Greg Cote

If Doral and PGA part ways, at least this year’s event should be memorable

Rory McIlroy tees off on the 11th hole as he plays a practice round at the 2016 WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral, in Miami, Florida, March 2, 2016.
Rory McIlroy tees off on the 11th hole as he plays a practice round at the 2016 WGC-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral, in Miami, Florida, March 2, 2016. ctrainor@miamiherald.com

If this is the end, we’ll not go quietly.

If this week’s World Golf Championships event marks the finish line for the PGA Tour’s continuous 55-year relationship with Doral and South Florida, which is sadly possible, it will end memorably, at least. With bombast. With a circus and a revolution.

The circus? That would be tournament host Donald Trump, the resort’s owner. He always is at the event basking in the glory of his billions, conspicuous as the helicopter emblazoned with his name that in previous years always has been parked strategically for arriving fans to admire. Now, of course, Trump will be here as possibly the next president of the United States, a prospect that frightens the hell out of many Americans but apparently delights enough that he is the Republican frontrunner.

The revolution? That’s happening on the golf course, on the Blue Monster. The revolution is mirrored in this year’s marketing theme: “Same Tradition, New Generation.”

It’s as if the sport finally is reconciled to symbolically move on from Tiger Woods, who last won a major in 2008 and who, at age 40, continues absent as he laboriously recovers from back surgery and watches a new wave of young stars fully blossom and take what was his.

The current top three players in the Official World Golf Ranking, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy, all are in their 20s, and Doral marks their first time all playing together since last September. They’ll go off in the same threesome Thursday at 11:32 a.m. from the 10th tee.

“Going to be a lot of people out there,” understated Day.

As Tiger limps to irrelevance and Phil Mickelson fades, the sport’s gradual changing of the guard that had been coming the past year or two has now fully arrived.

“Golf is definitely in a good spot right now,” Spieth said.

The juxtaposition of Doral’s circus and revolution was seen Wednesday as McIlroy availed himself to the gathered media and was asked — of course — about Trump. It is The Donald’s controversial side, including his insults disparaging Mexicans and Muslims and others, that puts Trump National Doral in jeopardy as the event’s site beyond this week.

Cadillac is ending its run as title sponsor, and contractually the next title sponsor may choose to relocate the event if it wishes, and perhaps with the PGA Tour’s nudging.

“We will explore all options regarding the event’s future,” goes the Tour statement.

“Will it be the last time we’re playing here at Trump?” as Day put it Wednesday. “That’s a big question that everyone’s up in the air about.”

A venerable Miami sports tradition wafts in the balance.

The world’s best golfers began parading through town in 1962, the time of JFK, the infancy of Beatlemania. Arnold Palmer ruled golf then against the growing encroachment of a young Jack Nicklaus. Billy Casper won that inaugural trophy and a whopping $9,000, or $1.6 million less than Sunday’s winner will collect.

The annual event locals still simply call “Doral” has only grown in stature. Now it is the first of four WGC events, it is the first tournament on the calendar that draws the best field — with 47 of the top 50 players in the world this week — and it is the unofficial start of the buildup to the Masters in April, the year’s first major.

So McIlroy naturally was asked about Trump, the polarizing lightning rod who has split America into vehemently opposed political factions.

“I’m not American,” reminded Rory in that Northern Irish lilt of his. “He’s not going to be the leader of my country so it doesn’t involve me too much.”

But then McIlroy made it apparent he has seen enough of America’s presidential race to be as disgusted as many of the rest of us.

“I thought I knew about politics here ’til I started watching one of those debates,” he said. “It’s shocking. I can’t vote but if I could I’m not sure I’d vote for any of the candidates.”

It will be interesting to see if Trump, who is expected to make a weekend appearance, will be out front or asked to lay low by the Secret Service. Typically he is on the 18th green afterward presenting the trophy to the champion.

But if he does that this Sunday will Republicans chant Trump’s name while Democrats counter by booing?

Will Marco Rubio issue a statement claiming the Blue Monster has deteriorated under Trump’s ownership or claiming Trump’s fingers are too small to grip a golf club?

It also will be interesting to see — and maybe this week will deliver a clue — if any of the highly ranked young players rises to distance himself from the pack.

Will it be Spieth, who won the Masters and U.S. Open in a dominating 2015? Will it be Day, the reigning PGA champion? Will it be McIlroy, already with four majors, including a pair in 2014? Or might it be someone like world No. 5 Rickie Fowler?

Fans and the golf media are chomping to anoint one of them as the next big thing, but that mantel must be earned, not given. Remember, for example, that McIlroy must win three more majors just to be halfway to Woods’ career total of 14.

Mickelson seemed to be tapping the brakes on the next-big-thing talk when he recently told Golf.com: “There is nobody in the game of golf that I have seen that is remotely close to the level of performance Tiger was in his prime.”

This week is a lot about what we don’t know, when you come to think of it.

We can’t know yet if Spieth, Day, McIlroy or anybody else will build the kind of historic career Woods did.

We don’t know if the tournament’s namesake host will make history by becoming the next U.S. president.

And we cannot be sure if Doral is about to lapse into history, the past tense, as a PGA Tour destination.

All of these elements make this week special — a fitting end, if that’s what this is.

Read Greg’s Random Evidence blog daily at MiamiHerald.com and follow on Twitter @gregcote.

What you need to know about WGC-Cadillac Championship

Blue Monster Village at the main entrance: An interactive space with air-conditioning, food, drinks, games and TVs to catch live coverage of the tournament action. Blue Monster Village will also feature happy hour specials and live music following completion of the third round on Saturday.

Versailles Cuban Restaurant behind the 18th green: One of Miami’s historic restaurant brings its cuisine to the course. Fans can enjoy upgraded soft seating under shade.

Fan Village located between the No. 1 fairway and No. 18: The Cadillac Experience, a two-story facility, will house an interactive Cadillac-themed performance center on the first floor with an open-air fan area on the second deck featuring Sushi Maki, Grey Goose cocktails and the Cadillac V1 Golf Swing Analysis.

Calle Ocho near No. 8 fairway: A view of the Blue Monster and Michelob ULTRA available.

The Turn located between Nos. 9 and 18: Fans can enjoy Sushi Maki or step across the cart path for food from Café Americano and to see players practice on the range.

Autograph zone: Whatever item it might be — tournament program, ticket, golf ball, your shirt, etc. — the best place to get an autograph at the Cadillac Championship is behind the 18th green near the Clubhouse as the players finish their round Thursday through Sunday.

Youth policy: Youth 18 and younger are admitted free of charge with a ticketed adult all week (limit 1 child per ticketed adult).

College ID: Any fan with a valid college ID who comes to the main entrance after 3 p.m. during any competitive round on Thursday through Sunday will gain free entry.

Military: All active duty, reserve, military retirees, and their dependents can watch the tournament all week free of charge with a valid military ID. A Patriots outpost is located near the first green.

Music: All ticket holders are welcome to enjoy a free concert featuring Jacksonville’s The Band Be Easy Saturday after play ends. The show will begin approximately 30 minutes after the completion of round 3. Show is at the Blue Monster Village.

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