This past Sunday I was given the opportunity to travel to the Trump National Doral Golf Course just south of Miami, where the top 68 players in the world went to work in one of the most prestigious PGA events during the year. I received the opportunity to get extremely close to almost every single player, and the experiences around them were quite interesting to say the least. With the Masters commencing in less than a month, players need to be reaching the peaks of their game, hoping to ride some momentum into the season of majors. This being a tournament in which Tiger came out successful just a year ago, he came into this hoping that he could repeat this outcome; however, when he arrived at Doral this past week, the circumstances he was facing were nothing like a year past.
Let us preface with the Doral experience. Professional golf is unlike any other sport in which you can literally be just feet away from all of the top players out there throughout the day. In my time there, I was within reach of every single player that participated in the tournament. Regarding this never-ending close proximity, you can begin to obtain an idea of the type of character these players possess. One player that was particularly disappointing was Jim Furyk. Jim is often perceived as the family friendly fellow, but after his rather disappointing round, he threw a club, broke his tee, and said multiple expletives. The players I gained the most respect for were Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, for opposite reasons. Ernie was playing with young Italian Mateo Mannessero, and both of them were well out of contention. However, Ernie approached the round with a light-hearted attitude, and in a sense, he took young Mateo under his wing. They were joking around, and simply enjoying their round of golf, which is beautiful to see in this day and age. On the other hand, Phil was very much in contention at the point in which he came across my path. However, he did not let this affect his personality, as he laughed and joked with the other player’s caddy continually. The most confusing player to me as to be Rickie Fowler. I think it is safe to say that Fowler had about the sixth largest following out of any player, which makes minimal sense considering Fowler has only won one tournament in his career and has never finished top 15 in a major.
When Tiger won this tournament a year ago, he shot 20 under par, and those who trailed him were not far behind. However, after the complete reconstruction of the course for 2014, success would not be as easily obtained. For all four rounds, the average score was above par, which is rarely seen outside of a major, especially with only the top 68 players in the world. Water was a tremendous hazard for a plethora of players including Sergio Garcia who could only manage a nine on hole number ten. One player that fully encountered the difficulty provided by Doral was in fact Tiger. The combination of the increasingly difficult course with Tiger’s nagging back injury did not bode well for everyone’s favorite golfer. Although Tiger’s third round brought him into contention, it was clear he was not himself throughout. This fact was prominent during his final round 78 in which the sand and the water seemed to be the only places Tiger could consistently hit it. We can only hope that Tiger is able to get healthy before the Masters because there is nothing quite like Tiger in contention on Sunday in Augusta.
Often the victor is not overlooked in a golf tournament, but sadly for my main man Patrick Reed, he is flying under the radar. Going into this weekend at Doral, most golf fans wouldn’t know the name or the player. However, it was quite evident that there was no other golfer that close to Reed at Doral. The man navigated the course with brilliance, while others substantially more notable than he struggled continually. It does not matter that he is unknown at this point in time because with the way he is playing, he will be climbing the world ranks before we know it. With the core of the PGA year approaching along with the majors, Reed will face a battle he should be tested for. It is hard to imagine these players encountering a more difficult course than they faced at Doral, and if my man Patrick can play like he did at Doral, then get that green jacket ready my friends.-Ben Greer