Hyde: Sad, unsettling, to see Doral golf tournament die

Dave Hyde
Contact ReporterSun Sentinel Columnist
South Florida loses part of its sports history with PGA Tour leaving Doral, Dave Hyde writes:

The 18th hole at Doral always offered a front-row view to a confessional. Jack Nicklaus double-bogeyed it to lose the tournament in 1978 and 1980. Greg Norman and Nick Faldo each hit into the water while dueling for the title in 1995.

"Electric," Tiger Woods called the finishing atmosphere after winning there in 2005.

"Unbelievable," Phil Mickelson, whom Woods beat that day, called it.

And now it's gone, as is a piece of our sports fabric, in an insidious cloud of corporate and political confusion. What is a stroke of incredible sports fortune for Mexico City is something not so incredible for South Florida.

It's sad. And unsettling. Because even if you aren't a golf fan, you understand Doral added to the South Florida sports scene. And if you are a golf fan, you embraced the annual stage and involved history it provided.

For years, Doral kicked off the golf year. Now it just kicks off. And that demands the murkier question of who killed this tournament.

Was it the PGA, which claims it couldn't find a corporate sponsor for a premier event in Miami? Was it Donald Trump, the Doral owner and presidential candidate?

The PGA Tour, whose players are decidedly conservative, nonetheless distanced itself from Trump in a December statement, citing his "inflammatory remarks toward Mexicans and immigrants and [his call] for a temporary ban on Muslims from entering the United States."

Even in breaking the Doral news, Trump spoke in manner that made the golf world leery to do business with him.

"They're moving to Mexico City, which, by the way, I hope they have kidnapping insurance," Trump said Tuesday night on Fox News.

"We'll just jump over the wall," golfer Rory McIlroy said in a Wednesday news conference, referring to Trump's border idea.

Even in the hardest of economic times in recent years, the PGA Tour didn't lose events because of lost corporate sponsors. Tour stops like The Colonial in Texas or Hilton Head in South Carolina magically picked up sponsors to keep playing at their sites.

But Doral? The tournament with the fourth-longest tenure at its locale? It couldn't find a sponsor?

So, the Honda Classic in Palm Beach Gardens is now the tour's sole event in South Florida. Doral is gone from the schedule, for whatever reason, and it takes a piece of our institutional sports history with it.

Fifty years ago, South Florida was a joke of a sports region, a place without teams or personalities beyond the University of Miami and golf. The PGA arrived there in 1962.

Once upon a time, it was the golf event in this part of the world, with a plaque by the 18th hole reading: "The toughest closing hole in the world."

The stories told why through the years. A ladder was brought to search for leader Mark McCumber's ball in a tree lining the 18th fairway in 1985. Paul Azinger was disqualified in 1991 after a TV viewer noticed rocks were dislodged to build a stance.

All of that's distant fun now. South Florida lost Doral and might lose the Miami Open tennis tournament if an impasse over stadium renovation isn't resolved. Everything changes. Even sports.

Doral changed through the years in course design and tournament structure, most recently with the switch to a World Golf Championships event. That was done smoothly. A 2013 course redesign wasn't.

"They had something special here, and it's not what it was, that's for sure," Jim Furyk said at Doral a year ago.

That's the way you talk about the Doral tournament now: Had. Was.

All past tenses. Maybe there was no corporate sponsor to be found. Maybe the PGA didn't want to be in bed with Trump. Maybe it's a bit of both that allowed Doral to slip to Mexico City.

All you know for sure is it hurts that a part of yesterday won't be around tomorrow.

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