One after another, a parade of weary and frustrated golfers trudged off the Blue Monster course Friday, shaking their heads in exasperation.
The redesigned Blue Monster, with the help of a persistent and strong wind, turned into exactly what it is named — a monster.
When the day was over, and at the midpoint of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral, only four golfers — Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan and Patrick Reed — were under par, tied for first place at 1-under-par 143.
People said they wanted a more difficult Monster. They got it.
Friday’s difficulties were enhanced by winds that were constantly above 20 mph, with gusts nearing 40 mph. In addition, most of the golfers had to complete Thursday’s first round that was delayed because of rain and darkness before embarking on their second round.
“Out here, if you don’t hit it perfect, it doesn’t come out very good,” said Dustin Johnson, 29, after his rounds of 69-74. “Just frustrating.”
Nevertheless, being tied for the lead sparked some optimism from Johnson.
“I’ve always enjoyed it when it’s tough,” he said. “You know, being 1-under-par and tied for the lead, that says something about the conditions and also the golf course.”
Kuchar, 35, who also shot 69-74, said, “It felt like a survival contest. Pars were a great score. You could easily shoot 6-, 7- or 8-over-par without blinking an eye.”
Then Kuchar added, “I think that you have to kind of embrace the challenge … look forward to seeing what sort of shots you can come up with.”
Reed, 23, who came in at 68-75, briefly looked up to see that Doral’s new owner, Donald Trump, was following him on the course. Reed had no time to chat, though. He pretty much ignored Trump because he said he needed his “total focus” to survive the course.
“With how windy and how tough it was out there, you don’t really notice anybody,” Reed said. “You’re just trying to figure out how to get the golf ball going straight.”
Mahan, 31, with his 69-74, said, “I felt stressed all day. I mean, there just wasn’t an easy shot out there. Every shot was daunting and challenging.”
How difficult was the new Blue Monster?
Nobody was excluded from a large dose of humility. That included Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.
Woods shot 76-73 for a 5-over total of 149, six shots off the pace. Mickelson, who had three double bogeys in a row on holes two through four, also was at 149 with a 74-75.
Asked what the most difficult hole was, Woods gave the perfect answer: “One through 18.”
Woods, who made a 92-foot birdie putt on the par-3 fourth hole, is not dismissing his chances of repeating as champion.
“We’ve all got a shot at it,” Woods said. “No one is going anywhere.”
Of the bad back that threatened to keep Woods out of the tournament, Tiger said, “I’m a little sore right now. Long day. Long day.”
Four players — Graeme McDowell, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari and Jamie Donaldson — were one stroke back of the leaders at even-par 144.
“I was thinking to myself, is this getting close to unplayable regarding wind strength,” said McDowell, who fashioned a more-than-respectable 73-71.
“It wasn’t really anything silly going on,” McDowell said. “It was just brutally difficult. I don’t think I’ve played in conditions this difficult in the U.S. It’s an Open championship day.
“It was hard out there — really, really hard. Part of me feels ecstatic just to be off the golf course right now.”
McDowell could have been speaking for a lot of golfers.