“Dual” In The Sun

Ernie Els defends this week at Doral
Ernie Els defends this week at Doral

No, it’s not the classic 1977 battle between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus at Turnberry being repeated this week but two PGA Tour events being run simultaneously in Florida and Puerto Rico.

Understandably the larger slice of the attention will be given to the best players in the world looking to win the second World Golf Championships event of the season, the Cadillac Championship.  Ernie Els will defend this week at the TPC Blue Monster at Doral.

Tiger Woods does make his return this year but how he will fare is an enigma at best.  The same can be said for Phil Mickelson who has so far not showed the greatest form but is reported to be spending more of his attention focused on defending his Masters title in a few weeks.

Europe is grabbing the bulk of the headlines at Doral, and specifically the players who originate from there.  The top four players in the Official World Golf Rankings are now from Europe, the first time that has been the case since March of 1992.

World #1 Martin Kaymer met the media on Tuesday and appeared very relaxed; he’s taking his top spot in stride.  “This is what I always wanted to do,” said the German who surged to the premier position at the last World Golf Championships event.  “I can always say I have been #1,” he stated, adding that he feels no extra pressure and he expects to keep playing golf in the same relaxed way he always has.

Although Kaymer relishes having achieved his goal of becoming the best player in the world it was obvious Tuesday that he believes it will be hard to maintain that position with so many players close in points.  In the wake of the battle between Ernie Els and Charl Schwartzel at last year’s tournament few will recall that it was Kaymer who shared third place with Matt Kuchar and Padraig Harrington, making him the 26-year old a legitimate threat this week.

No matter how Kaymer plays the World Golf Rankings will be shifting this week with all of the Top 50 players in the field at Doral.  Of the 68 players in the field there are 19 countries represented, including 44 international players.  It truly is a “World Tour” type event.

Note: Peter Senior, who qualified via his No. 2 finish on the Australasian Tour, will be 51 years, 7 months, 13 days when the 2011 Cadillac Championship begins. Senior will be the third player over the age of 50 years to play in World Golf Championships event (Jay Haas/6 and Fred Funk/2). Senior will be the oldest player to compete at the Cadillac Championship and the second oldest to tee it up at a World Golf Championships event.

World Golf Championships – Cadillac Championship

Dates: March 9-13, 2011

Where: TPC Blue Monster at Doral Resort & Spa, a Marriott Resort

Par/Yards: 36-36—72/7,266

Format: Four-day, 72-hole stroke-play competition; no cut

Defending Champion: Ernie Els

Purse: $8,500,000; Winner’s Share: $1.4 million

Meanwhile, 1,000 miles east of Miami there is a more stringent struggle going on between the second-tier players of the PGA Tour.  With it being so early in the season it is imperative that players pile up as much cash as possible.

Although the Puerto Rico Open offers a first price of less than half that in Miami ($630,000 vs. $1.4 million) they are critical dollars for rookies after the recent re-shuffle.  Many will not be eligible to get into another PGA Tour event for quite a time so this is where they can make a big impact on their 2011 season.

Derek Lamely became the third winner of this tournament in 2010, following on the heels of Greg Kraft and Michael Bradley.  Lamely is back to defend in his seventh start of the year and his 3rd appearance at this event.  He has had quite a run in Puerto Rico having never finished outside of the top-13.

Among those highlighting the field at the Trump International Golf Club –Puerto Rico will be several past major champions such as Stewart Cink, John Daly, Lee Janzen and Angel Cabrera.  It’s a special for week for two-time major champion Cabrera as his son Frederico is among the Sponsor’s Exemption and will be making his first start on the PGA Tour.

There will be five Canadians in the field in Puerto Rico including Stephen Ames, Mike Weir, David Hearn, Chris Baryla, and Matt McQuillan.  Graham DeLaet is the only eligible Canadian absent; he is still recovering from surgery but is back hitting balls in Arizona in preparation for his return to the tour.

2011 Puerto Rico Open presented by seepuertorico.com

Dates: March 7-13, 2011

Where: Trump International Golf Club; Rio Grande, Puerto Rico

Par/Yards: 36-36—72/7,526

Field: 132

Format: 72-hole stroke play

Defending Champion: Derek Lamely

Purse: $3,500,000; Winner’s Share: $630,000

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