Newly crowned World Number One Rory McIlroy has another chance to add a World Golf Championships title to his growing list of accolades when the Northern Irishman heads a strong European Tour challenge at this week’s WGC – Cadillac Championship.
The 22 year old replaced Luke Donald at the top of the Official World Golf Ranking by winning last week’s Honda Classic on the US PGA Tour, and he can complete a Florida double with victory at Doral Golf Resort & Spa in Miami.
In-form McIlroy was runner up in the season’s opening World Golf Championships event a fortnight ago, losing in the final of the WGC – Accenture Match Play Championship to American Hunter Mahan, in Arizona.
But buoyed by his rise to the world’s summit, McIlroy will now aim to go one better and underline his new status as the game’s leading player – and leader of The Race to Dubai – with his second European Tour victory on American soil, following last year’s US Open Championship.
Hoping to cut short his reign will be the previous two players to wear the World Number One crown, English pair Donald and Lee Westwood.
Victory for either player over the imposing 7334 yard, Blue Monster course at Doral would give them a chance to usurp McIlroy, depending on how the Northern Irishman fares. If Donald wins he would return to Number One - having previously been there for 40 weeks - irrespective of where McIlroy finishes. If Westwood wins he will automatically pass Donald and will get to Number One if McIlroy is worse than third on his own.
Donald already has one WGC title to his name, after winning the WGC – Accenture Match Play Championship last year, while Westwood continues his quest for a first, having finished runner up on three occasions, including in this event to Mike Weir in 2000.
Westwood, who will this week become the first person to compete in 40 WGC events, is in good form after reaching the semi-finals of the WGC – Accenture Match Play Championship two weeks ago and firing a magnificent closing 63 in last week’s Honda Classic to finish fourth.
Another former World Number One heading to Doral full of confidence is American Tiger Woods, whose final round 62 to finish joint runner-up behind McIlroy last week suggested he can mount a serious challenge for a title he has won on a record six occasions.
Woods’ compatriot Nick Watney is the defending champion after finishing two shots clear of Dustin Johnson 12 months ago, however there are 38 European Tour Members – more than half the 74 player field - hoping to succeed him this week.
World Number Four Martin Kaymer, of Germany, will hope to add the WGC – Cadillac Championship title to the WGC – HSBC Champions he won in China at the end of last season, while a month ahead of his defence of the Masters Tournament, South African Charl Schwartzel is showing signs that he is approaching top form after finishing tied fifth in last week’s Honda Classic.
Returning to action for the first time this season is Englishman Paul Casey, who dislocated his shoulder in a skiing accident just before Christmas.
He said: “I’ve only missed five tournaments, which isn’t a massive amount in the grand scheme of things. So in some ways I’ve been quite lucky, and I’m now looking forward to getting out there and playing some competitive golf again because I’ve really missed it.”
Casey’s compatriot Ian Poulter, the 2010 WGC - Accenture Match Play Champion, is hoping he has recovered from pneumonia in time to take his place in the field for the US$8.5million event.
Poulter, who was second behind Woods in 2006, is one of four Europeans to finish runner up in the WGC – Cadillac Championship, along with Miguel Angel Jiménez (1999), Westwood (2000) and Thomas Björn (2004).
The European Tour contingent includes six players making their debuts in the WGC – Cadillac Championship: Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Nicolas Colsaerts, Branden Grace, Jbe’ Kruger, Alexander Noren and Robert Rock.
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