A star-studded field with the most popular golfer of all time, the kid challenging his preeminence and most of the PGA Tour’s other big names…
Such was the first dance for The Blue Monster. So sets up the last Monster Mash before the course gets Trumped.
Once this year’s World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship finishes at the Trump Doral Golf Club, the Monster’s greenskeeper might as well be Carl Spackler from Caddyshack.
“They are saying that the course is in the best shape it’s been in in 25 years,” owner Donald Trump said. “It’s a little ironic because we blow it up on Monday.”
Gil Hanse’s new version of Doral’s Blue course will be the biggest overhaul of the TPC Blue Monster since the 1962 Doral Country Club Invitational, which saw Billy Casper beat a field that included Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and Gary Player.
That’s the Kennedy era’s version of former world No. 1 Tiger Woods, current No. 1 Rory McIlroy, last year’s Masters winner Bubba Watson, 2011 Masters winner Charl Schwartzel, 2012 money list leader Luke Donald, etc., etc.
“I like being here and this course and this tournament has been good to me over the years,” said Woods, who won at Doral in 2005, 2006 and 2007 and finished two back of 2008 winner Geoff Ogilvy.
The course has been good to everybody the last decade plus. As Blue Monster’s go, it has been less Beast than Cookie Monster. With today’s players bringing high-tech equipment swung by high-tech-trained muscle, the course can seem as outdated as the few remaining office buildings across Northwest 87th Avenue built just after the tournament began.
“The wind is quite a factor, and that gives this golf course quite a bit of teeth,” 2010 Cadillac Championship winner Ernie Els said. “Otherwise, the course becomes a bit of a birdiefest. There’s a lot of holes where the guys can go in with short irons.”
He who pars the 529-yard par-5 No. 1 can consider himself one or two shots off the pace, right from the jump. More than one move up the leaderboard starts with a birdie or eagle on No. 8, a 560-yard par-5.
On the other hand, even on The Blue Monster’s most toothless days, the 467-yard par-4 18th hole possesses steel dentures. Ironically, Watson complained about No. 18 on Wednesday minutes before discussing his 190-yard four-iron approach that gave him a chance at a playoff-forcing birdie last year. (He missed the 10-foot putt).
“I wish there was a way you could fix 18 and add yardage, but it’s into the wind, so that makes that hole really, really difficult,” Watson said.
Trump said that the 18th will be left alone.
The 2012 Cadillac winner Justin Rose liked that because he considers No. 18 “iconic,” and “you still want to be able to come to Doral and recognize it as Doral.”
But Rose said, “It needs to maybe get back to living up to its reputation as the Blue Monster. It’s been fairly low scoring here the last few years, and I think a revamp is going to certainly do it some good.”
Last few years? Try “this entire century.”
Take out Woods’ 10-under 278 that won the blustery 2007 tournament by two shots and here’s your winning scores at Doral since the turn of the millennium: 23-under 265; 18-under 270; 17-under 271; 17-under 271; 17-under 271; 24-under 264 (that was Woods outdueling Phil Mickelson by one shot in 2005, the consensus pick as Doral’s No. 1 moment); 20-under 268; 17-under 271; 19-under 269; 18-under 270; 16-under 272; and Rose’s 16-under 272.
“It’s rare to see a golf course do something and change it for the better, but obviously Mr. Trump is going to put some money behind it and he’s going to make it the best he possibly can,” Watson said. “He loves the game of golf, so I don’t see any reason why he wouldn’t take all the effort to make it the best golf course we play.”
Watson, a fan favorite mindful of growing golf’s fan base, suggested more room for spectators. That’s in Trump’s plans.
“We are creating tremendous mounding because we’re taking six inches of dirt out of every fairway in order to put in pure, good soil,” Trump said. “We’re using that to create mounding so when people come, they’ll go to a really great tournament course.
“People will be able to stand up on these hills and see what’s going on in the fairway.”
Just as it’s more practical to knock the aforementioned office buildings down and rebuild rather than upgrade them to fit modern business needs, what began as a renovation has turned into a remodeling.
“We are really doing massive changes,” Trump said.
Among those changes:
No. 1: “The first hole is 100 yards longer, and it’s got a lake to the right of the green.”
No. 15: “The 15th hole becomes a water hole. It’s right now a very plan par-3, and it’s going to be an island green, essentially
Nos. 9 and 10: “No. 9, the green is being moved all the way over to the right along the water, and the tee is going to be right at the eighth hole on the island. The eighth, the green basically sits where it is now other than it’s going to be a little bit to the left. You’ll have tremendous room back there and it’s going to be an incredible hole. What it does is it creates an incredible amphitheater for No. 18, No. 9 and even the tee shot on the 10th hole, which is now over water. You’ll be going directly over water on the tee shot, which is going to be tremendous for fans and viewing.”
It will be if the New Monster turns out as attractive to fans as the field has been, whether 1962 or 2013.