RotoWire Partners

WGC-Cadillac Preview: Dominate at Doral

Greg Vara

Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the 2013 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. In addition to producing the weekly preview and the bulk of the draft kit content, Vara participates in Yahoo!'s "Experts Picks" where he routinely dominates. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.

Rory or Tiger? Which to lead with? After the final round of the Honda Classic, it's certainly not an easy choice. I'll spare you, however, turning this into a story about Rory McIlroy ascending to the top of the World Golf Rankings because 99 percent of golf fans don't give a hoot. It's seemingly only the player himself and the networks that carry golf that care. On perhaps the most important day on the PGA TOUR in years, an inordinate focus on McIlroy's No. 1 ranking overshadowed the more-important happenings on the course. Here's what transpired in a nutshell: Tiger proved he is back. Maybe not all the way back, but when he drained that putt on the 72nd-hole, he sent a message to the entire world. It's funny, had he not made that putt, the tone would be very different today, at least in my mind. Sure, it was only one stroke, a stroke that in the end didn't matter in the final outcome. But where it did matter was in the mind of Mr. Woods. When was the last time you saw Tiger make a clutch putt that meant something? Not to be outdone, McIlroy put on a show of his own. His play Sunday was not pretty, but it was efficient as he did exactly what he needed to do to capture the victory. It was the first time we've seen McIlroy fend off Tiger, though he was actually fending off a posted score, not Tiger himself. Within the span of four hours Sunday we saw the best that ever was reappear and possibly one of the best to come take yet another important step in his maturing process. There's no telling what impact this day could have on the remainder of the 2012 season. Hopefully, we see more Sunday's like this during the majors this season. If not, well, we've always got the World Golf Rankings to keep us interested.

What the Honda Classic means:

Tiger Woods: I don't want to get too excited - after all, the magic from Tiger was really just one good round, but what a round. His opening round this week will be very important, especially how he putts. If he starts well, this could be an epic week.

Rory McIlroy: McIlroy had every opportunity to give up the lead Sunday, and he nearly did, but a fantastic short game saved the day. The sign of a great player is when they can get through a round without their best game. McIlroy had only a couple facets of his game working Sunday, yet he held on for the win. Very impressive.

Charl Schwartzel: Schwartzel is heating up just in time for a couple of big events on the horizon. The first is the WGC-Cadillac Championship and the next, of course, is the Masters, where he'll be defending his title from last year.

This week:
WGC-Cadillac Championship

Last Year:
Nick Watney shot a final-round 67 on his way to a two-stroke victory over Dustin Johnson.

Players to Consider:

1. Tiger Woods

Woods has played this event 11 times and has never missed the top-10. Sure, seven of those 11 events where held at different venues, but he's earned four consecutive top-10s at Doral.

2. Phil Mickelson

Mickelson's record at Doral is all over the place. But he won here in 2009 and enters with a lot of momentum, albeit from a few weeks ago.

3. Nick Watney

Watney hasn't been at the top of his game this season, but this could be the week he breaks out as his track record here is solid. Watney won last year and finished runner-up in 2009.

4. Charl Schwartzel

Schwartzel is coming off a good showing last week at the Honda and has fared well at Doral over the years. He finished in the top-25 last year and runner-up the year prior.

5. Rory McIlroy

His history at Doral isn't very strong, but it doesn't seem to matter with McIlroy as he's lighting it up wherever he plays. A win this week would send him into a whole new stratosphere.

Players to Avoid:

1. Zach Johnson

Johnson's been off his game for the better part of the 2012 season, and his track record at Doral is not very good. Looks like another tough week for Zach.

2. Retief Goosen

Goosen finished runner-up here in 2008, but his results at Doral the last three years leave a lot to be desired. Goosen hasn't cracked the top-30 since 2008.

3. Darren Clarke

Clarke is riding on the fumes of his Open Championship victory last season and is not going to pick up any speed this week. Clarke finished T46 in his previous trip to Doral.

4. Geoff Ogilvy

Ogilvy won here in 2008, but he's way off his game now; so much so that I am beginning to wonder if he played way above his head for a few years and this is just who he is now.

5. Y.E. Yang

I'm going to use the "if he couldn't do it at ..." theory on Yang this week. His track record at the Honda was outstanding, yet he barely made the cut last week. I doubt his fortunes turn around this week.


This week:
WGC-Cadillac Championship

Group A

1. Phil Mickelson
2. Nick Watney

Straight chalk in the Group A this week. Then again, there's a lot of chalk from which to choose. Both players I chose have good histories here as well as the ability to beat a top-notch field.

Group B

1. Tiger Woods
2. Rory McIlroy
3. Lee Westwood
4. Hunter Mahan

The first two picks were easy, after that, not so much. Don't get me wrong, I've no problem with Westwood and Mahan, it's just that they didn't stick out to me like they do in certain weeks. I chose that duo, however, because of how they've played recently. Westwood played well last week, and Mahan won the Match-play event two weeks ago.

Group C

1. Martin Kaymer
2. Charl Schwartzel

There are certainly plenty of players to choose from in Group C this week, but the high-end talent is lacking. Fortunately, we have a couple guys who know now to win at a high level. Schwartzel and Kaymer are both major champions and each have a top-3 at Doral in the past two years.

Starters Round One

1. Nick Watney
2. Tiger Woods
3. Rory McIlroy
4. Charl Schwartzel

The Group B starters chose themselves, and even though the pair of Woods and McIlroy will be extremely popular this week, this is a case when you have to play along so you don't lose ground. This isn't a spot to get fancy. As for the other groups, Watney is a solid opener, and he might not be all that popular considering Mickelson, among many others, is also a solid option to start the week. Schwartzel gets the nod in Group C based on his play last week at the Honda Classic.

Round Two and Going Forward:

Starting again with Group B, it is going to be nearly impossible to move Rory or Tiger out of the line-up this week. There is no cut, so all players are playing through the weekend, which means an outrageously low round is always just around the corner with these guys. The best scenario to move either player out Friday after a really low opening round. I know, it sounds crazy to pull anyone after a really low round, but that's usually the best time to do it. The other groups will be up in the air after day one. I'll probably get Mickelson into the mix Friday regardless of how it played out Thursday. In Group C, I'll be leaning toward keeping Schwartzel in play Friday, though a solid round from Kaymer or a poor one from Schwartzel could change that.