Top 5 Players To Watch: WGC Cadillac Championship At Trump Doral

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2014 WGC-Cadillac Championship: Power Rankings

WGC Cadillac
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Whether you’re a casual golf fan or a die-hard lover of the links, this week is shaping up to be incredible, as the WGC-Cadillac Championship is set to begin at Trump Doral.

You know, it’s not very often that you get to see a brand new course make its PGA Tour debut, but that’s what’s on tap this weekend in week two of the “Florida swing”. Well, sort of. Known for years as the “Blue Monster”, the Trump Group tore up nearly everything on the track and gave designer Gil Hanse the proverbial keys to the mansion. Greens and tees have been moved, water hazards have been added, and pretty much the only thing that’s the same as it was last year is the name.

That’s interesting enough for pretty much any world-class course, but when you host a World Golf Championship event, the stakes are instantly raised. Even though Tiger Woods has won this championship four times, and has seven total wins at Doral, his experience edge will be drastically diminished as a tough field takes on a brand new challenge.

Speaking of Woods, he’ll be joined by 68 of the top golfers in the world, with Thursday’s pairings making for some must-see television. Players are grouped initially by their world ranking, so Woods will be playing with No. 2 Adam Scott and No. 3 Henrik Stenson. Scott has a chance of unseating Woods as the No. 1 player in the world with a win, and all three will be bringing their A-games from the first tee shot. While Woods’s health won’t keep him from starting, how he’ll finish remains to be seen.

A new course with an all-star lineup will likely make the WGC-Cadillac Championship a battle to the end, so here are five players I think will still be standing tall on Sunday evening.

Brandon Raper is a golf writer for “Like” him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @Brandon__Raper, and join him on Google+.

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5. Tiger Woods

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My head says no, but my gut says yes. Woods is playing, so he has to be considered a contender. He’d be higher on my list if it weren’t for the bad back, but if he says he’s good to go, I tend to believe him until he proves otherwise. This could be gut-check time for Woods, as he absolutely must show some progress in his game before Augusta National and the Masters in just one month. If he can just get through the week, a top finish isn’t out of the question.

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4. Jordan Spieth

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When asked how he felt about playing the Blue Monster for the first time, Spieth noted that this is one of the few weeks on Tour where he has just as much course experience as anybody else. After he missed the cut at the Sony Open, Spieth has run off four straight top-20 finishes, including his run to the round of eight in the Accenture Match Play. While he has struggled at times to keep the ball in the fairway, he is 18th on Tour in scrambling this year, and eighth in birdie average.

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3. Dustin Johnson

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Match play can be a fickle beast, but don’t let DJ’s early exit two weeks ago distract you. Johnson has been more than just a bomber this year, as he had three straight top-ten finishes in stroke play events in 2014. Johnson finished 12th at Doral last year, but he should be prepared to take advantage of the brand-new setup.

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2. Rory McIlroy

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I’m a believer in McIlroy’s turnaround. Ever since he beat Adam Scott in Australia, he’s seemed like a new player. Yes, he choked away the Honda Classic just four days ago, but he played some absolutely incredible golf for three rounds. I’ll forgive him that loss if he can bounce back in this big of an event.

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1. Adam Scott

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Scott returned to the PGA Tour circuit last week at the Honda Classic with a very respectable T-12 finish, including three rounds in the 60s. He’s been one of the best players in the world for much of the last year, and there’s no reason to think he won’t challenge for his first win of 2014 this week.