Golf

England’s Danny Willett joins big names at top of Cadillac Championship leaderboard

Danny Willett watches his ball after he tees off on the 3rd hole in the second round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral in Miami on March 4, 2016.
Danny Willett watches his ball after he tees off on the 3rd hole in the second round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral in Miami on March 4, 2016. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

The three players atop the leaderboard at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship are like a mini-Who’s Who of Golf.

Adam Scott, at one time the No. 1 player in the world and currently ranked No. 9, is coming off a win Sunday in the Honda Classic. Rory McIlroy, also formerly No. 1 in the world, is currently ranked No. 3. Dustin Johnson is world No. 8 right now, and he won last year’s Cadillac Championship.

OK, that takes care of the big names.

However, who is that interloper in fourth place, all by his lonely self, named Danny Willett?

Good question. Willett, 28, finds himself in heady company for a guy who has never won on the PGA Tour. For the tournament, Willett has shot 68-69 for a 7-under 137 total and is only three strokes behind leader Scott.

From England, Willett — who has won four times on the European Tour — has a distinct way of phrasing things.

Asked about his round Friday, he offered, “Didn’t hit it as good as Thursday and left ourselves a few smelly ones out there. But, in general, scored really nicely.” He then referred to his play, maybe only somewhat boasting, as “gritty.”

Willett, who spent two years in the United States attending Jacksonville State University in Alabama, started Friday’s round in fine fashion, making birdie on the first two holes and finishing the front in 1-under 35. On the back, he made two birdies — the 601-yard par-5 12th and the 341-yard par-4 16th — with no bogeys to record 2-under 34.

“Everything’s progressing nicely,” Willett summed up. “That was the aim — just to keep everything going slightly better and keep working hard.”

Can he challenge the superstars in front of him?

It’s possible, said Willett.

“I’m in good position.”

BUBBA’S MUSINGS

Bubba Watson, who shot 69 Friday and is in a tie for fifth place and four shots behind leader Scott, said he was “anxious” playing the Blue Monster.

In fact, he said he is usually on edge “everywhere I play.”

Then Watson continued: “If you want me to go through my round, I can tell you my thoughts and you’ll laugh, because you will be like, gosh, you’re a head case.”

CHIP SHOTS

▪ Sometimes, you can care too much.

That appears to be the case with Charley Hoffman, who was getting perturbed recently over a faulty putting stroke.

So, Hoffman, 39, decided to not overthink in an attempt to fix his putting. “I did not want to care so much,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman, who was tied for fifth after a 70 on Friday, said his new philosophy seems to be working.

Hoffman, 39, was asked how difficult it was to “not care” when stroking a putt.

“It’s easy when you’ve been caring so much and they haven’t been going in,” he said. “Hopefully, I keep not caring and it keeps going in.”

▪ Brandt Snedeker, who shot 76 in the first round, withdrew from the tournament with rib soreness. Snedeker has had recurring rib problems, and he said, “I’m just trying to be proactive.”

▪ Chris Wood, who is tied for 11th at 3-under 141 after rounds of 72-69, apparently is a humble sort of guy. Asked what the highlights of his Friday round were, he responded, “There’s really never many highlights with me.”

▪ The Blue Monster’s signature hole, the 18th, was playing downwind on Friday, making it less difficult. Players averaged .215 over par, making it the fourth most-difficult hole of the second round. Last year, playing .572 strokes over par, the 18th was the toughest finishing hole for the season on the PGA Tour and the second-most difficult hole overall.

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