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Full Speed Ahead At Doral

Will Mickelson defend the CA Championship?
Will Mickelson defend the CA Championship?

The quality of the field won’t be in question this week at the TPC Blue Monster at Doral (but the new name still seems to trip as it leaves my tongue).  Save for Tiger Woods (personal issues) and Ryo Ishikawa (high school graduation, really), 68 of the best players in the world are on hand in Miami for the World Golf Championships – CA Championships.

What could be an enigma is just who is the frontrunner.

Many will look to defending champion Phil Mickelson but after repeatedly being chosen as the marked favorite each week that he has played this year, he has done nothing but disappoint.

And no offense to Alistair Presnell; I am sure he earned his spot among the world elite but even a keener like me had to scramble to the event media guide to discover even what country he hailed from.

So where does that leave us with the other 66?  Thoroughly confused I say.  This tournament might just fall into the hands of anybody in the field.   Heck it could be Presnell adding the title to his 2010 portfolio that includes the Celebrations Victorian PGA Championship.

Yes, I could point to Camilo Villegas with a win, a tie for third, and a tie for 8th in his only three Tour appearances this season but he might be an easy target.

For my money I am going to stay focused on Oliver Wilson.  The Augusta State product appears to be playing solidly with top-20 form at The Honda Classic and a 3 & 1 record at the Match Play.  He also finished tie for 5th here last year, with a smooth 66 on Sunday.

The fact is whoever wants to win the championship and the (USD) $1.53 million that goes with it, will have to go low.  With no cut the there is seemingly one gear necessary at Doral – full speed ahead. Reference Mickelson’s winning tally of 19 under par last year.

This may be the (TPC) Blue Monster but unless a hurricane blows, its teeth should be rather dull.  The normal winds will try and protect the course but flattish putting surfaces and soft conditions expected due to rain will make this a shooting match of the highest accord.  It sets up a birdie-fest with plenty of lead changes a distinct possibility.

One place you might see that is on the 16th hole. The short par four (372 yards) allows players to cut the corner to get close to the putting surface.  According to ShotLink, 48 percent of the field actually went for the green off the tee in 2009, making it a great spectator hole.  Ultimately Soren Hansen was the only player to successfully reach the surface.  He did so in the final round and went on to make birdie.

There are still more than a few chances for disaster over the 7,334 yards (full course length – could be set up shorter) , including 11 water hazards, that makes up Doral so be sure to throw a few votes the way of a couple steady guys who know how to use the flat stick.  Steve Stricker is an obvious one but also look to see Jim Furyk break out of his recent funk.  He has proven in the past the he knows how to make birdies at Doral and the winner will need them in bunches.

Notes:

-The Kodak Challenge hole this week is the 8th, a mid-length par 5 of 560 yards where eagles are a distinct possibility. Three of them were made last year.  See www.kodakchallenge.com to keep up on scoring.

– The course record is held by Stephen Ames of Canada at 61.

-The most difficult hole is still the 18th.  The 467-yard par four closer usually plays into the wind and gave up only 11 birdies to the field in 2009

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