Blue Monster leaves field licking their wounds
‘That was a tough golf course,’ says world number one Tiger Woods
Rory McIlroy hits a pitch shot on the ninth hole during the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral. Photograph: Jamie Squire/Getty Images
The wind-blown Blue Monster took a chunk out of the best players in the world, but Ireland’s Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy survived the carnage to keep their hopes very much alive in the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral.
McDowell carded the joint second best round on a day of north winds that gusted well over 30 mph, grinding out a one-under-par 71 to share fifth place with McIlroy (74), Francesco Molinari and Welshman Jamie Donaldson on level par, just one stroke behind leaders Patrick Reed (75), Dustin Johnson (74), Matt Kuchar (74) and Hunter Mahan (74).
It was a tough test for McIlroy, who twice visited water and ran up two bogeys and a double bogey in outward nine of 40 blows before battening down the hatches to card a 74 as Donaldson posted a best-of-the-day 70.
The backdrop to the quotes area was more like the Wall of Lamentations as the majority of the best players in the world limped off the Blue Monster licking their wounds .
The highest single-day scoring average on the PGA Tour last year was 75.373 in second round of The Open at Muirfield but it was heading for 76 as firm greens and treacherous breezes sent scores soaring.
“That was a tough golf course today,” said world number one Tiger Woods after he had added a 73 to his first round 78 to finish just inside the top 30 on five over par.
“I don’t think that we expected the golf course to be that hard that fast, but it kept getting quicker and quicker. I think it was just some of the pin locations were a little bit on the edgy side because of the wind directions. It was just impossible to get the ball close.
“I think when we made the turn, there were nine guys under par, and I was only two, so basically, you’ve just got to hang around. You just never know. We’ve all got a shot at it now. No one is going anywhere.”
Woods put three balls in the water himself as he dropped five shots in the middle of his round. But two opening birdies at the 10th and 11th, followed by two more late in his round, helped him end up inside the top 30 on five over par.
While he refused to call the golf course unfair, Woods questioned some of the pin positions in winds that gusted well over 30 mph at time.
“I think it was just some of the pin locations were a little bit on the edgy side because of the wind directions,” he said. “You just couldn’t get the ball close.”
“I think some of the guys will be probably pretty upset about some of the pins. But if they were in better spots, I think they would have been fine.”
The highlight of Woods round was a 92-foot birdie putt at the par-three fourth, but when asked to sum the day in one word sufficed: “Tough.”
Reed was simply delighted to get in with a 75, explaining: “It was one of those days that the wind was blowing so hard, greens are starting to get crusty and fast and firm, and just seemed like the ball never would really settle on the greens.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen the wind blow so hard. The last time I played in wind like that was in Baton Rouge during [Hurricane] Katrina.”
McIlroy completed his first round early in the morning, carding a two-under 70 to share eighth place. But the wind rose after lunch and he started by hitting his approach in the water right of the first, penciling in a bogey six.
Another shot went at the fourth, where he was bunkered, before he double-bogeyed the seventh with another ball in the water to turn in four over 40.
A birdie at the 11th got him back on track and he when he hit his tee shot to less than two feet at the par-three 13th, he was back in the mix. Despite a bogey at the 14th, he rebounded with a chip and putt birdie at the driveable 16th.
“I don’t think I’ve played in conditions this difficult in the US,” he said. “It’s an Open Championship day. It’s a real Friday afternoon at St. Andrews in 2010, you know, before they called it. It was hard out there, really, really hard, and part of me feels ecstatic to be off the golf course.”