By Gary Van Sickle
Saturday, March 05, 2016

DORAL, Fla. -- What I’ve learned so far through three rounds at Doral during the Cadillac Championship:

1. In case you were wondering how tough it is to transition from a conventional putting grip to a left hand low (or cross-handed) grip, Rory McIlroy made the change this week, has made 17 birdies through three rounds and is leading the tournament. So, yeah, it’s next to impossible. (Sarcasm alert.)

Also note that McIlroy’s big concern with going to left hand low was that people would think he was just copying Jordan Spieth’s putting style -- last year’s results would indicate that’s not a bad idea.

McIlroy shot a bogey-free 68 in the third round and opened a three-shot lead over Adam Scott and Dustin Johnson. He’s five ahead of Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Danny Willett.

Chill out, you armchair rules purists. All McIlroy did on the 18th tee was tighten the adjustable screw on his driver with a tightening tool.

“I took it out of the bag and went to lean on it and it felt and sounded like it was on a pebble but it wasn’t so I shook it and the adjustable nut had come loose,” McIlroy said.

Scott, paired in the last group with McIlroy, said that has happened to him, too, and retightening the bolt is allowed. “A rules official was in the scoring area to make sure I had just tightened it and not changed the setting,” McIlroy said.

Changing the setting of an adjustable club during a round would be a rules infraction…

Getty Images

2. Have the World Golf Championships run their course? There was zero buzz here for three days in part because there are only 66 players in the field and because the galleries have been small and relatively subdued. Saturday’s crowd was a little better but as one player’s caddie said, “Where is everybody? The LPGA draws better crowds than this.”

Four theories on that. One, local fans are still displeased with Doral owner Donald Trump’s comments last year about Hispanics and are staying away. Two, Ticket prices are too expensive for this market ($42-$55 for daily grounds passes; $85-$90 for daily clubhouse passes). They are similar to ticket prices for next week’s Valspar Championship at Innisbrook, however. Three, Miami traffic gridlocks daily and people are sick of dealing with it. Four, it’s a golf tournament…

Jordan Spieth talks to Justin Thomas on the second green during the Third Round of the 2015 BMW Championship.
Jamie Squire

3. Put your trimmers away. Jordan Spieth and buddy Justin Thomas supposedly had a side bet for Saturday’s third round when they were paired together. The loser in this follicle-challenged group would have to shave his head. Spieth looked like Lawrence of Arabia playing out of all that sand but salvaged a 73. Thomas shot 78.

“I don’t know if we pulled each other the wrong way,” Spieth said.

Added Thomas, “It was a rough day for both of us. I’m happy to say that it’s over,” and declared that no, he’s not paying off the bet. Tweeted Thomas: “I can’t believe y’all thought one of us would actually shave our head! Haha. We don’t have enough hair for that. Holding on for dear life.” Understood…

RELATED: Spieth, Thomas Jest About Head Shave Bet

4. Of all the upgrades at this resort, none may be more impressive than the golf shop. It’s the hands-down No. 1 on-course shop in the country. It’s big and there is merchandise from every apparel-maker you’ve heard of, plus some you haven’t. There are golf shirts priced in the $70-75 range, plus plenty more in the $85-$115 range. A clearance sale rack was actually upstairs in the women’s clothing area, and I walked past a men’s rack with a pair of pinkish tropical jungle pattern men’s shorts. They were just garish enough for me to consider. I checked the tag. They’re made by Brioni. They’re $800. I put the shorts back, picked them up again and checked the tag a second time. They were still $800. So this shop, in a perverse way, has something for everyone…

5. Trump doesn’t miss many tricks, by the way. The word “Trump” is stenciled on the white roof above the louvered-window end of the clubhouse and it’s obviously there for one reason—NBC’s camera shot from the blimp. You also can’t miss his name in gold letters on the wall at the entrance (they light up at night) or his gold crest and name on the paper towels in the restrooms…

Presidential candidate Donald Trump is seen campaigning at Trump National Doral on October 23, 2015 in Doral, Florida.
Alexander Tamargo

6. In a downstairs gift shop near the men’s locker room, you can purchase a familiar red hat with gold lettering that says “Let’s Make America Great Again” for $32…

7. Doral’s 18th hole is famously tough, but Saturday’s pin near the water was on a sideslope that made it notoriously brutal. Daniel Berger, Nathan Holman, Andy Sullivan and Bernd Wiesberger made the only birdies there out of 65 players. The pin at the 17th was even more challenging. David Lingmerth managed the only birdie by the field…

We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

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