is the lowest score to win since Ernie Els won the tournament back in 2008. That was the year of the Cadillac and fire hydrant, though General Motors would prefer you remember the brand for their tournament, not Eldrick. Still, the heavy favorites looked about as focused as a six-year-old in a puppy store and played about as well. Let the Honda Classic and the Northern Trust Open serve as a lesson if you didn't know it already, golf is extremely volatile. Not unlike your humble fantasy prognosticator after a few too many pimento cheese sandwiches at The Masters.
Risk and Reward
Risk and Reward
On to the Cadillac Championship, since the Honda Classic is now behind us. This WGC event features a 74-man field with no cut at the 7,528 yard TPC Blue Monster at Trump National Doral. Length off the tee is at a premium but not always required as evidenced by Matt Kuchar's relative success as this event. Weather is projected to be clear and sunny with up 12mph winds. Last year's winner, Patrick Reed, is set to defend coming off a tie for seventh last week.
For those of you not familiar with my Power Rankings, I'll be listing the Top-15 with their Total Aggregate (TA), a number that combines recent performance with course history and some select other metrics, and the change (CHG) from the last tournament they participated in. Total Aggregate is out of 100, with a lower number indicating a better ranking. I've re-weighted course history some to try to find a better balance.
- Bubba Watson - TA: 10.5, CHG: (+2) - *GASP* Rory isn't #1? Say it ain't so! Quit the melodrama and remember that this isn't the World Golf Rankings, but a tournament ranking. And Bubba, the World #2, is #1. Why, one could be so bold as to ask? Two second place finishes in his last three trips to Doral. One second place finish and no finish worse than 14th on Tour this year. Add in his length off the tee, a big reason why he succeeds here, and Bubba is easy to pick.
- Matt Kuchar - TA: 14.5, CHG: (-1.6) - Insanity, I know. Still no Rory. He'll be here, and his placement doesn't mean you shouldn't use him, but that there are other strong options to consider. Captain consistency, Mr. Matt Kuchar himself, makes a solid case as well. No finish worse that 30th this season, plus his usual host of Top 25s and Top 10s. What makes him a surprising pick is not his length of the tee, but you already knew that. Its his course history, with three Top 10 finishes and a Top 15 in five tries at Doral.
- Jason Day - TA: 16, CHG: (0) - In such a deep field, a few mistakes drops value. Jason Day, however, hasn't had many this season, finishing no worse than T17 all season and either winning or finishing in the Top 5 in his other starts. The question mark for him is his course history, which is middling. In his three tries here, he's finished no better than 20th but no worse than 45th. I'm betting that mediocre stat will give this week.
- Jimmy Walker - TA: 16.167, CHG: (-5.2) - This is almost fun, making you all squirm a little in your seats, waiting for McIlroy to appear. Walker, like the Northern Irishman, is coming off of his worst start of the season. Consider this: Jimmy Walker hasn't followed up a finish outside the Top 26 with another finish outside the Top 26 since the FedEx Cup playoffs in 2013. He'll turn it around, and on the Blue Monster where he can use his length, bettering his T25 from last year shouldn't be a problem.
- Patrick Reed - TA: 17, CHG: (-0.8) - Last year's champion is playing extremely well right now, riding a made-cut streak dating back to the WGC-Bridgestone last year. Reed's finished no worse than 40th this year, and given the grit he displayed at PGA National to grab a T7 despite a stumble down the stretch, he seems to be sharp enough to defend. Like him or not, this kid's here to stay.
- Rory McIlroy - TA: 18.5, CHG: (-19.6) - Though there's no cut this week, his crash and burn drops his stock a little bit. Admittedly out of practice last week, I doubt he'll be in the same shape and form this week. He's only finished once outside of the Top 25 here, so he's a safe bet to perform well. If he's used his long week to sharpen his game, the question isn't if he'll play respectably, but if he'll win.
- Lee Westwood - TA: 19, CHG: (+4.4) - Grinded a Top 25 out of the Honda Classic. Westwood's been playing good golf and has a decent track record at the Blue Monster, finishing in the Top 35 in every trip to this tournament except one. He's always subject to the monkey on his back, so a win might be a long shot, but so was Padraig Harrington last week.
- Ryan Moore - TA: 23.5, CHG: (+15.6) - He kicked off his season with a missed cut, but followed that up with a win, three Top 25s and a Top 30. Moore makes tons of birdies, and though he's more Jim Furyk than Tony Finau off the tee, he doesn't seem to suffer too much here with two Top 25s in three attempts. He might not excite, but he's pretty reliable for a solid finish.
- Adam Scott - TA: 24.5, CHG: (-1.2) - The broomstick is back, but he's missing Stevie. His numbers put him here, but I'm bearish because I'm not sure how well he'll play after his layoff. If he's on form, his tee-to-green game is as good as anyone's out there, but if his putter stays on vacation, he'll struggle. He's a little like Matt Kuchar, doesn't win a bunch, but always manages to finish well. Finished T25 last year, T3 in 2013, and T13 in 2012.
- Hunter Mahan - TA: 24.5, CHG: (+1.6) - Mahan has been frustrating this year. While he's cashed paychecks every start this year, he hasn't finished better than 17th since the Frys.com season opener. He's got the length, he's got the putter, he's got some wins, I just don't see why it isn't adding up to more. My mom would nag me to no end if I chronically underachieved this much. Still, he's reliable and has played well here before, with a pair of top 10s on top of a pair of top 25s.
- Martin Kaymer - TA: 25.125, CHG: (-1) - Managed well enough at a very difficult PGA National, dragging out a tie for 44th. Still, Kaymer's recent hot run on the European Tour is close to mind and he's proven that he can win and contend. Though Hunter Mahan hasn't won a major, he's a good comparison to Kaymer - loads of talent, but not quite performing as expected outside of a few select tournaments.
- Jordan Spieth - TA: 25.5, CHG: (-0.6) - What's there to say about Jordan Spieth that hasn't already been said? Despite his hiccup at the Farmers Insurance Open, Spieth has been exceptional since his T3 at the Dunlop Phoenix Open, and his statistics tell the tale. He's added nearly 10 yards off the tee while hitting 3% more fairways over last year. Additionally, he's hitting about 3% more greens. While that doesn't all sound like a lot, factor in that he owns one of the best short games on the PGA Tour, and there's a lot to like.
- Graeme McDowell - TA: 28.5, CHG: (-19.4) - Graeme McDowell, like his countryman Rory McIlroy, probably deserves the benefit of the doubt for his MC last week, seeing as how its his first cut on Tour since The Masters. He's never been the longest off the tee, but he is, as always, one of the best putters out there. His history here should shake any doubts, finishing 9th last year and 3rd the year prior.
- Joost Luiten - TA: 29.1, CHG: (+3.4) - Expect a juiced-up value here in DFS. Sorry. Sort-of. He pulled out a 13th place finish last year in his first attempt and has four Top 25s and two Top 10s in his last eight starts. Average off the tee but backs it up with excellent putting, far and away the best punt.
- Sergio Garcia - TA: 33.625, CHG: (-3.8) - Barely getting on here with his 31st place finish last week. Sergio still doesn't look especially sharp to me but he's still finding a way to get the ball in the hole better than most. Putting seriously well on top of a 16th place finish last year and a 3rd place finish the year prior. He's had some reps, so he should have shaken off all the bad form by the weekend.