PGA Tour Picks: WGC-Cadillac Championship Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 3/5/2014
Before I get to this week's big-money, limited-field WGC-Cadillac Championship at a totally overhauled Blue Monster at Doral, let's look back to last week's Honda Classic, which is quickly becoming the most interesting non-major PGA Tour event on the annual schedule.
In 2011, Rory McIlroy won there to claim the top spot in the world for the first time. Last year, McIlroy withdrew midway through his second round with a toothache in what would largely become the impetus for a hugely disappointing season. Last week had even more drama. First off, Tiger Woods withdrew after 13 holes on Sunday with back pain. He had been very up-and-down in the tournament but was struggling Sunday. It's getting rather tiring to see Woods now always blame injury when he struggles.
Meanwhile, McIlroy played terrific through Saturday and took a two-shot lead into Sunday only to shoot a 74. He had a double-bogey on 16 to drop into a tie for the lead and then bogeyed No. 17 to drop one back. McIlroy nearly eagled 18 to win but would birdie to get into a four-way playoff with eventual winner Russell Henley, Ryan Palmer and Russell Knox. Apparently your first name had to start with "R" to have a chance last week at PGA National. It was McIlroy's second straight stroke-play tournament where he struggled with a chance to win on Sunday, also shooting a 74 last month in Dubai while playing in the final group.
I certainly didn't see Henley's win coming as he had struggled big time in the 2013-14 season with a best finish of 27th and four missed cuts. The win earned him a spot in the Masters as well as this week's WGC-Cadillac. My guy to win was Graeme McDowell, who finished T49. Maybe he was distracted as he announced at the tournament he and his wife -- and, boy, did McDowell outkick his coverage there -- were expecting the couple's first child this fall. On the Top 10 props I obviously missed on Tiger and McDowell but hit on McIlroy at -125. Head-to-head I hit on Keegan Bradley (-130) over Rickie Fowler (even) and McDowell (-115) over Phil Mickelson (-115). I recommended betting against Lefty on every head-to-head prop, and he missed the cut.
The good news is that Woods is set to play this week, and frankly he needs to. Tiger hasn't played a full Sunday round yet on the PGA Tour in 2014, and his game looks in shambles. He will play only one more tournament before the Masters, Bay Hill, so his game needs the work. As of this writing and according to the PGA Tour, this will be the first time since the 2012 PGA Championship that the Top 50 players in the world all will compete in the same tournament.
Tiger won his 17th WGC title and fourth in this event at Doral last year in pretty easy fashion. He got a putting tip from buddy Steve Stricker beforehand and finished with a whopping 27 birdies and only 100 putts (matching his career-best in a 72-hole event). Tiger was up four entering Sunday and was never really threatened. Ironically, Stricker finished runner-up. Woods, No. 2 Adam Scott and No. 3 Henrik Stenson are in the same threesome for the first two rounds, and Scott can take Tiger's top ranking with a win and Woods finishing outside the Top 7.
Doral has been overhauled by new owner Donald Trump, who tends to like to put his own stamp on things. It's now called Trump National Doral. It's still a par 72, but that's about it. There have been changes on every hole (and green), and water is now in play on 14 of them instead of six. Last year's field scored an average of 71.354, which was the seventh-easiest par 72 on Tour. It really wasn't the Blue Monster any longer. Perhaps these changes will return the moniker.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: WGC-Cadillac Championship Favorites
For once, Tiger isn't the favorite at Bovada, but McIlroy is at 7/1. Certainly McIlroy is playing much better right now. Last week's runner-up was his fourth top-two finish in his past 10 worldwide events. It seems his personal life and issues with his equipment are both a thing of the past. McIlroy has finished in the Top 10 each of the past three years at Doral, including a third in 2012.
Scott and Tiger are 12/1. Hard to like Woods here even with those four wins and being the all-time leading money-winner in this tournament. He's struggling and his back isn't right (supposedly). Although maybe the threat of losing No. 1 motivates him. Also, when he pulled out of this tournament in 2012 he won his next start, so maybe that's good karma from last week.
I didn't like Scott much last week as I thought he'd be rusty after six weeks off, but he had a solid T12. He has made no secret he wants the No. 1 ranking. That 12th-place finish was Scott's worst in his past seven stroke-play events worldwide. He was T3 here last year.
Dustin Johnson (14/1) and Sergio Garcia (18/1) round out the Top 5. Other than the Match Play, DJ has been playing terrific this year. He was 12th here in 2013 and runner-up in 2011. Garcia also is having a great start to the year and was T3 here a year ago.
PGA Tour Picks: WGC-Cadillac Championship Predictions
Bovada is offering Top-5 props for every player, but I'm going to stick with Top 10 and those limited options. I do like Scott (-110), McIlroy (-140) and Johnson (+125). I don't like Tiger (even) or Mickelson (+200) at all. On the head-to-head, take Webb Simpson (-115) over Hunter Mahan (-115), Bradley (-115) over Matt Kuchar (-115), Jason Day (-115) over Jordan Spieth (-115) and Kuchar (-115) over Charl Schwartzel (-115).
Take Scott at -165 as the top Aussie finisher, 2012 winner Justin Rose at +165 as the top English player and Johnson at 8/1 as the top American. I'm going with a European as the winning nationality at +220 because that gives me McIlroy, Sergio, McDowell, Luke Donald, Rose, etc. Again I don't lean Americans because of the struggles of Phil and Tiger.
Could Nick Watney (66/1) regain his form this week? He won here in 2011 and was runner-up two years before. He has been slumping this season without a Top 10 but was a season-best T24 last week. I might like Jason Day (20/1) this week if he didn't enter off a win in the Match Play (he was off last week). Too hard to win back-to-back events. I'm going with his countryman Scott, who becomes the new No. 1. I realize I picked a European to win instead of "rest of the world" of which Scott is a part of, but that's still the mathematical smart play.
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