Linda Robertson

With Donald Trump as owner, future of PGA Tour in Doral remains in doubt

MIAMI HERALD STAFF

The Doral brand that encompasses so much colorful history has quite a pedestrian origin. Golf resort founders Doris and Alfred Kaskel didn’t exactly tap their inner muse when they decided to combine the letters of their first names.

Doral was christened when the place was in the middle of nowhere in 1962. It stuck. It became iconic for a certain South Florida sensibility, for golf and a good life under the palms.

Hard to believe that the last pro tournament on the Blue Monster might be concluding on this final Sunday of the 54th annual event at Doral. But it is possible Doris and Al’s dreamy resort is hosting its PGA Tour swan song.

A combination of factors have converged to threaten the future of the second-longest-running event on the PGA Tour behind that held since 1946 at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth.

Cadillac is in its last year as title sponsor of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, which means the PGA Tour will have to find another sponsor willing to pay the $9.5 million in prize money.

Then there’s Donald Trump. He owns Doral, much to the consternation of the PGA Tour, which has a meticulously landscaped image and corporate sponsors to protect. Controversy doesn’t mix well with the sport of golf, where things like etiquette, attire and whispered tones are still part of the milieu. In stomps Trump, presidential candidate on the warpath, ranting and raving about Mexicans and Muslims and an emasculated America that has lost its mojo. When Trump plays a round of golf, he plays through any low-energy weakling who can’t keep pace, and he’s going to fix a fallen nation with the same swift, authoritative strokes.

“It takes courage to run for president,” said Trump, who has somehow, right before our eyes, become the leader in the clubhouse for the Republican nomination. “I’ve never done it before. But I absolutely had to do it.”

 

How did the PGA Tour react to Trump, who creates a divot every time he opens his mouth? The PGA Tour disavowed him in December, saying his comments “are inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf,” echoing a statement made by several golf organizations last summer after Trump referred to Mexicans as “rapists.”

Then the PGA Tour left Doral in limbo, adding: “Immediately after the completion of the 2016 tournament, we will explore all options regarding the event’s future.”

No PGA Tour executives have offered enlightenment this week except to say in another statement that “all parties will examine the Cadillac Championship’s successes on all levels and determine what’s in store for the future.”

Doral, which has grown into a city of 50,000 surrounding the once-remote golf club, responded to the PGA Tour with a plea to stay. Mayor Luigi Boria led a 4-1 vote Wednesday adopting a resolution that urged the PGA Tour to “uphold 54 years of tradition and keep tournament golf in Doral.”

The PGA Tour signed a 10-year contract extension with Trump in 2013, but that was when he had rescued Doral from bankruptcy and creeping shabbiness for the incredibly low price of $150 million and was investing $200 million on renovating the resort and its golf courses. That’s when the PGA Tour was grateful to Trump, the avid player and fan, for restoring Doral’s luster and the Blue Monster’s bite.

Without a sponsor, all deals are off, and the timing of the mud-slinging campaign clown show gives the PGA Tour an additional reason to say goodbye.

“Doral is so iconic it would be a shame if it wasn’t part of the tour,” said Mark Rolfing, a Golf Channel and NBC Sports reporter.

Doral is a place soaked in history. Billy Casper won the first Open Invitational in 1962. Jack Nicklaus, Lee Trevino, Hubert Green and Ben Crenshaw have been among the champions. Raymond Floyd and Greg Norman each won it three times.

Since it was converted into a World Golf Championships event, Doral has taken on more of a glitzy, corporate feel, with luxury suites eating up the prime viewing areas. But it’s still considered a prime Florida warmup for the Masters, and the competition has been entertaining, with Tiger Woods battling Phil Mickelson on the 18th hole in 2005, and defeating Lefty again in 2006.

Dustin Johnson is back to defend his title this year. The now-generation glamour threesome of Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy was supposed to attract large galleries on the first two days but did not. Day expressed disappointment but held out hope for a big, loud weekend crowd.

If the fans come out to watch the world’s best golfers on one of the world’s toughest courses, they might remind the PGA Tour of what it would be missing without Doral on the schedule.

Wind has often been the golfer’s biggest enemy on the Blue Monster. But it would be a mistake to let the fleeting winds of a nasty political season blow away 54 years of history.

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