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Doral Get’s It’s Montser Back

When Donald Trump bought Doral and hired Gil Hanse to re-design the fabled Blue Monster, it was with instructions to make the course a Major contender (see: US Open).  Golf parlance for make it extremely difficult.

The Donald got his wish.

After Friday’s second round, 113 balls were hit into the water and a paltry 4 players leading were at 1-under par.  For golf fans who thought they were attending the World Golf Championship-Cadillac Championship event, they were surprised to be sitting in the pit row of a NASCAR event as one player after another crashed in a compressed field.  Golf’s version of “drafting” became 30-40 mph wind gusts which wreaked havoc with everyone as they tried to judge how far their ball would roll on greens that played like greased lightning.

Phil Mickelson made consecutive double bogies on the 3rd and 4th holes, and then took a nap on the hillside of the 5th tee.  Feeling refreshed, he then hit his tee shot into the water on the par-3 5th to record a third double bogey, in a row.   

After 36 holes, there were four players tied for the lead at 1-under par: Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Patrick Reed and Hunter Mayhan.  Another quartet of players was one shot behind at even par for the tournament: Francesco Molinari, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell and Jamie Donaldson.  There were 36 players within six shots of the lead.  

One of those players six shots back was defending Champion and 7 time Doral winner, Tiger Woods.  Woods has struggled with his game so far this year and was doubtful this week after withdrawing in Sunday’s last round with back problems at last week’s Honda Classic.   Woods was seemingly out of contention after a first round 4-over par 76, but he battled his way around windswept Doral in the second round with a 1-over par, 73.

There is a reason that they call Saturday “moving day” on the PGA Tour. Woods all of a sudden found his game to shoot a tournament best 6-under par, 66, to storm back in contention and be 1-under par for the Championship.  Another player making a big move was Jason Dufner who shot a 4-under par, 68 to be one better than Woods at 2-under and tied with Hunter Mayhan who played steady golf in his 1-under par, 71.

The leader after the third round though was the impressive 23 year old, Patrick Reed, who crafted a superb 3-under par, 69, to take a two shot lead into Sunday’s final round.  Reed has already won twice in his young career and has a very solid all-around game.  He has a unique move in his swing that is reminiscent of Johnny Miller in that he swivels his left foot at impact so that all of his weight is in his heels at the moment of truth.

Woods, Dufner and Mayhan would all have disappointing final rounds on Sunday, and early bogies in their final rounds removed them from contention.

Reed played his way onto the Tour in the most difficult way possible, by playing one day Monday qualifiers one week after the next until he started to gain some status.  He is a player who plays fearlessly and can string together some extraordinary scores as evidenced by his opening trio of 63’s in his victory at the Humana Challenge earlier this year.  His regular caddie, his wife Justine, was not looping for him this week, because they are expecting their first child at the end of next month.

Reed took control of the final round by playing superbly on his front-9, shooting -2 under par, leaving him 4 shots clear of the field after the front 9.  That would all change as challenges came from Bubba Watson and Jamie Donaldson as Reed would hit into more sand than Lawrence of Arabia, but remarkably recovered to make one save after another. 

Watson played amazingly well in a bogey free final round, 4-under par 68, which left him at 3-under par for the Championship.  The late blooming and unheralded 38 year old Welshman, Donaldson, also played almost perfect golf until a nervous bogey on the 18th hole left him tied with Watson at 3-under par.

That meant that Reed would only need to bogey-5 on one of golf’s most demanding closing holes to register his 3rd career win.  Reed would do so in the most conservative manner, by hitting an iron off the tee, laying up short of the enormous water hazard that guards the left side of the final green on his second shot, and then playing a wedge shot to 30 feet and two-putting for his bogey-5 and a one shot win.

Reed becomes the youngest winner ever of a WGC event.  He seems to have the confidence that comes with credentials like that when he said “I don’t see a lot of guys that have done that besides Tiger Woods and the legends of the game.  I believe in myself, especially with how hard I’ve worked. I’m one of the top five players in the world. I feel like I’ve proven myself.”  

As Justine greeted him after he walked off the green, one had the feeling that they both knew all along that this would happen.  And that it will be happening a great deal more.