Bombs away. There's a pretty simple brief for Doral this week and that's grip it and rip it.
It's the first World Golf Championship event of the season and the Blue Monster course at Doral underwent a complete renovation over two years ago. Billy Horschel - 61.00 - said during last years event that the big hitters were "playing a different course" alluding to the fact that they could "fly all the trouble". He wasn't lying.
The 2014 edition was affected by high winds and they were again a factor in 2015 but we saw JB Holmes, Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson pull away from the field in that renewal. There has been some further repositioning of bunkers to try and make the Blue Monster fairer for the shorter hitters but that remains to be seen.
We've heard a lot of talk about a Big Three in golf or even a potential Big Four with Rickie Fowler - 17.00 - arguably playing above himself in a purple patch. Bubba Watson and Adam Scott - 11.00 - are having none of it though and have piped up with wins in the last two events.
Add the likes of last year's winner at Doral, Dustin Johnson, into the mix and all this talk is nonsense. The top of the market is pretty correctly formed for the WGC Cadillac Championship with little separating the top 6 or so in the betting; Rory McIlroy is slight favourite with Jordan Spieth at 10.00.
Course features and premiums - Blue Monster, Doral - par 72, 7,543 yards
Recently ranked the fifth longest course on tour, arguably the new Doral is the course where the bombers actually have the biggest advantage all year. Cutting corners on risk reward holes over water and flying new strategically placed bunkers from the tee were all part of the strategy Billy Horschel was referring to, albeit some of these have been repositioned further for this year's renewal.
Proximity to the hole has been low in the last two editions. A big part of the renovations included incorporating run offs on new green complexes down into hazards, both sand and water. The guys coming into the greens with the shorter clubs have a huge advantage over the guys with the longer irons anyway. Water features everywhere, most notably on 18, where it comes into play from the drive and approach all down the left hand side, making it one of the toughest finishing holes on tour.
Stats and trends
Doral ranked hardest in both proximity to the hole and fairways hit in 2014 due to high winds and the scoring average was +1.852 - the highest in a non major for almost a year. It played easier in 2015 but the combined winning total at Doral since the renovations is just -13, with only 14 players finishing under par in the combined 2 renewals. The top 6 on the WGC Cadillac leaderboard in 2015 had a combined average driving distance of 315.62 yards while the three runaway leaders averaged 323.8 from the tips. Indeed DJ, Bubba and JB Holmes ranked 1st, 2nd and 5th respectively in driving distance on tour in 2015.
Top betting tips
It's very tempting to take approximately 3.50 combined on a Bubba, DJ or Adam Scott win as there's a very realistic probability that's where the victor will come from but there are a few value plays that catch the eye too:
I'm interested in Justin Rose - 21.00 or 5.00 - this week due to price and the fact that he gained 10-15 yards in distance in 2015, and he's running a little under the radar. I saw a tweet last night that said this: "Looking for omens? @JustinRose99 wins Seminole affair with Seth Waugh. He went on to win Doral last time he and Waugh won." I'm not really sure what the Seminole afffair is but it adds to some sneaky current form from Rose and yes, he is indeed a former winner at Doral. Justin finished T6 at Pebble and T16 at Riviera, but it's those extra yards gained that make me want him onside here at the new Doral.
Justin Thomas - 46.00 or 10.00 - and JB Holmes - 26.00 or 6.00 - are two more power hitters that could infiltrate the big boys this week. Holmes built up a big lead here last year on the back of an opening 62 but just couldn't hold on down the stretch on Sunday. Justin Thomas was 15th in driving distance and 2nd in par 5 scoring average in 2015 while JB ranked 3rd in DD. Both have the length and high ball flight necessary to attack the pins here. Thomas was T3 at Honda and the only one to shoot 4 rounds under par, while JB brings a current form line of 6-6-11-11.
Probably the most interesting player is sleeper Marc Leishman - 67.00 or 14.00 - who looks the best value in the field by a mile. Leishman is one of the more unfashionable golfers who is continuously overlooked no matter what he does. This is the guy who won in elite company just a few months back on one of the longest courses on the planet at the Nedbank. He comes to Doral off the back of a top 5 at Riviera, shooting 4 rounds in the sixties and ranking 11th in driving distance, combining that with a ranking of 8th in driving accuracy. He's currently 21st in driving distance on the PGA Tour. Leish has had a top 4 at the Masters and two top 5s at the Open championship - one a playoff loss - yet he's all too often thrown in with the betting market riffraff.