Doral’s ‘Blue Monster’ is what awaits perhaps the best quality field to play in 2016 this week. The Cadillac Championship is the first World Golf Championship of the calendar year, following on this season from the WGC HSBC Champions in November. That tournament produced a somewhat surprise winner in Russell Knox who recorded a first career victory in Shanghai. That week is notable for Rory McIlroy’s food poisoning and Dustin Johnson hitting one of the greatest drives in the modern era of Golf.
This week’s challenge is much different to the one players faced out in China, with a very long, challenging course that rewards long hitters and makes it hard work for those with less firepower. That was evidenced last season by winner, Dustin Johnson, who was closely followed by fellow PGA Tour bombers, JB Holmes and Bubba Watson, along with Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson in behind. The bottom-line is that this tournament is only in the grasp of the best players in the world at launching their drives into the stratosphere.
One of the more interesting things about this week is the shake-up of the market, especially compared to the Masters ante-post market. With the World Golf Championship’s exclusive qualifying criteria, it means only the best players in the world will be participating this week, much like the first Major of the season, so it is very surprising to see the odds for both tournaments differing quite significantly since we are only a month or so away from the Masters.
Masters Odds (General)
Jordan Spieth: 6/1, Rory McIlroy: 7/1, Jason Day: 8/1, Bubba Watson: 14/1, Rickie Fowler: 14/1, Adam Scott: 16/1, Dustin Johnson: 20/1…22/1 Bar.
WGC Cadillac Championship Odds (General)
Rory Mcilroy: 10/1, Bubba Watson: 11/1, Dustin Johnson: 11/1, Adam Scott: 12/1, Jordan Spieth: 12/1, Jason Day: 14/1, Rickie Fowler: 14/1…25/1 Bar.
On first glance, this appears a great chance to advantage of the market underestimating the supposed ‘Big Three’ of Golf in the form of Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcilroy, Jason Day. All of whom are a couple of points, if not more, bigger than the price listed for the Masters. In the cases of Jordan Spieth and Jason Day, a whole six points bigger for this tournament.
However, there is definite cause for them to be a much more inflated price this week. Jordan Spieth has had one of the more jet-setting schedules of any major golfer over the last few months, taking in the UAE, Singapore, Australia in addition to the West Coast of America. He stated before the Pebble Beach Pro-Am that his money-grabbing exertions around the globe had physically drained him and that showed at Riviera last time out carding a 79 on the opening day on the way to missing the cut.
Jason Day was the world’s best golfer at the end of last season, winning four tournaments in six weeks in Autumn. But since the birth of his second child, Lucy, in November, Day hasn’t shown any form matching that hot streak. It is reasonable to assume he is still adapting to his role as new-born parent and as such his golf game will not be operating at 100% for a few months yet. That is enough to avoid backing him at the attractive 14/1.
I came close to tipping Rory McIlroy this week. He has a great record in World Golf Championships, with two victories and numerous Top 10s. Furthermore, Doral is situated in Florida, the state of Rory McIlroy’s US residence, he also had a pipe opener in Florida in last week’s Honda Classic. Those factors boded well for a success this week, especially considering McIlroy is perhaps the greatest big-hitting, ball striker in the game of golf, perfectly suited to this course. However, his putting has been disastrous over the last few weeks. In an Instagram post today, he showed off a new ‘crossover’ grip in his putting routine. For me, this is a sign of desperation by McIlroy in an attempt to improve this under-performing area of his game in one week.
That leaves the so-called ‘second tier’ of Golf to choose from. Bubba Watson (12/1) showcased his brilliance when winning at Riviera two weeks ago, in addition Adam Scott (12/1) was victorious in tough conditions in last week’s Honda Classic. It is easy to see how they are challenging favouritism, considering they are two in-form golfers, but for me it is very hard to follow up in winning back-to-back in an event like this, so I will be avoiding them.
I believe Dustin Johnson (12/1) represents cracking value to win his second consecutive WGC Cadillac Championship. He has been in good form this season, playing well at Torrey Pines before being blown off the course and posting a 4th place finish at Riviera. The fact he remains one of the longest hitters in the world puts him at a distinct advantage this week more than any other, hopefully he can make it pay.
Before his performance at the Northern Trust Open two weeks ago, Johnson was quoted as saying, “I think I have all parts of my game under control”. That certainly showed in his performance that week, playing his way into contention on a course that did not suit him as much as Bubba Watson or Adam Scott.
Johnson has historically played brilliantly round this challenging course, since his length off the tee leaves him with short irons while most of the field faces long approach shorts. In the last few seasons, Johnson has posted a victory, a fourth and a twelth place finish. There is nothing to suggest he cannot reproduce a similar performance and returning to a course on which he last won should help him overcome some weekend blues he’s experienced recently. In my opinion, he looks prime to defend his title and well worth a punt at 12/1.
DUSTIN JOHNSON – 4PTS WIN @ 12/1 (Ladbrokes)