TPC Blue Monster at Trump Doral hosts the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship for the seventh time this week. It's served as site of the limited-field, no-cut competition since the advent of the FedExCup in 2007. The course has been one of the most predictable on paper every year, but it sets up like a shootout with most facing the music at its conclusion.
Fairways are hard to hit and hold. Last year's driving-accuracy clip of 53.41 percent ranked 10th-most difficult of all courses used on TOUR, but that's the easiest the track has ranked as its role as host. Hitting greens in regulation was again a challenge as well. The field averaged 60.52 percent to place 13th-lowest in all of 2012.
Indeed, ball-strikers drool at the possibilities, and they should as there's payoff all over the property. Despite its grind tee to green, TPC Blue Monster at Doral ranked as the 11th-easiest of all courses in par breakers at 22.64 percent. And even when the game's best fail to create birdie chances, confidence remains high that par is a gettable goal. This venue ranks annually among the easiest on which to get up and down on greens that average 6,600 square feet. Last year, it checked in at third-easiest in scrambling at 63.11 percent. That split is supported by an identical rank in putts per GIR (1.709).
Now consider that the par-4 18th hole is included in those tasty numbers. The dogleg-left hugging water all the way in has been the PGA TOUR's hardest finishing hole in three of the last six years. Last year's scoring average of 4.539 placed it as the most difficult closer in all non-majors in any season since 2008. Played 293 times in 2012, it surrendered just 16 birdies (and no eagles) all week.
After a burst of cool air blows through on Thursday, seasonably high temperatures in the mid- to upper 70s are expected. A sprinkle of rain cannot be ruled out mid-tournament. As always in south Florida, Mother Nature's challenge will come in the form of wind.
Power Rankings: WGC-Cadillac Championship
Rested following his title at the WGC-Accenture Match Play. In three appearances at TPC Blue Monster, he's finished T3 (2010), solo fifth (2011) and T8 (2012). Ranks 19th in strokes gained-putting; seventh in par breakers.
Comes off a steady but relatively unspectacular week at PGA National where he shared ninth place, his worst finish in his last eight stroke-play starts worldwide. Runner-up at the WGC-Cadillac in 2010; T4 last year.
Since clinching his first title in a World Golf Championship at TPC Blue Monster a year ago, the Brit has posted 14 top-10s worldwide but hasn't hoisted another trophy. Tied for fourth at last week's Honda Classic.
Although he lost in the final of the WGC-Accenture Match Play, it punctuated a strong West Coast Swing on the mainland -- no worse than a pair of T16s. Ranks 11th in both greens hit and strokes gained-putting.
Chased a 3-1 week at Dove Mountain with a T9 at PGA National where he led the field in scrambling (23-for-30). Currently second on TOUR in scrambling and third in adjusted scoring. Top 15s at Trump Doral in 2010 and 2012.
The Englishman has tied for sixth here in each of the last two years. Ranked T7 last year in greens hit, 13th in strokes gained-putting and fifth in scrambling. Top 20s in each of his last six stroke-play starts, including a win and three thirds.
Last year's runner-up. Held the outright lead after 36 and 54 holes. Led the field in par-4 scoring average (3.78) and par breakers (2 eagles, 23 birdies). Reached the quarterfinals of the WGC-Accenture Match Play two weeks ago.
Seemingly poised to pounce in his debut here a year ago. Sat three strokes off the lead entering the finale but closed with a 75 to share eighth place. Tied for fourth at last week's Honda; ranked T14 in GIR and solo fourth in scrambling.
Has had nearly two weeks off since losing in the first round of the WGC-Match Play. Prior to that, he logged five consecutive top 15s in stroke-play starts, including a win at the Australian Masters. Top 15s the last two years at Trump Doral.
T37 at PGA National; ranked T11 in greens hit but T39 in par breakers. Prior to his withdrawal during the final round here last year, his worst finish was a T10 in 2011. Has three victories on the property, the last of which in 2007.
After winning the consolation match at the WGC-Match Play, he withdrew from the Honda due to an illness. Three top 10s in just four starts already this season. Ranks 16th on TOUR in greens hit and fourth in the all-around.
Semi-retirement agrees with the 12-time PGA TOUR winner. After a solo runner-up at Kapalua, he went 3-1 at the WGC-Match Play. Hasn't finished outside the top 18 in each of his last five trips to Doral. Placed T8 last year.
The first-timer at TPC Blue Monster is riding a streak of nine consecutive top-25s on U.S. soil. Went 3-1 at Dove Mountain two weeks ago. Leads the TOUR in the all-around ranking and sits sixth in greens in regulation.
Strung three top 10s together before getting knocked out in the first round at the WGC-Accenture Match Play. Ranks seventh on TOUR in greens in regulation and 20th in scrambling. Tied for sixth at TPC Blue Monster in 2010.
Shared ninth place at The Honda Classic, ranking T18 in greens hit and T14 in scrambling. For the season, he's a sparkling 21st in scrambling and fifth in adjusted scoring. Inconsistent record at Doral (one top 25 in five tries).