The season’s second WGC event comes from a famous old PGA Tour venue, that has hosted an annual fixture under various sponsors since 1962. Not so long ago, Doral’s Blue Course was known as ‘Blue Monster‘, but while the water hazards retain their colour, a combination of Hurricane Wilma and modern technology has extracted the monster’s teeth. Low scoring has become the norm, as illustrated by a winning score of at least -17 in all but one renewal this century.
Three of the last five Doral events were won by Tiger Woods, and the other two champions during that period, Phil Mickelson and Geoff Ogilvy, were very pickable. Previously though, Doral produced a fair mix of both big and short-priced winners, usually bound by the common factor of being from Florida, or resident in Florida at the time.
Course and stats
The reason why Florida-connected players tend to thrive at Doral is simple; they are better at reading these undulating, grainy, Bermuda greens. Whereas the Blue Monster used to present a tough long game examination, since scoring has improved it has become essential to have a hot putter in order to keep pace.
Since Hurricane Wilma left this once narrow, tree-lined course rather exposed, driving distance has become a big advantage, if not necessarily essential. See the enduring course record of short-hitter Jim Furyk, for instance. Nevertheless, Tiger and Mickelson’s victories owed much to their power, and the presence in recent top fives of huge hitters like Nick Watney and Brett Wetterich offers a further clue.
2pts ew GEOFF OGILVY @ 25/1 (GENERAL, 28/1 EXPEKT)
Two of Ogilvy’s four efforts so far in 2010 set a very high standard. He was sublime when defending his SBS Championship title at Kapalua, and had he not run into an equally on-fire Villegas, the Aussie may well have landed his third WGC Matchplay title. All of that must bode well for Doral, where he won in 2008 and finished third the previous year. The greens were very receptive when Ogilvy won this event, and are expected to be so once again this week.
1.5pts ew ZACH JOHNSON @ 40/1 (GENERAL)
With six PGA Tour titles, including a Major, to his name already, Zach is proving to be quite prolific. He landed three titles in a seven-month period up until last May, and given that his form hasn’t notably deteriorated in the meantime, he could be overdue.
Johnson hasn’t missed a top 25 anywhere since last August, and made the top 15 on four of his last five visits. Moreover, this Florida resident has already produced a performance on this course that would be competitive in most years, shooting -19 only to end up third behind Woods and Mickelson back in 2005.
1.5pts ew NICK WATNEY @ 40/1 (GENERAL, 90/1 STAN JAMES)
Watney rates best of the very big-hitters for me, in light of his outstanding performance as runner-up behind Mickelson last year, well clear of the rest. He’s been playing consistently well for months, just outside contention and therefore perhaps slipping below the bookies’ radar. At least a place payout looks due, and it’s likely to come in a low-scoring affair like this, where he can let rip off the tee.
1pt ew ALVARO QUIROS @ 45/1 (GENERAL, 50/1 CORAL)
Likewise, Quiros’ extreme driving distance is a considerable asset around Doral, and explains his promising course debut in 13th place last year. Working on the basis that he’s been in contention on each of his four starts this season, all amongst world-class company, the Spaniard deserves recognition as a winner in waiting.
1pt ew LUCAS GLOVER @ 80/1 (GENERAL)
Despite the fact he’s twice let us down from strong positions already this year, I’m prepared to give Glover another chance at these tasty odds. He may have looked weak under pressure on that awful final day at Kapalua, but it’s hardly fair to label a US Open winner as a bottler just yet. That career highlight at Bethpage came in wet, pick and place conditions, and we could see something similar this week.
Glover has a decent long-term record in Florida, winning his first PGA Tour title in the state and most encouragingly, finishing fifth at Doral back towards the beginning of his career in 2006.