The most loaded event of this early season has delivered a tasty leaderboard for the final 18 holes at Doral. Rory McIlroy will take a three-shot lead into the final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship, but the chasers all around him are some of the most decorated and world-class talents in the game.
The West Coast swing provides better venues, but this annual stop at Doral is the one that draws every single top name in the game. The guaranteed cash and the easy world rankings points are an obvious draw, but it's also a nice little measurement playing against all your peers just a month from the Masters. Sunday sets us up for just that kind of show, with McIlroy in control but aces like Adam Scott, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, and Phil Mickelson all within shouting distance. All those big guns are in the final three groups, anchoring the tee sheet for Sunday's fourth round.
This is exactly what makes these WGC events so tantalizing. Sure, they feel forced and contrived and do not have the history or importance of the majors. But all that cash, a new record $9.5 million purse this year, really works. While the leaderboard is stacked with big names, McIlroy is the one in control and should win Sunday. A win would pull him even for second all-time with three WGC titles ... he's got a ways to go to pull even with first, though, which is the astronomical 18 WGC titles won by Tiger Woods.
McIlroy is playing his third straight event on the PGA Tour, an unusually active stretch for the Ulsterman who splits time between the Euro and stateside Tours in the first quarter of the year. The expectation was that Rory would come out and fire some early shots before the Masters, reminding us all after the year of Spieth that he was still here. His starts in the States have been a little uneven -- he was in position on Sunday at Riviera but bombed out in the final round and then missed the cut quietly last week at the Honda Classic. After a putting grip change this week, he's in control with one more round to go and working on his plan that he could absolutely be No. 1 in the world again before the Masters.
We've got one more week before we spring forward so the conclusion on Sunday is still targeted for 6 p.m. ET. In the past, this championship has been pushed back to 7 p.m. because it's such a marquee event for NBC in the early season. But there's still not enough daylight so the final group will be out just before 2 p.m. The rounds do tend to move quicker in these WGCs -- in Akron in August, they're regularly under four hours. That's harder at Doral with water everywhere and relatively deliberate and conservative play required. There should be no problem wrapping up around 6 p.m., however, with the ideal goal being a match of last week's Honda Classic, when Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia played in Sunday's final pairing in about three hours and 45 minutes.
Here's the full tee sheet for the final round:
|8:35 a.m.||Steven Bowditch|
|8:40 a.m.||Scott Hend||Kristoffer Broberg|
|8:50 a.m.||Fabian Gomez||Victor Dubuisson|
|9 a.m.||Nathan Holman||Patrick Reed|
|9:10 a.m.||Jordan Zunic||George Coetzee|
|9:20 a.m.||Yusaku Miyazato||Marcus Fraser|
|9:30 a.m.||David Lingmerth||Byeong-Hun An|
|9:40 a.m.||Chris Wood||J.B. Holmes|
|9:50 a.m.||Branden Grace||K.T. Kim|
|10 a.m.||Emiliano Grillo||Bill Haas|
|10:10 a.m.||Justin Thomas||Justin Rose|
|10:20 a.m.||Shane Lowry||Kevin Na|
|10:30 a.m.||Hideki Matsuyama||Matthew Fitzpatrick|
|10:40 a.m.||Jamie Donaldson||Henrik Stenson|
|10:50 a.m.||Soren Kjeldsen||Billy Horschel|
|11 a.m.||Ross Fisher||Robert Streb|
|11:10 a.m.||Matt Kuchar||Martin Kaymer|
|11:20 a.m.||Kiradech Aphibarnrat||Jason Dufner|
|11:30 a.m.||Brooks Koepka||Jason Day|
|11:40 a.m.||Daniel Berger||Kevin Kisner|
|11:50 a.m.||Zach Johnson||Bernd Wiesberger|
|12 p.m.||Marc Leishman||Graeme McDowell|
|12:10 p.m.||Jimmy Walker||Paul Casey|
|12:20 p.m.||Jordan Spieth||Andy Sullivan|
|12:30 p.m.||Danny Lee||Russell Knox|
|12:40 p.m.||Louis Oosthuizen||Scott Piercy|
|12:50 p.m.||Charl Schwartzel||Charley Hoffman|
|1 p.m.||Rickie Fowler||Harris English|
|1:10 p.m.||Anirban Lahiri||Smylie Kaufman|
|1:20 p.m.||Rafa Cabrera Bello||Sergio Garcia|
|1:30 p.m.||Bubba Watson||Danny Willett|
|1:40 p.m.||Adam Scott||Phil Mickelson|
|1:50 p.m.||Rory McIlroy||Dustin Johnson|
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SB Nation Video Archives: Urban golfing with a U.S. Open champ (2012)