Lefty Tries to Tame Blue Monster

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The West Coast swing is now in the PGA Tour's rearview mirror as the tour begins to motor through the Sunshine State starting with the Ford Championship played on the famed Blue Monster course at the Doral Golf and Spa Resort in Miami, Fla.
 
Headlining the field is Ford spokesman Phil Mickelson, fresh off a solid performance at the WGC-Match Play Championship where he lasted into the quarter-finals, bowing out to Davis Love.
 
Mickelson, who wasn't in the field last year due to the birth of his third child, will face a different course than the one he played in 2002.
 
Over the winter, the legendary Blue Monster added yardage to five of its holes in an effort to put some bite back into a course that had grown soft over the past few years.
 
The famed 18th hole, a par-4 dogleg left, used to lay claim as one of the best finishing holes on tour. With water all the way down the left side and bunkers and trees on the right, the 18th was not just one of the toughest finishing holes on the PGA Tour, it was actually the toughest hole of any on tour.
 
'The new changes at Doral will keep the Blue Monster at the top end of all tour courses and I'm quite sure that the lengthening of hole No. 18 will make this, once again, the toughest finishing hole on the PGA Tour,' said golf instructor Jim McLean, who has Doral Golf Resort and Spa as the headquarters of the Jim McLean Golf School.
 
The field in south Florida will be a little thin on big names as world No. 1 Tiger Woods flys to the Middle East to join up with world No. 3 Ernie Els at the Dubai Desert Classic. Also absent are Vijay Singh, who is taking a rare week off, Davis Love, Mike Weir and the injured Jim Furyk.
 
Some top names, however, will tee it up along side Mickelson as the road to the Masters - just six weeks away - starts in earnest. Early season suprise Jesper Parnevik, South Africans Nick Price and Retief Goosen and Florida native Chris DiMarco will join Lefty for the first of four straight tournaments in Florida.
 
Speaking of the Masters, Scott Hoch, who's missed two-footer on the 18th in the final round of the 1989 Masters cost him the green jacket, will return to Doral as the defending champion.
 
Last year's victory came in a Monday morning finish as Hoch rolled in a 12-foot birdie to outlast Furyk on the third playoff hole. The rare Monday ending came after Hoch, then 47, deemed it to dark to continue as the the two were about to putt on the second playoff hole Sunday evening.
 
The decision proved to be a wise one, as Hoch captured the 11th PGA Tour win of his career. Hoch will look to be the first player since Raymond Floyd back in 1981 to defend the title. In fact, Floyd is the only player in the event's 43 year history to successfully repeat as champion.
 
The Blue Course at Doral has been the only venue in the tournaments 42 years.
 
This years purse was raised to $5 million, with $900,000 going to the winner.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Ford Championship