WGC-Cadillac Championship: High scores as wind blows field wide open



All that money to return the Blue Monster to something like its former notoriety as a course to fear. Donald Trump should have kept in his pocket the $250 million it cost to reinvent the greens and resculpture the fairways. A gusting wind made this a brute for free.

Scores of 20, 18 and 14 over par, the latter posted by former US Open champion Webb Simpson, no less, propped up a leaderboard creaking beneath the weight of ugly numbers. Only four players closed day two of the WGC-Cadillac Championship under par, and only just, sharing the lead at one under. The absence of a cut this week amounts to cruelty. 

The day witnessed a century of balls lost in water sending shares soaring in the snorkel and flippers market. Welshman Jamie Donaldson, no stranger to a wet environment, played one shot with his trousers rolled up around his knees and his feet submerged in the lake bordering the eighth fairway. His ingenuity set up a birdie and ultimately the low score of the second round, a 70, leaving him alongside Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy one back on level par.  

McDowell likened the trial to a day at the seaside in Blighty. “I don't think I've played in conditions this difficult in the U.S. It's an Open Championship day. It's a real Friday afternoon at St. Andrews in 2010, you know, before they called it,” he said.

“I was thinking to myself, is this getting close to unplayable regarding wind strength?  Wind really got up around one, two o'clock I thought in my head they may call it. Obviously I’m really happy with my 71 and excited to go and watch the golf and just see how everyone else is handling these conditions.”

There was some vicarious pleasure to be had for those who feel the PGA Tour diet of high balls and soft landings lacks the necessary variety. Nature wrought its own corrective here, blowing balls off line and in some cases minds, too.

The bigger and faster greens proved inhospitable hosts to golf balls coming in from unexpected angles. Conventional lines of attack carried no guarantees. Tiger Woods knew better than most the geometry of old Doral winning four times on the pre-Trump track. On the third he had 124 yards to the hole from the left fairway yet dumped it in the water via the putting surface, the ball rolling back down the sloped green. Ridiculous.

Walking to the15th tee after a double bogey at 14 when completing his delayed first round in the morning, Woods’ playing partner, Henrik Stenson, snapped at reporters:  “Are you having fun watching?” An invitation to elaborate met with a curt, “no”.

The was humour amid the carnage. Spotting a ball next to a cart path some distance removed from the 10th fairway a young girl swooped to make it her own and skipped off with a gaggle of friends. Behind her a photographer was moving at pace to alert her to the folly of making off with Luke Donald’s ball. Donald was awarded a free drop and proceeded to make his par. It was grim thereafter with Donald racking up a ten-over-par 82.

Only two groups managed to beat Thursday’s storm delay and complete their opening rounds. The remaining 62 were required to return at 8.45 to finish up. Rory McIlroy had three holes to play and managed to advance his position a stroke to two under par. There would be no escape when he returned to the front in the afternoon for his second round.

McIlroy went to the turn in 40 and not a birdie in sight. He made seven in his opening round of 70. There was some relief on the back nine, where the birdies beat the bogeys 3-1. 

Woods was round in 73, a triumph of the will. The highlights were a 90-footer for birdie at the fourth and his second shot at the 18th threading the ball through the palm trees to find the green.

The wisdom in the gallery surrounding his ball was to play out and go for the green in three. The geography of his lie, a metre from a tree trunk beneath a canopy of leaves, informed that view. Woods doesn’t think like that. “We've all got a shot at it now. No-one is going anywhere,” Woods said from his station only six shots back on five over par.

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