Donald Trump rescued Doral from bankruptcy in 2012, buying at a bargain-basement price a sprawling resort that had grown old and tired and was not guaranteed of keeping its iconic PGA Tour event forever. That’s the backstory.
Today, of course, the story out front and center is about how Trump couldn’t save Doral’s signature golf tournament from himself.
The only other way to look at this would be if the PGA Tour canceled the World Golf Championship event formerly tied to Doral and did so for lack of a major sponsor. Instead they’ll be playing it next year near Mexico City with a Mexican conglomerate called Grupo Salinas footing the bill.
The number that’s always thrown around is $10 million as the requirement for sponsoring an elite-field WGC tournament, of which there are only four on the golf calendar. I’m guessing Grupo Salinas would have paid twice that much, would have outbid others if necessary, in order to take Doral’s priority spot from the Donald.
Last summer Mexican billionaire Ricardo Salinas, the founder of Grupo Salinas, went on CNBC to blast Trump for derogatory comments about Mexican immigrants entering the United States. He said that Trump showed “the worst face of America” and added “it’s a disgrace that somebody could speak in those terms.”
Later today PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem is supposed to give his spin on the switch. He’ll be speaking at Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial tournament in Ohio, which adds one more level of political intrigue and tension to the controversy. A few weeks back Nicklaus told CBS that he likes Trump and will vote for him for president.
It goes on and on within the golf community at large, with the PGA of America scheduled to play the 2022 PGA Championship on a Trump course and the USGA set to run the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open on one of his properties, too. Maybe they’ll wait now to see how the election goes. Maybe Trump’s status as a rainmaker within the golf industry will insulate him from further losses.
All I know is that it’s a crying shame to see Doral go out like this.
Trump said in March he can make more money renting all his resort’s room during high tourist season rather than giving many of them away to Tour players and VIP’s during the Doral tournament. That’s fine. That’s about Trump.
Doral, however, was a South Florida original. The tournament began in 1962, which predates the Miami Dolphins, the Miami Heat, the Miami Marlins, the Florida Panthers and just about every other major sports attraction down here outside of horse racing, and from the start the Blue Monster was golden, with Billy Casper taking the first title and all the greats following along.
Nicklaus, Greg Norman, Tiger Woods and Raymond Floyd all won multiple Doral championships and drew massive crowds. There’s no replacing that history. Only Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth has been a continuous PGA Tour stop for longer than Doral.
It’s possible that sooner or later this might have happened anyway for purely economic reasons. Doral didn’t benefit as much as hoped by the 2007 transformation from full-field PGA Tour event to a smaller, invitation-only tournament for the players ranked highest on the Official World Golf Tour list. Some of those stars were from the European and Asian and South African tours and were not as instantly recognizable to fans, which might have been a factor.
There’s clearly been an ebb and flow to the thing of late. Trump’s splashy makeover of the property was a plus. Tiger’s absence due to injury was a minus. Now, in a political climate so polarizing that there is no getting away from it, the golf itself has been turned into a secondary issue.
I always wondered if it would be possible to designate the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens as a WGC event if Doral wasn’t up to it for some reason. That would keep it in South Florida on a great course with a top organization to run it. All that’s certain to me about the Mexican venue, Club de Golf Chapultepec, is that it’s been around since 1928 and Ben Crenshaw won the Mexican Open there in 1981.
Doral we all knew. Doral was special.
Can’t we just get a mulligan on this whole mess?