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Worries for Woods and McIlroy as US Masters nears

As one of the four World Golf Championship events held each year, the WGC Cadillac is a tournament very well worth winning in its own right. But played on such a demanding course and coming as it does just a month before the US Masters, it takes on special significance for all those with serious designs on Augusta.

Which is why the likes of Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods, 13/2 favourite and 7/1 second favourite respectively with Coral to win the first major of the year, will be so determined to put aside the negativity of last week’s Honda Classic and deliver a great showing at Doral this weekend.

The Blue Monster had, to a degree, been tamed by the world’s best in recent years, with final totals consistently in the high teens under par, but it has now been redesigned with new sharp teeth: more length, more trees, bigger and trickier greens and much more water in play.

So the cream should rise to the top, but McIlroy will nevertheless be concerned about how he has been failing to close out tournaments, particularly last week in Florida, where he frittered away a clear lead and eventually lost in a four-way play-off.

Woods’ problem is chiefly physical – he had to withdraw from the Honda on the last day with back spasms after playing his way to the fringe of contention on Saturday and isn’t even certain to tee it up at Doral.

But the world number one, a four-time winner at the ‘old’ course, including last year, has now gone almost six years without adding to his 14 majors, his prime goal in life, and there must now be a nagging doubt at the back of his mind whether he can still challenge Jack Nicklaus’ career record of 18.

But as the two most high profile names in the game try to work out their problems, it may be left to Adam Scott to remind us what he can do as he works smoothly towards the defence of his Masters title.

Scott returned from a break to play a decent four rounds last weekend and should now be primed to win another big one. Victory here could elevate the Australian to number one in the world for the first time, another shot of confidence in the arm for a player who not all that long ago seemed to lack total self-belief.

At 10/1 Scott makes more appeal for the WGC Cadillac Championship than either McIlroy (15/2) or Woods (14/1), whose bad back is perhaps enough to put punters off anyway.

It might also be worth following Luke Donald. The former number one has slipped down to 24 in the world rankings, but there were encouraging signs last weekend and he makes each way appeal at 40/1 (15/2 top five, 100/30 top 10).

I also like Coral’s 2/1 that he beats Justin Rose (who won this in 2012, but another with injury issues), Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter to end the week as top English player.