Greg Cote

Greg Cote: Tiger Woods fizzles amid Round 1 deluge in Doral

A deluge of rain fell on Donald Trump’s redesigned, revitalized Blue Monster golf course at Doral on Thursday, thunder and strong winds raked over it, and tornado warnings surrounded it.

What the meteorology unfortunately lacked was any lightning from Tiger Woods or from most of the field. The world’s No. 1-ranked player was deliciously paired with No. 2 Adam Scott in the same group, but Woods was 2-over-par and nobody was better than 3-under.

The combination of havoc from the elements and uninspired results by the man watched by the most eyes got the week’s World Golf Championships event off to a rather disappointing start and worked to spoil the debut of the New Monster. Weather delayed and then darkness ended the first round before its completion, and Woods — four days after withdrawing from the Honda Classic with back spasms — was off the WGC leaderboard all day and giving fans little to cheer.

“Felt a lot better today,” said Tiger, who has fine-honed the positive spin. “I felt good all day even through the delay. Hopefully, I can get back out there in the morning, work back to even par by the end of the round, then shoot a low one in the afternoon.”

Woods three-putted for bogey on the final hole he got in before darkness aborted Thursday’s round, and he flipped his putter to the green in disgust. It was that kind of day — surely not the grand unveiling Trump imagined.

Mr. “You’re Fired!” spent more than $200 million on the extreme makeover of Doral’s signature course, but the acreage unfortunately lacked the one amenity most needed on Thursday: A retractable roof.

You like things on a huge, daresay ostentatious scale, right Trump? Well then you should have had the foresight to arrange for the world’s first covered golf course — 250 acres, domed. That way play would not have been suspended in the midst of the first round by severe weather.

Trumping Trump

Trump no doubt fancies himself one of the world’s most powerful men, with the outsized ego to see that as undisputed fact, so even agnostics had to delight in imagining a grinning God reminding The Donald who’s boss. Not even Trump’s billions could divert the mid-afternoon storm that drowned his gussied-up Monster and tried to ruin its trumpeted debut.

Play would eventually resume after a delay of about 2 hours 24 minutes, but by that time many of the tens of thousands of fans had left for the day. The Woods/Scott group still had a diminished but decent following; other groups, not so much.

“Yeah, it was weird,” co-leader Harris English said. “I felt like I was playing junior golf again. There’s nobody watching our group.

“You’d make birdie, nobody would clap.”

(On the bright side, no storm damage was reported to Trump’s helipad or helicopter, the one embossed with TRUMP and positioned where no admiring golf fan could miss it. Give the man credit. He makes not even a token attempt at modesty.)

It seemed a small miracle they restarted later Thursday.

“Yes, this is strange,” co-leader Hunter Mahan recalls thinking.

But then barely an hour after that the sinking sun was bringing on darkness, the first round still incomplete.

(That’s another thing Trump’s redesigned course neglected to include: Lights!)

Course with bite

One thing about the New Monster came clear, though, even before the sky turned dark:

The toughening of the course in the redesign worked as intended. The Monster has its teeth back.

A year ago at this event, with the old layout, the Cookie Monster saw 40 of 65 golfers under par after the first round. A once-renowned course had grown meek — not to you or I, but to the PGA Tour crowd.

On Thursday, only 19 of 69 players were under par when play was suspended by darkness, with a knot of five men tied for the lead at a modest 3-under.

Woods won this event last year at 19-under. On Thursday, I overheard two caddies (during the weather delay) guessing that something around 8- to 10-under could win it this week.

Was the course noticeably harder?

“Yes, 100 percent,” Mahan said.

“It’s so different, totally, I mean everything “ said Jason Day, who practiced on the new track before withdrawing Thursday with a thumb injury. “You can’t carry the bunkers any more.”

Said Scott “The greens are much larger with much more undulation. They’re new and firm and fiery.”

Dream pairing

The gallery following Woods and Scott was the biggest on the course and at times louder than Rickie Fowler’s neon-green slacks, but Woods in particular was doing little to cause fans to exclaim over great shots.

This was a dream pairing that could have gotten the WGC/Doral off to a roaring start. Scott, the reigning Masters champ, is on Woods’ heels — so close it’s possible he could overtake him for No. 1 this week.

“It is absolutely a good pairing with the No. 1 [ranking] up for grabs,” Scott said. “And I can assure you from knowing Tiger that it isn’t a position he wants to give up.”

Adding intrigue to the pairing is the fact Scott’s caddie is Steve Williams, the longtime former bag-man of Woods who wrote the tell-much book that angered Tiger. Their relationship remains frosty. On Thursday, Williams noticeably kept his distance.

Alas, Woods’ uninspired performance and the weather’s tumult made for a less than scintillating start to Trump’s grand unveiling of his new baby.

Perhaps The Donald would be kind enough to ply his substantial influence and arrange for perfect weather the remainder of the week.

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