Donald Trump renovated the Blue Monster course at Trump National Doral and is renovating the resort’s rooms.
But he can’t renovate the weather, which paused play midway through Thursday’s first round of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, or darkness, which stopped play for the day at 6:01 p.m.
Play resumes Friday morning at 8:45 with all but the threesomes that teed off at 11 a.m. Thursday needing to complete their rounds. Then, the second round will begin as scheduled at 11 a.m.
When the blaring of horns first sent players scurrying into waiting Escalades for severe weather at 2:22 p.m., Jason Dufner led at 5-under-par, with last week’s Honda Classic winner, Russell Henley, one back at 4-under, each 10 holes into his round. Dufner bogeyed No. 2 after the 2-hour 24-minute delay and bogeyed No. 7 before the final horn to drop into a five-way tie for the lead at 3-under with Harris English (69), Hunter Mahan, Francisco Molinari and Patrick Reed.
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The vast majority of fans (and most players) anticipated play being called for the day during the first break. With few fans, the post break golf felt like a United Kingdom country club late Saturday evening — near silence around the course, no scoring standard bearers as darkness edged out gray in the sky and winds gusted about up to 30 mph.
“This is my ninth year [on the PGA Tour] now, so you expect to play until they tell you otherwise,” said Dufner, a graduate of Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas High School. “The storms obviously didn’t look good, but the mind-set when that horn blows it to kind of get ready to have a restart whenever that might be, and if they tell you otherwise, then fantastic.”
The threesome with English, Sweden’s Jonas Blixt and Zimbabwe’s Brendon de Jonge, which began on No. 10, stepped up the pace to finish their round. English even birdied the par-3, 200-yard ninth hole to jump into the lead bunch.
“Yeah, we were pretty much running to the tee on [No.] 9,” English admitted. “Jonas had just birdied No. 8, and he said he wanted to hit, and Brendon and I were very happy with that.
“We could see pretty well. It was getting really dark, very quickly, but I wanted to finish the hole because it really changes the way you approach the day, waking up and playing one hole at 8 o’clock in the morning and then waiting around for three or four hours for your tee time is tough to do.”
Henley bogeyed Nos. 13 and 14 and sits in a seven-player pack at 2-under with Charl Schwartzel, Dustin Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Louis Oosthuizen, Zach Johnson, and Adam Scott.
Through six holes of his round, Tiger Woods’ birdie putts lipped out, sniffed the hole in passing, engaged in all kinds of closeness without dropping. So, his bogey on the par-3 No. 4 after overshooting the green with his tee shot — “How in the hell did it go that far?” he moaned — left him 1-over into the delay. He finished 2-over through 10 holes in a group with Scott and Henrik Stenson, who was even par.
“Should be a long day for all of us,” Woods said. “Hopefully, [Friday] I can get back out in the morning, play well and work back to even par by the end of the first round. Then, shoot a low one in the afternoon.”
Thursday was Woods first round on the renovated Blue course — he walked it for the first time Wednesday — and the first competitive round for everybody else. Several greens sloping toward water and some tough, well-placed bunkers had players adjusting their approach to the course from years in the past.
“In general, they have brought a lot of strategy into play on the golf course,” Dufner said. “This used to be a golf course where you grab your driver on every hole, swing for the fences and play from there. You can’t get away with that here at Doral anymore.”
Said Mahan, “They really put the water into play on almost every hole, so they kind of moved holes over close to it so your angles going into a lot of holes is pretty important, and it’s tough. Some of the fairways kind of run away from the angle you want and some kind of roll into.”
And the wind started early and paused only to reload for another gust.
“With the wind [Thursday], anything under par was good,” Molinari said. “It was hard. It’s not an easy golf course anyway, but the wind was making it harder for everyone. It’s never easy coming off. It looked like we weren’t going to be out for too long, so I tried to play a bit safer and consolidate what I had.”