PGA Tour leaving Trump National Doral ‘sad,’ ‘weird,’ among other player reaction
DUBLIN, Ohio -- Rory McIlroy called the news “sad.” Phil Mickelson said his emotions are “mixed.” Rickie Fowler is “bummed.” Keegan Bradley called it “weird.” On Wednesday, the PGA Tour announced that its longstanding tournament at Trump National Doral is moving to Mexico City beginning next year. There has been an event at the Miami area resort since 1962, making it the fourth-longest running stop on tour. The tournament will be called the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship, will be held at a course still to be determined, and sponsored by Grupo Salinas, a collection of companies involved in retail, television and telecommunications, among other businesses. PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem insisted the move was not a “political exercise,” referring to Doral’s owner, bombastic presidential candidate Donald Trump, who last summer made inflammatory comments about Mexicans and immigrants that the tour quickly distanced itself from. But Trump’s involvement certainly played a factor when it came to replacing outgoing sponsor Cadillac, one that ultimately proved too much to overcome given a roughly $10 million price tag to put on a WGC.
“I think one of the difficulties with sponsorship here -- I know everybody's talking about politics, but it's actually not that, in my view,” Finchem said. “I think it's more Donald Trump is a brand, a big brand, and when you're asking a company to invest millions of dollars in branding a tournament and they're going to share that brand with the host, it's a difficult conversation.” Finchem added that the tour does hope to return to the property at some point. “We are keen on coming back to Doral,” he said. “We need to find the right property to resume our long-term involvement in the community. We're proud of being there for over 50 years, and we'd like to come back.” Still, there was no shortage of mixed feelings among players, many of whom got wind of the news during Wednesday’s pro-am at Muirfield Village, site of this week’s Memorial Tournament. “It’s too bad,” Bradley said. “I loved Doral. It’s such a fixture on tour. The tour’s a business, though, and you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do. But to me it’s one of the top courses in terms of history, and on the tour it’s up there as one of the biggest. It had this feel of importance, and that 18th hole was one of the most famous holes we have.” That history at Doral includes a who’s who list of winners: Tiger Woods (four times), Ray Floyd and Greg Norman (three times), Jack Nicklaus, Billy Casper and Ernie Els (twice), and Lee Trevino and Mickelson once each. Adam Scott beat Bubba Watson by a shot earlier this year. There were plenty of memorable moments along the way, too. The Duel at Doral between Woods and Mickelson in 2005, Craig Parry’s hole-out from 176 yards at 18 on the first hole of a sudden-death playoff, and Trump’s purchase of the property in 2012, to name a few. “It's tough to leave places like that,” said Davis Love III, who is also a member of the tour’s Player Advisory Board. “It's hard to leave traditional places. Doral’s changed a lot over the years. The golf course has changed a lot. It's not the Blue Monster we played for a long time. The city's grown up around it -- the airport's grown up around the golf course. It's just for the sponsors, it hasn't really worked quite as well the last few years. But it's still disappointing.” The flip side is that another World Golf Championship event becomes truly that with now only two of the four WGC events played in the U.S. “Certainly it's going to be mixed because we've been at Doral for 54 years, and it's been a special place for the PGA Tour going back to the '60s, when it started,” Mickelson said. “But it also offers an opportunity to take a World Golf Championship event outside the United States to another part of the world and bring world class golf to Mexico City. So I think there could be some positives.” McIlroy echoed similar sentiments and offered an insightful quip that perhaps best sums up the currently complexities surrounding Trump National Doral. “It's not as if we haven't been going to Mexico before,” he said, citing the Tour’s OHL Classic in Playa Del Carmen. “It's quite ironic that we're going to Mexico after being at Doral. We just jump over the wall.”