Daily Wrap-up: WGC-Cadillac, Round 1MIAMI, FL - MARCH 07: Tiger Woods hits his tee shot on the 15th hole during the first round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at the Trump Doral Golf Resort & Spa in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)March 07, 2013
By PGATOUR.COM wire reports
DORAL, Fla. -- Tiger Woods was on his game, and so were most of the world's best golfers on Thursday in the first round of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, with the notable exception of No. 1 Rory McIlroy.
Woods made nine birdies on the TPC Blue Monster at Trump Doral for a 6-under 66 that put him in a five-way share of the lead with Masters champion Bubba Watson, former U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell, Sergio Garcia and Freddie Jacobson.
This World Golf Championship lived up to its name with Phil Mickelson, Steve Stricker and Hunter Mahan among the big names one shot behind.
But it was another rough day for McIlroy, who hit only three fairways and made six bogeys that kept him at par or worse on a perfect day for scoring. Despite making a 15-foot eagle putt on the par-5 first hole, and lacing a 5-iron over the water for another eagle attempt on the par-5 eighth that narrowly missed, the best he could manage was a 73.
McIlroy has yet to break par this year.
"It was a bit of a struggle, to be honest," McIlroy said to Sky Sports. "Hit some good shots. Hit some not-so-good shots. As I've been saying all week, this is a work in progress and I'm working at it and I'm staying patient."
Coming off a pedestrian performance a week ago at The Honda Classic, Woods looked sharp in most aspects of his game, except for a few lapses with his chipping. He wasted two early birdies with a three-putt bogey on the 13th hole and a delicate flop shot that he mishit on the 14th, leading to another bogey. His chip up the slope on the third didn't reach the green for another bogey.
He holed two long birdie putts, including a 40 footer on the par-3 fourth hole, and missed four reasonable chances inside 15 feet. His final birdie was on the par-5 eighth, when he had to lay up from a fairway bunker and hit a wedge that stopped 2 feet from the hole.
"It was certainly a day that could have been a little lower," Woods said.
Just about everyone could say that in these conditions.
Garcia and McDowell were in the same group. Not only did they have bogey-free rounds, both birdied the same four holes. Jacobson made two eagles in a span of three holes, both times hitting a 5-wood onto the green to just over 12 feet.
Watson played in the group with Mickelson and Stricker, and they were a collective 16-under par.
Stricker had a chance to tie for the lead except he missed a 4-foot birdie putt on the final hole. Mickelson, as usual, kept it entertaining. He pulled his tee shot on the 17th hole and his ball stopped rolling after it traveled some 450 yards. He purposely took a free drop on the cart path to avoid the rough, and chipped that to about 5 feet for birdie.
"You hit the ball in as much trouble as I do off the tee, you learn to hit those kinds of shots and have enough practice at it," he said. "I knew what was going to happen."
McIlroy appears to be struggling with a change of equipment following his Nike sponsorship and backing up a big year that made him No. 1 in the world. It all got the best of him last week at The Honda Classic, when he walked off the course midway through the second round.
McIlroy apologized during a press conference Wednesday, said it would never happen again and wanted to get back to being happy on the golf course. There weren't many smiles, though he often chatted with Woods as they walked down the fairway.
He didn't hit a fairway on the front nine (he started on No. 10), though two of those shots were in the first cut and led to birdie. But as much time as he has spent trying to rediscover that easy, balanced swing, it was clear he has neglected his short game. On the second hole, he had an 80-foot putt that he left 20 feet short.
"It was nice to sneak in a couple birdies on the last three holes and make it look somewhat respectable, even though everyone seems to be going pretty low out there today," McIlroy said.
Woods played two rounds with him at Abu Dhabi to start the year, and they were frequent playing partners during the FedExCup Playoffs last year. Woods said McIlroy looked "just a little bit defensive" with his swing.
"That happens, and we have all gone through stretches like this," Woods said. "It happens, and it happened to him last year in the middle of the year, and ended up all right at the end of the year. When you play golf for a very long time, you're going to have spells like this. You can't play well every week, even though you try. You're going to have ups and downs, and just got to battle through it."
TPC Blue Monster at Trump Doral: Round 1 Easiest Toughest hole
The par-4 first was the easiest with a Thursday scoring average of 4.415.
Eagles: 1 | Birdies: 37 | Pars: 26 | Bogeys: 1 | Others: 8
The par-4 18th was the toughest with a Thursday scoring average of 4.680.
Eagles: 0 | Birdies: 5 | Pars: 44 | Bogeys: 9 | Others: 7
About the leaders: Woods, Jacobson, Garcia, Watson, McDowell • Tiger Woods made nine birdies for the first time since an opening 65 at the 2012 BMW Championship.
• Woods has now led or shared the lead 28 times in his PGA TOUR career, converting 13 into victories. The last time Woods led through 18 holes was the 2012 TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola (finished T8). The last time Woods turned a first-round lead into a victory was the 2006 World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship.
• Woods’ round at a glance: fairways hit in regulation (7/14), greens hit in regulation (13/18), putts (23).
• Woods returns to the Cadillac Championship as a six-time winner of the event (1999, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007), with the 2007 title coming here at TPC Blue Monster. He won two PGA TOUR events at Doral before the Cadillac Championship moved here in 2007 (2005, 2006).
• Woods, who has historically dominated the World Golf Championships with 16 wins in his career, has not won a WGC event since the 2009 Bridgestone Invitational. From 1999-2009, Woods did not go an entire season without winning at least one World Golf Championships title. For the first time since 2008, however, he has a PGA TOUR win under his belt (Farmers Insurance Open) prior to arriving at the Cadillac Championship.
• Freddie Jacobson’s round at a glance: fairways hit in regulation (8/14), greens hit in regulation (10/18), putts (24).
• After missing the cut in his season debut at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, Jacobson reeled off three straight top-10 finishes at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (T7), Northern Trust Open (T3) and the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship (T9). His fifth start came last week at The Honda Classic (T25).
• Bubba Watson was the runner-up finish in 2012. It was Watson’s best in a World Golf Championships event. In nine World Golf Championships starts prior to this week, he has three top-10 finishes, including a T9 at this year’s Accenture Match Play Championship.
• In his only other stroke-play event on the PGA TOUR this season, Sergio Garcia opened with a 6-under 65 at the Northern Trust Open (finished T13). The Spaniard led the field on Thursday with 16 of 18 greens in regulation.