American Patrick Reed became the youngest winner ever of a World Golf Championship event with his win at the Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral outside Miami Sunday. Reed, 26 days younger than Tiger Woods when he won the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in 1999, went wire-to-wire to defeat Welshman Jamie Donaldson and Yank Bubba Watson by one shot. Reed posted a tournament-high four-under-par 284 in his first-ever WGC title and third overall on TOUR.
Patrick Reed was already a part of an inclusive club on TOUR before entering this week. He, along with Rory McIlroy, Harris English and Russell Henley are the only players on TOUR under the age of 25 with two or more wins. Reed laid out his intentions on Thursday as his 68 separated himself from the field. Not bad for a kid who’s never played in a major, let alone a WGC event! A brutal Friday saw scores rise like the heat on a South Beach club dance floor but his 75 put him in a four-way tie for first entering the weekend. Saturday wasn’t beach blanket bingo either but Reed kept his nerve and posted 69 for a two-shot lead entering Sunday. This was his third, 54-hole lead. He’s now three-for-three in WINS in that department. Not bad for 24! Now with three victories, Reed trails only McIlroy (six) in that department.
I think most gamers, golfers and media will agree that the weather and the course were the story this week but I don’t believe that to be fair to Patrick Reed. He just beat the top 50 players in the world on a course that hardly any of them had played before this week. That’s impressive, period. Gamers knew that Reed had plenty of game after he beat a smokin’ hot Jordan Spieth in a playoff last August. He backed that up with rounds of 63-63-63 before holding on to win at Humana. This week, on a brand-new track, with the best players in the world, he proved his worth again. The key for Reed, as it usually is, was his putter. He finished the week ninth in strokes gained-putting and only had one double bogey. The moment never got too big for him and his brother-in-law caddy as they avoided most danger and thought it around the back nine on Sunday. With danger lurking around every fairway and green, Reed kept his nerve and hung on for victory.
Reed is going to rub some gamers the wrong way after his comments during and after the tournament about him being one of the best five players in the world. He cited his amateur and college career plus his early successes on TOUR as his reasons. Well, it’s quite hard to dispute. Remember this: play with your wallet, not your heart. There are plenty of guys I don’t like because of various reasons but I hate losing to my buddies because of personal bias.
He can play.
He has three wins on TOUR in the last eight months. Who does he think he is? Jimmy Walker? Reed was once known as Mr. Monday Qualifier as he was grinding to achieve status. He ranked No. 584 in the world to begin 2013. He’s now in the top 25. Not a bad 15 months.
He’s 24 and will be in all four majors. If he has the talent to win this week…
With this victory, Reed collects $1,530,000, 550 FedExCup Points and the title of youngest WGC winner ever.
Déjà vu All Over Again?
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won the first 16 of 17 events of 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson, Russell Henley and Chesson Hadley have collected the hardware this year for the stars and stripes. Jason Day is representing the rest of the world as the Australian won the WGC-Match Play.
Only 17 of the 38, 54-hole leaders went on to win last year in full-field, stroke play events. I’m always trying to figure out if this is a trend or not. In 2013-14 nine of 16 leaders have gone on to win with Hadley and Reed converting this week.
In 52 WGC events, only 12 have not been major champions, including the last two, Jason Day and Reed. #revolution. Those two are also in the top six for youngest winners. #youthmovement.
The new Trump National Doral taught us that any course history here should be thrown out the window in coming years. 2014 will be as far back as I go.
Young Guns versus Prime Time versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and was joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia and Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua now Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson, 35, joined them at Riviera. Walker has now added TWO more victories to the guys currently in their prime!
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) are the twenty-somethings on the board. With Henley’s victory, the Young Guns now have nine wins to the Prime Timers seven.
The Old Guys are playing like old guys as they have zero wins this season. Thongchai Jaidee, 44, was flying the flag for the Old Folks this week. Wow. He was better than Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker, Miguel Angel Jimenez, Ernie Els and Lee Westwood to name a few in their 40s. Wow.
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10 this week
Jamie Donaldson: T2. He finished the 2013 European Tour season in fifth place; finished T7 at 2012 PGA Championship; adds this finish to his T8 at 2013 WGC-HSBC Champions. At 38 years of age, he’s starting to find form but couldn’t keep up last time out at Honda as he faded on the weekend after posting six-under after the first two rounds. Gamers keep him in mind on tough ball-striking courses down the road as he was T13 in fairways and T8 GIR this week.
Bubba Watson: T2. The last four starts, he’s racked up T2, WIN, T9 and T2 this week at Doral. His worst finish of 2014 is T23 at FIO. Watson is usually known for his ball-striking but this week it was his putter that bailed him out. He was T63 (of 68) in fairways and was only T38 in GIR. His bogey-free 68 was the round of the day for me on Sunday.
Richard Sterne: T4. Dick Sterne likes the old Doral AND the new Doral as he was T14 last year and T4 this year. The South African barley slid into the field (No. 65 in the OWGR) and took full advantage of his opportunity. For those gamers who did a bit of homework, his last top 10 (T9) was at the WGC-BI last August. The form he had through the first eight months of 2013 slowed down tremendously but this result, his best ever on TOUR, gives him two top 10s in the last three WGC events. Weird.
Dustin Johnson: T4. Long and strong, Johnson held the 36-hole co-lead before 73-72 on the weekend, including double-bogey six on the 72nd hole, knocked him out of the podium money. Johnson has now banked T6, T2, second, T33 and T4 in his five starts of 2014. His solid numbers this week across the board proved again why he is No.1 on TOUR in the all-around ranking. #buybuybuy
Thongchai Jaidee: T6. If you had this “old” guy in the old guy pool this week, you were the big winner. He racked up 16 birdies, good for T4, on the back of T4 in GIR. He doesn’t play over here often but his ball-striking might make you put him on your list in deep fields if needing a sleeper.
Stephen Gallacher: T6. The Scotsman defended his Dubai Desert Classic in early February but his first round elimination in Match Play and his MC at Honda last week didn’t lend much belief this week. His best-ever TOUR finish consisted of leading the field in bogey avoidance. He was T4 in pars made, fairways and GIR. He also opened 75-75 before 70-69 to close the weekend. He has three top 10s in his last six events worldwide. #noted
Bill Haas: T6. Another player known primarily known for his ball-striking (11th on TOUR) was rewarded by a hot putter this week to hit the top 10. Haas finished second in strokes gained-putting and was T13 in putts per GIR. Gamers have been waiting for the breakout performance and this week should be a step in the right direction. Hass has now finished T43, T34, T23, T17 and now T6 in his last five. #trending
Charl Schwartzel: T9. After 76-76 on Friday-Saturday, the South African was T37 and toiling. His final round 68 back-doored the top 10 and bailed gamers out. After his seven-over performance last week at Honda, I’m not sure how many gamers were actually on him this week. It’s funny how ONE good round on a tough course can completely change the fortunes in a week like this. Good on you if you saw through last week.
Graeme McDowell: T9. Congratulations to GMAC and his bride as they expect their first child, a girl, this August. He did just about what I had hoped for this week as he hit plenty of fairways (T6) and rolled in plenty of putts (5th, strokes gained-putting). His 34 on the front smelled of a Sunday monster but his inward nine of 39, including bogeys on the final two holes, smelled more like diapers. Trust me. I know diapers.
Hunter Mahan: T9. Beginning the day just two shots out of first, gamers who had been high on Mahan this week were excited. After all, Mahan has won Match Play and the WGC-BI and was looking to complete his hat trick. His 76 on Sunday took the air out of that balloon but four of his five starts in 2014 are top 10s.
Jason Dufner: T9. Playing in the final group with Reed, Dufner also threw up 76 on Sunday. Add that to his 77 on Friday, it’s a small miracle that he hit the top 10 this week. His final 14 holes on Saturday he played six-under to get himself back into contention but his four bogeys and a double on Sunday kept him out of the big, big bucks. After back-to-back T9s in WGC events, I would expect Dufner to kick on and have a very solid 2014.
What happened to my pre-tournament favorites?
Rory McIlroy: T25. He was T62 in strokes gained-putting. There were 67 players that finished the tournament. #OADupinsmoke
Sergio Garcia: T16. His 69 on Sunday moved him from T40 to T16 so no major complaints here. I’d say his comments about 14 or 15-under being the winning score were a bit off. I’ll take T16 after a NINE in round two and a triple in round one. He only made seven bogeys on the week and was T2 GIR.
Adam Scott: T25. He carded five doubles on the week. Everything else was solid. Disappointing.
Jason Day: WD. Everyone should know this by now…
Dustin Johnson: T4. See above.
Keegan Bradley: T50. Didn’t match or break par once. That’s what happens when he wasn’t T54 or better in fairways, greens or putting. Ouch.
Webb Simpson: T47. Would you rather have your player start 80-78 or finish 70-70? Moving forward, I’ll focus on the four-under weekend…
Steve Stricker: 57th. He posted three rounds of 76 or better but shot 71 on Saturday. Swing and a miss.
Bubba Watson: T2. See above.
Jordan Spieth: T34. He closed with 69. That was the only good news.
Matt Kuchar: T13. He was three-under through eight holes on Sunday. He played the final 10 holes five-over. Missed a monster here.
Luke Donald: T25. 70, 72, 69 would have won him the golf tournament. His EIGHTY TWO on Saturday trashed out his chances. He’ll be my favorite and OAD pick next week in Tampa.
Graeme McDowell: T9. See above.
Zach Johnson: T16.Hit the turn Sunday at two-under and lurking at T2. In his final nine holes he hit 42 times including a double on No. 10 and a triple on No. 18. His worst stroke play finish this season is T33.
Phil Mickelson: T16. After doing his impersonation of Aqua Man on holes Nos. 2 through 4 on Friday, Mickelson rebounded to finish T16. His putter was the saving grace this week as he was in the top five in both categories. His best two stroke-play finishes are both WGC events (T14, HSBC) in 2013-14 season.
Puerto Rico Open
TOUR rookie and American Chesson Hadley fired a final round five-under 67 to post 21-under 267 to win the Puerto Rico Open at Trump International Sunday afternoon. He defeated New Zealander Danny Lee by two shots. American Ben Curtis rounded out the podium another two shots behind.
After racking up the most loot, over $500,000 last year on the Web.com Tour, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Hadley in the winner’s circle in his 13th TOUR event. He got a taste of how to perform on Sunday last fall as he was in the final group at Las Vegas with Webb Simpson. He watched Simpson fire 66 that Sunday to set a tournament record and win by six shots. He obviously learned something. After making 25 birdies that week in the desert, Hadley rolled in 24 this week, good for second most, en route to his record-setting 21-under performance. He was T6 in GIR and third in putts per GIR while only carding five bogeys. He also converted the first 54-hole lead of his career which, as we’ve seen, isn’t always the easiest thing to do.
Hadley, as expected after his big year on the Web.com Tour last year, has been the cream of the crop among a slim rookie class in 2014. He’s the only rookie to have more than one top 10 with three and he’s the only newbie to post a victory. The Georgia Tech grad has posted T10, MC, T24 and a win in his last four starts on TOUR so he’s definitely not a flash in the pan. Based on his victory today, he’ll receive a two-year exemption, an invitation to THE PLAYERS and a spot in the PGA Championship in August. Oh, and $630,000!
What I learned from the finishers in the top 10 this week
Danny Lee: Led the field in GIR; missed seven cuts in nine events in 2013-14; missed six in a row heading into this week; No wonder why he wasn’t on the radar.
Ben Martin: Led the Web.com Tour in earnings in 2013 after winning twice last year; his best finish prior to his solo third was T16 at Frys.com; missed three cuts on the bounce entering this week; second in putts per GIR for the week.
Wes Roach: T4; first top 10 in his seventh event on TOUR; last event was T32 at Pebble Beach; T8 GIR this week.
Richard H. Lee: T4; his second top 10 in three events as he posted T10 at Pebble Beach; closed with four birdies in the final four holes; steady as he goes off the tee and on the greens as he was T8 in fairways and T7 in putting.
David Toms: T4; fired 16-under the final three days after opening with 72; first made cut of 2014; never played here before.
Carl Pettersson: T4; missed five cuts in a row before T46 last week at Honda; first top 10 since solo eight at 2013 HTOC.
Jason Gore: T4; first top 10 since 2009 US Bank Championship in Milwaukee; shoulder problems have stunted his TOUR career;
Chris Stroud: T9; my OAD selection for this tournament; only two bogeys in his last three rounds;
Ricky Barnes: T9; missed the cut in four of his last five; best finish since his solo third at the 2012 AT&T.
Jerry Kelly: T9; third top 10 in six starts in Puerto Rico; began 2014 on fire with solo third and T13 before MC in his last two.
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 and 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.