With a final-round 3-under par 37-32=69, Adam Scott erased a three-shot deficit to win the 17th edition of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship by one over Bubba Watson and by two over Danny Willett and 54-hole leader Rory McIlroy, who shared third place.
Trump National Doral’s Blue Monster hosted for the 10th consecutive year. The 7,543-yard par-72 layout played to a four-day average of 72.854 with the toughest challenge coming in the final round (73.945) when the greens firmed-up and the winds kicked-in. Scott posted a cumulative 15.421 in strokes gained: total, one week after posting a 15.686 at The Honda Classic.
R2: Dustin Johnson (64)
R4: Jimmy Walker (66)
R3: Rory McIlroy (68)
Adam Scott: With a winning score of 12-under 276, Scott won the WGC-Cadillac for the first time in his 15th overall appearance, and comes just seven days after winning The Honda Classic, where he co-led after 54 holes.
Each of the past five winners at Trump National Doral ALL played the Honda the week before, although the Aussie is the first to have won there. Justin Rose, the 2012 WGC-Cadillac champ, was next best with a T5 at PGA National the week prior.
Scott has now posted Win-Win-T2 in his last three events on TOUR.
Last week’s victory came despite a quadruple bogey-7 in round three. This week’s win came with its own adversity. It wasn’t a quad, and it wasn’t in R3, but he did retreat the same four strokes with double bogey-6s on holes 3 and 5, this time in the finale.
Scott, who led thru 36 holes after 68-66, began his final frame three adrift of McIlroy following a 1-over 73 on Saturday. Playing out of the penultimate twosome, the Aussie quickly trailed by six after just five holes, erasing an opening birdie from 9’0” with the aforementioned doubles on Nos. 3 and 5.
The 35-year-old bounced back with birdies on 6 and 8 – each from inside of 10 feet – to turn 1-over. After the break, he connected three straight circles on Nos. 10-12 and added a fourth at the par-4 14th. The longest of those conversions was from 5’2” at the par-5 12th.
Last week’s win saw Scott hit the shot of the tourney at the par-4 12th, sticking his approach from 150 yards away out of a fairway bunker to 23 inches for a kick-in 3.
This week’s triumph required another escape from near-disaster, but this one came on the final hole of the tournament. He came to the par-4 18th clinging to a one-shot lead and hit his drive 318 yards into the right rough, slightly impeded by a palm tree.
After much discussion with his caddie, Scott decided to go for the green from 188 yards out and flew the putting surface, but somehow his ball got caught up in the thick rough, just feet from going in the water.
Inside the hazard line but dry, Scott deftly flopped his pitch shot to within seven feet, and calmly dropped the par putt for his second WGC title in his 46th overall appearance and first since the 2011 Bridgestone Invitational.
"Everything fell the right way for me today," Scott said afterwards. "I was so lucky for it to stay up inside the hazard line. When you're that lucky, you better get them up and down."
Scott finished the week ranked No. 1 in birdies with 22, seven in the finale, with six of those coming over his final 13 holes, which he played blemish-free.
It’s his 13th victory on the PGA TOUR in his 251st career start and as stated, comes just seven days after winning The Honda Classic. He had gone 644 days between wins 11 and 12. It’s his third in the state of Florida (2004 PLAYERS) and becomes just the second player since 1990 to win consecutive Florida Swing events, the other being Tiger Woods in 2001.
With the win, Scott tops the FedExCup standings for the first time in his career – 488 points over Kevin Kisner – and moves from No. 9 in the Official World Golf Ranking to No. 6. He also won back-to-back starts for the second time after doing so in 2013 on the PGA Tour of Australasia.
What We Learned:
The pre-tourney odds-favorites have won just one time in the first 16 events of the 2015-16 season – Jordan Spieth at the 32-man Hyundai TOC. That’s it.
Initially, 19 of the top 20 in the OWGR teed it up but Brandt Snedeker (No. 16) WD with a reoccurring rib injury after a first-round 76, reducing the total to 18. Of the 18, five finished inside the top 10.
Bubba Watson: The 37-year-old spun a 4-under-par 33-35=68 to post 11-under 277 (69-69-71-68). After an up-and-down par on 18, he could only watch as Scott, one group behind, crafted an even better up-and-down on the par-4 finishing hole.
Watson never led after any round this week, and didn’t lead at the conclusion either, finishing runner-up, again, but in the end, was the only real obstacle to the eventual champion after Willett put his tee ball on 18 into the water.
He hit a week-low five (of 14) fairways but pelted 14 greens in regulation for the third time this week -- finishing No. 1 in the field in that category at 80.56 percent (58/72).
Watson birdied the par-5 first and later pulled to within one with a 61'2" bomb for eagle-3 at the eighth. He dropped his lone shot at 14 (failed scramble) and missed birdie from 5'11" at the drivable par-4 16th before connecting from 9'8" for birdie-3 at 17 to complete his scoring.
Watson's bogey on the par-4 14th on Sunday was his only dropped shot on the back nine all week. He squared five bogeys and a double on the front nine.
It’s his fourth podium in his last five appearances on the Blue Monster, 2nd-T2-3rd-2nd, and he’s lost those four editions by a combined five shots.
Of note, Watson followed his previous second-place finishes in 2012 and 2014 with green jackets in each of those respective years.
Danny Willett: The Englishman has now made 20 career starts on the PGA TOUR, eight of those WGCs, and has three top-3 finishes, each in WGC events. His T3 this week at Trump National Doral on 10-under 278 (68-69-72-69), joins up with T3 at the HSBC Champions this past fall, and solo third at the Dell Match Play last year.
Willett, who earned and then turned down TOUR membership for 2015-16, was T12 here last year in his tourney debut (73-76-71-68). Coupled with this year's playing, he's now carded six straight rounds of par-or-better on the Blue Monster.
He began Sunday five shy of McIlroy and birdied the par-5 opener, the par-4 seventh, and the par-3 ninth from 14'4" to briefly tie for the top spot with three others. The 28-year-old had a chance for one better before the break, but whiffed a 31-inch near-gimme at the par-5 eighth. He came home in even-par, exchanging birdies at 12 and 16 with bogeys at 11 and again on the par-4 18th after hitting his tee shot into the water.
Phil Mickelson: The 2009 champ had just one top 10 on the Blue Monster in his last six tries and entered off an uninspiring T37 at the Honda. He began the finale five adrift and later joined a four-way T1 after a bogey-free 3-under 33, but limped home in 1-over 37 to finish solo fifth on 9-under 279 (67-72-70-70). That said, it’s his third top 5 of the season in his first six starts, accomplishing that feat for the first time since 2005.
Jimmy Walker: Back-doored a solo sixth on 8-under 280 (69-72-73-66), his first top 20 at the WGC-Cadillac in his third appearance, and his first top 10 in nine WGC events overall. The 37-year-old ripped-off a birdie-birdie-eagle run on holes 15-17 on Sunday, highlighted by a hole-out 2 from 83 yards at the par-4 17th. He coaxed-in a 7'1" one-putt par on 18 to post the low lap of the day and his third top 10 of the season on eight starts.
Paul Casey: Went for solo seventh on 6-under 282 (71-68-75-68). The Englishman was more heavily discussed the week prior at the Honda, where he had a T4, T12 and T3 to his credit, but finished a disappointing T43 and was never in contention. Gamers who stuck with him for another week were rewarded with his fourth top 10 at Trump National Doral, and first since T6 six years ago.
Smylie Kaufman: Posted a T8 on 5-under 283 (71-70-71-71) in his tourney debut, good for top honors among two rookies and 17 total first-timers at the Blue Monster. The 24-year-old rookie posted four red numbers en route to his third top 10 of the season on 11 starts, but first since opening with T10 and his maiden win at the Shriners back in October.
Rickie Fowler: Finished T8 on 5-under 283 (70-71-71-71) in his sixth appearance. Led the field in total bogeys with just five, but had three “others” on holes 3 and 4 (in R2/R3) that totaled 8-over-par.
The 27-year-old played his other 69 holes in 13-under. He’s now posted eight of his last nine at Trump National Doral at par-or-better, but only one of those were in the 60s (68 in R1 in 2015). If you include his third international win in Abu Dhabi, Fowler’s last five starts read: T8-T6-P2-CUT-1st-5th.
It was a solid week for full-time European Tour members – who primarily play on their home tour – with Willett leading the contingent. Spain’s Rafa Cabrera-Bello pitched-in a T11 on 3-under 285 (73-71-67-74) in his third appearance; Austria’s Bernd Wiesberger went for T14 on 2-under 286 (72-69-74-71) in his second visit; and England’s Andy Sullivan posted T17 on 1-under 287 (71-70-73-73) in his tourney debut.
Rory McIlroy: The pre-tourney odds-fave led by three thru 54 holes, but settled for a two-way T3 after stumbling to a three-bogey, one-birdie 74 on Sunday. Chasing his third WGC crown in his 26th overall appearance, the 26-year-old hit just nine greens in regulation and dropped to 6-for-9 on TOUR in converting 54-hole leads/co-leads into victories.
Despite averaging 315.4 yards off the tee, the World No. 3 didn’t record a par breaker on any of the par 5s on Sunday and didn’t circle his lone birdie until the par-4 16th, eventually finishing on 10-under 278 (71-65-68-74). McIlroy debuted a cross-handed putting grip this week and averaged 28 putts-per-round and finished 14th in strokes gained: putting (2.757).
Dustin Johnson: The defending champ played out of the final twosome on Sunday with McIlroy and flamed-out to a 7-over-par 37-42=79 to fall 12 spots into a three-way T14 on 2-under 286 (72-64-71-79).
The 79 was easily his worst in 32 career rounds on the Blue Monster (previously 76, two times) and included a wretched stretch of double-double-bogey-double on holes 10-13. Like his playing partner, the 31-year-old mustered but nine greens in regulation on Sunday.
Jordan Spieth: The World No. 1 finished T17 on 1-under 287 (69-72-73-73), 13 adrift of the champion. He’s now totaled just three red numbers on the Blue Monster in his last 12 rounds, each 69s. Take note of the T17-finish however, as that’s exactly where he finished last year, and of course, went on to win five times, including two majors.
Henrik Stenson: Making his ninth visit to Trump National Doral and first TOUR start of calendar-year 2016, Stenson swallowed four “others” during the week, including a quadruple bogey-7 in R3, to limp-in at T28 on 2-over 290 (71-71-76-72). He returned from knee surgery (Dec. 9th) to post T3 and T6 in two Desert Swing events and was T4 here last year, but was never a factor.
Patrick Reed: The 2014 champ missed the cut by three at The Honda Classic after rounds of 74-72 and chases with T52 on the Blue Monster at 9-over 297 (77-74-74-72). He opened 2015-16 with 16 (of 17) rounds in the sub-par category, but has since posted just two red numbers in his last 12 loops. The 25-year-old heads to this week’s Valspar Championship were he lost in a three-man playoff last year.
J.B. Holmes: The 2015 runner-up, who owns the course record post-2014 redesign (62/R1 in 2015), entered his fourth appearance on the heels of a T6-T6-T11-T11 run. He never factored, finishing in 59th place on 13-over 301 (77-72-72-80), 25 swings behind the champion and 21 shots worse than last year’s solo second.
His final-round 80 featured a triple and three doubles, including a zero-putt double bogey-7 on the par-5 first that included a two-stroke penalty for playing from a wrong place in breach of a water hazard and a one-stroke penalty for going in the water hazard as well.
The TOUR stays in the Sunshine State and heads to the Tampa Bay area for the third leg of the Florida Swing. Jordan Spieth defends this week’s Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead) after winning last year’s edition in a three-man playoff involving Sean O’Hair and Reed. It was his first of five eventual TOUR titles in the 2014-15 season and kicked off a run of P1-2nd-P2 and 1, culminating with his win at the Masters. Stay tuned to this space for all the latest player news and opinions as the TOUR readies for its 17th tournament of the season.