Stars Shine in Round 1 of the WGC-Cadillac at Glitzy Trump Doral

March 3, 2016

DORAL, Fla. — There is glitz everywhere at Trump National Doral. That’s kind of Donald Trump’s business and he does it well.

From the entrance, where his name is emblazoned on a stone wall in burnished gold and his golden crest stands high above the front gate, to the shiny marble floor in the hotel lobby, it’s solid glitz, and glitz is good in the resort business.

It’s even better in the tournament golf business. So while Scott Piercy and Marcus Fraser turned in stellar opening rounds at the Cadillac Championship here at Doral’s Blue Course, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott were close behind.

You don’t get much glitzier than those two. Phil has helped carry the game for the last two decades and Scott, in addition to winning a Masters, looked nearly flawless in winning last week’s Honda Classic. Fraser and Piercy shot matching 66s, Mickelson posted 67 and Scott was among a group at 68.

Meanwhile, the three musketeers of Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Jason Day were paired in Thursday’s glamor tee time and had mixed days. Spieth bogeyed his final hole — the ninth — for 69. McIlroy over-cut a 6-iron shot into that par-3 green and found the water, making a double bogey that dropped him back to 71. Day posted a quiet even-par 72.

In a small World Golf Championship field of only 66 players, they’re still in it. Mickelson, however, is positioned best of all among those chasing Fraser and Piercy in the early going.

“It was a good day,” Mickelson said. “It’s a big round. I knew I was playing well coming in. I wanted to get off to a quick start so I don’t have to force things later on. I’ve been striking the ball well all year.”

Mickelson’s 67 featured bogeys at 14 and 18. He just missed an eagle at the par-5 eighth hole when his chip from just off the edge of the green veered away from the cup at the last second. It was so close that part of the ball appeared to actually hang over the cup’s edge. Phil bent at the knees and smiled in surprise, the gallery managed to combine a roar and a groan into one sound, and he tapped in for an easy birdie.

This course has always played into Mickelson’s power game and while the redesigned track was tweaked slightly before this year’s event to level the playing field for the shorter hitters, a pair of bombers — Piercy and Phil — were at the top of the first day’s leaderboard.

Piercy isn’t up there in the Tour’s driving stats, possibly because he doesn’t pull driver out all the time, but he hits it as hard as anybody in the game and about as far as he wants to hit it.

He was a rising star at the start of this decade, winning in Reno and the Canadian Open. Then he was derailed by elbow surgery two years ago. Last summer, he won the Barbasol Championship and played his way back into the elite world events like this one.

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“It’s just nice to be healthy, actually,” Piercy said. “To come back, win and get back in the world’s top 50 and get back to the Tour Championship, it’s satisfying.”

He’d had only one top-ten finish in his first eight starts this season and was struggling with his swing. That was Piercy you saw grinding on the range here all week if you happened to walk past. He hit balls for eight hours on Monday, he said, in search of something. And he found it.

“I felt like I got back on the right tracks,” he said. “Basically, it was just getting deeper into my backswing. I was kind of faking it instead of getting my shoulders turned all the way back.”

Piercy blistered the front nine in 31 strokes, then birdied the 10th and 11th holes, too. He was asked if he knew he was leading. Laughing, he answered, “Yeah, there’s leaderboards everywhere. When you’re 7 under through 12 holes on this course, you’ve got to figure you’re in the lead. It’s not an easy course. It felt like I birdied every hole. Hopefully, I can do this the rest of the week.”

Piercy, 37, lives in Las Vegas. This is only his ninth appearance in a WGC event. He has played in the Masters and the British Open only once each and yes, he knows who he has to beat this week — all the world’s best players, including the big three of Spieth, McIlroy and Day.

“We all know they are there,” Piercy said. “We’re trying to beat those guys week-in and week-out. They have proved it, I haven’t. But when my game’s there, I’m pretty decent.”

McIlroy was annoyed to finish poorly, failing to birdie the par-5 eighth and then making double at the ninth. He also left some putts short using his new left-hand-low (or crosshanded) grip.

“My speed wasn’t too good on the greens but I guess that’s to be expected,” McIlroy said. “I’m just disappointed about the finish.”

Spieth was surprised the scores weren’t lower considering there wasn’t much wind in the opening round. “It should have played as easy as it possibly can with just a five-to-ten mile-an-hour breeze. Tomorrow is going to be similar but if we get any wind this weekend, the scores will level out pretty quickly.”

Day never got anything going. He had four birdies, four bogeys.

“I hit a couple of silly shots out there,” he said. “Overall, I was scratching my head on and around the greens. You don’t hit it close enough, you don’t putt well and you walk off scratching your head at the end of the day.”