Dustin Johnson fired a final round three-under-par 69 to post nine-under-par 279 to win the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship. The Blue Monster at Trump National Doral saw J.B. Holmes begin the final round with a five-shot lead but the Kentuckian fired a final round 75 to finish alone in second, one shot behind. World No. 2 Bubba Watson, who had a two-shot lead with eight holes to play, rounded out the podium two shots behind Johnson.
It was a bombers paradise this week west of Miami as shifting winds, tons of water and sand plus over 7,500 yards tested the games and patience of the world’s top players. Gil Hanse’s redo of Doral sent a poignant message last year that nothing less than the best would be accepted on the rejuvenated Dick Wilson design. Patrick Reed won last year on four-under and was one of three players to break par.
This year, J.B. Holmes incredibly found 62 to open the proceedings on Thursday. Last year, the best score was 66 on Sunday. Holmes stood on the first tee on Sunday with a five-shot lead but couldn’t hold it. Watson, who played the front nine in four-under, raced by and then it was Johnson on the back side who secured his victory coming home in bogey-free 34.
One of the most interesting angles of this week was blowback about the difficulty of the course and set-up in general. Twitter is a fantastic barometer to measure the “feelings” of those involved. Scott Vail, caddy for Brandt Snedeker tweeted among other un-niceties: “Goodbye Dump International..what a terrible golf course!! #Bombersdelight”. Mark Fulcher, caddy for Justin Rose shared this thought: “361 days until the next trip around Trump DORAL .... ...... Can't say I'm all that disappointed .... ..... #NotMyFav” and “I'm just guessing ...... But I reckon Gil Hanse is a long hitter ........or .....always wanted to be .....#justsaying”.
And just to show that it wasn’t just the caddies were concerned, Ian Poulter took the more diplomatic route when asked if he would be playing if this was a “normal” TOUR event: “Best I don't answer that....”
Length and power need to be No. 1 and No. 1a when creating lineups at this event next season unless The Donald and Gil Hanse decide MOAR tweaking is necessary. When in doubt, load up with bombers and take your chances!
In a week where there were balls, clubs and just about everything else in the water or over par, I’m not losing sight of the fact that Dustin Johnson is a massive stud in the world of fantasy golf. Those of you who are cursing in the mirror (or at me on Twitter) can rest easy that Whistling Straits is the site of the PGA Championship this season. Another chance will be had. Or as I suggest, ANY time he tees it up I won’t be surprised if he wins.
Why This Performance Doesn’t Surprise
If the course is long and strong and the wind is a factor, I’m not sure if there is anyone else in the world I’d rather have lined up. Doral played as the hardest non-major and third hardest track in 2014 and he finished T4 last year. His ball flight pierces through the elements and his drive on the final hole, 322 yards over the trouble/water reminded gamers of the raw talent and athletic ability that fuels him. He overpowers all tracks with the tee ball and that length also leads to shorter irons which results in a ton of GIR. This is his ninth win on TOUR and second WGC title (2013 HSBC Champions).
Why This Performance Surprises
Er, it doesn’t.
Gamers who follow this column and our weekly chats know that Dustin Johnson is fantasy gold when he’s not on a six months hiatus. Those gamers who were patient at the FIO were rewarded with T4 at Pebble and P2 at Riviera. His Florida Swing which began last week at Honda where he shot a million but that was not a track where he’s had past successes so the result, while surprising, wasn’t shocking. This week he rebounded, as expected, and proved to gamers that it is all systems go.
How Johnson Won This Week
He was the only player to post two rounds in the 60s let alone three (68-73-69-69).
He made three bogeys on the weekend. That was just two more than the number of holes-in-one he had (1).
On a course where length, bunkering, water and wind were all factors, DJ’s worse score was bogey.
He led the field in driving distance but more importantly was T1 in GIR.
He was second in strokes gained tee to green and 19th in strokes gained putting.
He led the field in strokes gained total.
He played the back nine in five-under even though he bogeyed No. 18 three out of four tries on the week. The key was no crooked numbers here or anywhere else. He also played the front in four-under. #Balance
He’s won every year he’s played a full season on TOUR and 2015 has now been checked off the list. His only calendar year without a victory was last year as he sat out for six months to get his life together. After the tournament he remarked that he knew he was pretty good but wanted to get to great. Home life is just that, great and his golf game, as noted above, is following right along. In games where starts don’t matter, I can’t condone him ever being looked over. Yahoo! strategists will have to keep an eye out as his starts will disappear more quickly than a McIlroy three iron on No. 18. I prefer Johnson, if I’m going to be picky, on layouts where putting isn’t the No. 1 concern. That’s picky but that separates good starts from bad starts. Stay tuned.
With This Win
Johnson shoots up the FedExCup ladder to No. 3 and pockets a cool $1.570 million and 550 of those FEC points. He joins a limited list of players who have won multiple WGC events.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After 28 wins in 45 events last season, the USA continues its dominance this year. Brooks Koepka, Bill Haas, Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Charley Hoffman, Bubba Watson, Ryan Moore, Robert Streb, Ben Martin, Brandt Snedeker, James Hahn (born in Korea; US citizen) and DJ are the USA champs. Last week Paddy Harrington (Ireland) joined Sang-moon Bae (Korea), Nick Taylor (Canada) and Jason Day (Australia) as the four international winners in the first 16 events.
Only Haas, Bae, Martin, Moore and Walker have closed their 54-hole leads. Walker is the only person on BOTH sides of his list as he couldn’t close out his lead at Kapalua. Holmes couldn’t hold his five-shot lead Sunday. Of the previous 14 players to hold that size of a lead since 2010, he becomes the fourth player not to close out. That makes it 11 of 16 who have been unable to hold down the fort in 2014-15. Golf is hard.
After 13 first-time winners in 2013 there were only 10 last year. After 16 events in 2015, Martin, Streb, Taylor, Koepka and Hahn have made their breakthroughs.
Last year, three players broke par on the brand new design at Doral. This year, 11 players cracked the code to get into red figures. This is a course at a resort, not a resort course.
Patrick Reed gave his defense a noble effort but his closing 38 dropped him out of the top 12 all the way to T23.
Holmes set the “new” course record by a few as his 62 bested Jonas Blixt’s 66 last year. Heck 66 and 67 were the two lowest rounds in 2014; 62 and Bill Haas’ 65 on Saturday were the lowest this year. #Monster
This is the third event in a row where the winning score has been in single digits under par. This happened through NTO-Honda-WGC-CC last year as well. The winning score in Tampa last year was seven-under to make it a four event stretch before it was 13-under at Bay Hill.
Young Americans are the order of the day at the new Blue Monster as Reed, 23, and DJ, 30, are the two winners. Both of them crush it off the tee as well.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
I annually keep track of the age of the winners on TOUR because I’m an ageist. GET OFF MY VIAGRA.
Bae got the youngsters (under 30) on the board first in 2014-15 followed by Martin and Streb, both 27. Nick Taylor, 26, popped in to close out 2014 at SFC. Reed joined the party at a whopping 24 at HTOC followed by Koepka, 25 in Phoenix and Jason Day, 27, made it six youngsters from 12 winners this season when he won at Torrey Pines. They have since gone quiet since the courses toughened up.
Dustin Johnson, 30, joins James Hahn (33), Brandt Snedeker (34), Bill Haas (32), Jimmy Walker (36), Charley Hoffman (37), Bubba Watson (36) and Ryan Moore (31) as the prime time guys with silverware (30-39 years).
The old guys (40 and over) are all bowing down to Paddy Harrington as he defeated 21-year old Daniel Berger at Honda last week. Score one for the old dudes!
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10 this week:
J.B. Holmes: He was No. 1 in my “Form Players” section in my preview this week. Sometimes, in a field of this magnitude gamers overthink it because of OWGR rankings. This is a dream track for him where he can use his power off the tee to cause separation. His 62 in round one shows just how well he’s been playing. Holmes current form of P2-T10-T22 and he only had ONE bad round in those three events. His second bad round in four events was the final one this week. His 75 saw him finish one shot out of a playoff. His splits for the week were excellent but gamers who invested won’t forget that this was the second Sunday in a row (76 at Riviera) that he’s turned chicken salad into chicken sh!t.
Bubba Watson: This is his third podium finish in the last four years and second in a row at the “new” layout. He had a two-shot lead with eight holes to play but close out the deal as he used up all his birdies in going out in 32. Like Johnson, he began the day five shots back but after four birdies in the first seven holes, he was right in the fight. He bogeyed three of the first five on the back and finished solo third two shots back. He made three eagles on the week, the most of anyone and put all four rounds at par or better. He was the only player to do that. He was my OAD so I’ll take the $540,000 but what could have been…
Adam Scott: He won the 2004 PLAYERS CHAMPIONSIHP with a regulation putter so let’s just get that out of the way to begin. The most impressive part of his week was choosing to start it at arguably the hardest non-major set up on TOUR. He’s that good and that confident and he rewarded the loyalists who weren’t concerned about him carrying any rust against the best field in golf. Bravo to those who went this route and were rewarded with T4. He only made nine bogeys on the week (T7) and that was buoyed by T3 in GIR. He was 10th in putts per GIR and 12th SGP.
Henrik Stenson: Well, the world’s best were here and No. 2 Watson was third and No. 3 Stenson was T4 so if the OWGR was your map or tiebreaker, as Meatloaf once said, “two out of three ain’t bad”. The big Swede, like those finishing above him, has no problem moving it down the fairways on massive layouts. The 2014 Race to Dubai winner opened T13-T13 so he was humming along in 2015. He was T5 in fairways and T12 in GIR so his ball-striking was just as solid as investors would have hoped. He also only made nine bogeys on the week and his T4 improved on his T16 last season. With all four rounds this year at par or better, he shows again that his worth is not inflated.
Louis Oosthuizen: More evidence this week that he is the hardest player in fantasy land to handicap. Not only does he have back/neck problems that can flare up at the drop of a three iron but he has SERIOUS GAME that he flaunts when he’s healthy. His solo sixth this week comes on the heels of a late WD last week at Honda and that precluded a WD in Dubai in January. Don’t forget he ROLLED the field at St. Andrews in 2010 to win his only major so he’s got plenty of game and hopefully good health insurance.
Webb Simpson: After MC at Riviera and opening 80-78 here last year, Simpson didn’t hit my radar this week. I usually save Simpson for birdie fests in the desert but he was a pleasant surprise this week for season long investors as this wasn’t a track that a top 10 forecasted. He had a solid week approaching the green and made two big birdies coming home on Sunday at Nos. 14 and 16 to vault him into the top 10 (T7).
Bill Haas: He backed up his T6 here last year with T7 this week. The new daddy lit up Doral with 65, the second best round of the week, on Saturday but his 74 on Sunday kept him out of the top five. He didn’t have a very sharp week with his usual solid ball-striking but that 65 solved many problems. It was his only round of the week par or better but it was real and it was spectacular. Put that $$$ in the college fund!
Kevin Na: After opening with 74, Na settled in with three consecutive rounds under par (71-71-71) to finish T9. How good was Na this week? He made THREE DOUBLES on Thursday and another on Friday and hit the top 10. He only made six regular bogeys on the week!. Na’s putter was the hot club in the bag this week as he was 13th in SGP and seventh in putts per GIR. Not bad for his first visit to the new Doral. He’ll be one of the favorites next week in Tampa as he plays Innisbrook quite well.
Rory McIlroy: The world No. 1 made just as much news this week for chucking his three iron in the drink on No. 18 than he did for actually playing. After MC last week at Honda, a course he had played well, he had a couple extra days to figure out Doral where he finished T25 last year. McIlroy opened Thursday with 40 as he played the back nine first and that’s not the first time he’s posted a 40 or worse in the last few years. He ground out this money grab by playing the next 63 holes five under. I like that he doesn’t mail it in. I love that he’s got a temper and sense of humour like the rest of us. It also doesn’t hurt that he can win anywhere any week. His recent form at Doral is now T10-3rd-T8-T25-T9 in his last five. The layout, minus a loose three iron here or there, seems to fit his eye.
Ryan Moore: His opening round 66 was obviously overshadowed by Holmes’ 62 and gamers forget he doubled the last hole on Thursday. He added a triple on Saturday and Sunday yet still hung on to T9 on a course where he posted a 70 and 69 last year along with 79 and 75. His closing weekend 74-76 saw him fade but it’s a very solid result for salary gamers who weren’t expecting much in Florida outside of Bay Hill.
A quick recap of what happened to the Chalk from my preview column:
Bubba Watson: Third, see above.
Patrick Reed: He entered Sunday at T12 and was under par but four bogeys on his final 10 holes knocked his title defense to T23. Similar to last year, Reed showed that hitting fairways at the new Doral isn’t paramount but his ice-cold putter couldn’t make up the difference like it did last year. He’s now posted five rounds of eight on this track at par or better.
Rory McIlroy: T9, see above.
Jason Day: He dug the hole too deep opening 76-74 that his 70-71 weekend couldn’t save gamers. He made six doubles and a triple but also racked up 17 birdies. He only made five bogeys. His driver checked in at 71 of 74 players this week. Wanna guess what the problem was? Yeah, water. T31.
Dustin Johnson: WIN.
Jamie Donaldson: When course form meets current form…The Welshman couldn’t back up his solo sixth last week or his T2 here last year. He opened solidly and began the weekend two-under before 76-75 knocked him to the bottom half in T44. The good news was he was third in pars for the week; the bad news was he only made nine birdies. He hit plenty of fairways but not many greens and the putts he saw didn’t fall.
Matt Kuchar: T23 on the back of 18 birdies (T3 for the week) saw Kuchar peg his second top 25 in two tries (T13 last year) at Doral. He led the field in SGP and was second in sand saves so that tell us his he struggled hitting fairways and greens. Steady but not spectacular.
Adam Scott: T7, see above.
Paul Casey: It’s hard to keep up P2-T3 form and asking to do it against the best field in golf so far in 2015 is even harder. Casey was on the list because he earned it with his recent play and had seen heights like this before (No. 3 in the world in 2009). His ball-striking was fine but it was the putter that went chilly. That’s going to happen with Casey.
Jordan Spieth: The youngster loves a proper grind and boy did he grind! His ball-striking was ice cold but when the putter is as good as his is (2nd to Kuchar) he can ham and egg it around. He had a double and a triple on the front today and turned in 37 and fired even-par 72 to move up to T17.
Henrik Stenson: T4, see above.
Sergio Garcia: He began Sunday T8 on three under. After 78 of them, he finished T31. That stings.
Shane Lowry: Entered the final round T12 before 74 saw him finish T17. Very solid showing as the Irishman continues his reign of top 25s worldwide.
Graeme McDowell: His lack of length was masked by his excellent short game last year (T9). This year he was T5 in fairways but T58 GIR and 47th SGP.
Puerto Rico Open
Journeyman Alex Cejka won a five-man playoff at Trump International Golf Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. The 44-year-old Cejka birdied the first playoff hole, the 18th, to win for the first time in 287 events on TOUR. He held off Jon Curran and Emiliano Grillo, who both bogeyed the 72nd hole to create the playoff plus Sam Saunders and Tim Petrovic.
Cejka becomes the third-oldest player since 1970 to break his maiden on TOUR. He’s also the first international winner at the PRO. Cejka now has four top 20s this season but now that he’s completed the mission, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him enjoy this a bit and let the golf slide. Let your opponents prove you wrong.
Coming TUESDAY Afternoon
I’ll publish my weekly preview, Range Rover, around lunchtime, children permitting. I’ll focus on history, current form, course characteristics, winning qualities and those who I think will and will not.
Coming TUESDAY Afternoon Pt. II
Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday late afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game, DFS plus the European Tour! Oh, and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it every Tuesday until the Presidents Cup.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the Valspar Championship plus answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/mikeglasscott) on Twitter.