Doral is still Doral
The Palm Beach Post's Dave George writes about the PGA Tour's identity crisis since it became a World Golf Championship event.
The field may be better at Doral this year, but what about the feel?Doral hasn't changed to me. The field is smaller, but the course defines the tournament in my opinion. Forty five years of history isn't wiped out because the sponsor changes. Tournament sponsors come and go, and so will WGC(And the much ballyhooed Fedex Cup) one day also. Doral will still be a part of the tour and its history. I'm betting the tournament will be back to regular event status within five years.
It's a question of the heart, not the mind. The Blue Monster course is a South Florida classic.
Likewise, the tournament that Billy Casper first won here in 1962 was never defined by its numerous title sponsors, but by a list of monstrous multiple champions that runs through Jack Nicklaus and Greg Norman and Raymond Floyd and winds up, eventually, like all others, with Tiger Woods.
Doral had a distinct identity, in other words, that for decades has overmatched so many other PGA Tour events, including our own Honda Classic.
And now, this week, comes the unsettling whiff of identity theft, as Doral becomes the WGC-CA Championship, as Miami's specialty becomes a global curiosity.
Please don't misunderstand. Tiger, the two-time defending champion, is here, so that pretty much takes care of any attendance questions other than how many fans can the course and the parking lots physically accommodate.
Every other player with a Thursday tee time is absolutely worth watching, too, and capable of winning. Silly to think otherwise when 49 of the world's top 50 ranked stars are present.
The problem, if there is one, involves tampering with one of the most consistently successful stories in South Florida sports.
How, for instance, is it possible to improve on "The Duel at Doral" from two years ago, when Tiger and Phil Mickelson played in the final Sunday group and Vijay Singh was in contention, too?
Tiger birdied from 30 feet on No. 17 to take the lead and Lefty lipped out a chip shot on the finishing hole that could have forced a playoff. That was more than globally significant. Try galactic.
"It was almost like a major championship," Johnny Miller said.
And how about last year's finish, with nine of the world's top 10 golfers at Doral and a crowd-pleasing Colombian named Camilo Villegas pushing Tiger to the final putt?
Villegas, a playoff participant at the Honda two weeks ago, isn't at Doral because he doesn't have the world points or the PGA Tour money to rate a spot.
He doesn't have the points, but Villegas clearly has the pizazz.
There always was a buzz, however, with familiar characters like Doug Sanders and Lee Trevino and Andy Bean on championship runs, and a genuine appreciation for the steady career accomplishments of other former Doral winners, like Nick Faldo and Tom Kite and Jim Furyk and Ernie Els.
Yes, I think the world of Doral, and maybe that's the real issue here.
Giving this South Florida gem over to the world, for a little while or forever, is just a little too foreign a concept for me.
Feel free to remind me if I'm wrong.
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