Hate to be Rude: Doral’s party starts

Phil Mickelson celebrates with a group of fans after winning the 2009 WGC-CA Championship.

Phil Mickelson celebrates with a group of fans after winning the 2009 WGC-CA Championship.

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Some say the PGA Tour event at Doral has lost considerable buzz since going from a full-field regular tournament to a WGC short-field gathering in the past three years.

No pro-am, half of a field, split tees, no cut and higher ticket prices don’t appeal to everyone. The short tee block of less than two hours means golf no longer is being played all day on Thursday and Friday in Miami. Hence, less voltage.

That’s the glass half empty.

photo

Ashley Judd

The glass half full is that the tournament has the hard part down. It has close to 70 of the best players in the world gathered at the same place – no easy feat. It has a much better field than it used to get. The old event didn’t come close to delivering the top 50 on the planet.

In other words, let’s not complain too much if Ashley Judd and 60 of her pretty friends show up at your party having not flossed or brushed. Let’s be grateful they are there.

When the WGCs were conceived in the late 1990s, the idea was to create more tournaments in which the world’s top players competed against one another. No one this side of bottom feeders complained. The concept was and remains a good idea.

Then it’s up to the promoters to put on their P.T. Barnum thinking caps and make sure there’s buzz around the show. In Doral’s case, a one-tee start Thursday-Friday and lower ticket prices would be an improvement. The one-tee start would mean golf all day and the opportunity to see, in the best of times, say Tiger Woods in the morning and Phil Mickelson in the afternoon.

Tickets at the gate used to cost $40. Now they’re $55.

Anybody tell golf we’re in a recession?

The good news is the tournament is taking measures to turn the event into more of a social happening. That makes sense because Miami is a city known for long soirees.

There’s a new Club Blue party palace near the first tee for select, big-ticket patrons that will be open after play Thursday-Saturday. The Point, a two-story party tent between Nos. 9 and 18, has been upgraded since its debut last year. College kids with identification will be admitted to the tournament for free after 3 p.m. daily. Youths 18 and under are admitted free with a paying adult.

“We’re trying to create more of a party atmosphere and bring everyone together,” tournament director Eddie Carbone said. “We want people to indulge and have fun. This is Miami, a party town, and we want people to be fired up. We recognize we need a party atmosphere and need the feel of a big event.”

According to Carbone’s read, buzz elevated last year over the first two WGC stagings but he admitted there’s room for improvement. One thing he likes, though, is the 11:30 a.m.-1:15 tee block on Thursday-Friday.

“That’s one of the beauties of the event,” he said. “You can get here at noon, see all the best players in the world and party afterward.”

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Tiger Woods practices at Isleworth on Feb. 18.

• All right, Tiger Woods has practiced in recent days on the Isleworth range under the watchful eye of coach Hank Haney, ramping up speculation that Woods will return to competitive golf soon.

The world No. 1, of course, hasn’t answered questions since a Thanksgiving accident led to sex-scandal revelation and self-imposed exile. But if allowed to make a few inquiries on the Isleworth range, here goes:

Rusty?

Has your driving improved since Thanksgiving?

Will the Tavistock Cup be a major championship this year?

Do you think of TMZ when hitting a knock-down shot?

Mind if I join you for dinner at Perkins?

Did you read any of Hank’s books while in rehab?

• Camilo Villegas wins the Honda Classic after playing no practice rounds. Now defending WGC-CA Championship winner Phil Mickelson isn’t getting to Doral until Wednesday night and won’t play a practice round.

In other words, apparently practice makes perfect but practice round doesn’t.

• Early word from the Mickelson camp is that apparently Lefty wanted to get some serious work in at home near San Diego after spending a week with cancer-patient wife Amy in Houston.

• The controversy of the use of old Ping Eye2 irons was crazy hot in late January. Then it slowed to barely a simmer after the first week of February. And this week it has gone from died down to dead, what with Ping waiving the rule.

Tiger Woods should hope for a similar timetable on his public thermometer.

Soren Hansen of Denmark, a member of the last European Ryder Cup team, has been charged with failing to pay 9.6 million kroner (about $1.76 million) in Danish taxes. It appears he’ll find out soon whether he faces jail time.

Question is, if the cops come calling, how will they know whether to apprehend Soren Hansen, Anders Hansen, Soren Kjeldsen or Peter Hanson?

photo

President Obama at Mid-Pacific County Club in Kailua, Hawaii, on Dec. 31, 2009.

President Barack Obama has invited three-time major winner Padraig Harrington to the annual St. Patrick’s Day party at the White House.

Oh, to remember the bygone days when someone else was Obama’s favorite professional golfer.

• Is it my imagination, or does the search to find Parade magazine in the Sunday newspaper take longer than ever now? It has gotten to the point that I’ve adopted a USGA rule. I stop looking after five minutes.

• • • 

Jeff Rude’s “Hate To Be Rude” column appears on Golfweek.com on Wednesday, the same day as his video show of the same name.

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