PGA Tour insists move from Trump's Doral to Mexico is not a political statement

McIlroy

PGA Tour insists move from Trump's Doral to Mexico is not a political statement

PGA Tour

PGA Tour insists move from Trump's Doral to Mexico is not a political statement

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DUBLIN, Ohio — For pointed and quick-witted commentary, Rory McIlroy scored brilliantly Wednesday when asked to comment on news that the World Golf Championships event at Donald Trump’s Doral resort near Miami would move to Mexico City starting in 2017.

“It’s quite ironic that we’re going to Mexico after being at Doral,” said McIlroy, a four-time major winner from Northern Ireland. “We just jump over the wall.”

Of course, one would have had to have been living in a cave for the past year to not catch the sharpness to McIlroy’s observation. Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee for president, infamously said during his campaign that he would build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico to combat what he called “the onslaught of illegal immigration.”

But later in the day, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem deflected suggestions that moving the tournament from Doral was a way to distance the Tour from Trump.

“As we anticipated, some of the reaction revolves around the feeling that somehow this is a political exercise,” Finchem said. “It is not that in any way, shape or form.

“It is fundamentally a sponsorship issue.”

Finchem emphasized that since Cadillac had opted to end its sponsorship of the WGC at Doral, “we were not able to secure sponsor for next year.” What transpired at the same time, he said, was an opportunity to work with Ricardo and Benjamin Salinas. The father-son team runs Grupo Salinas, a Mexico City-based conglomerate involved in retail, television, telecommunications and other businesses. Thus was born what is expected to be called the WGC-Mexico Championship, a tournament that Golfweek predicted in its May 23 issue. Although Finchem wouldn’t name a site for the tournament, Golfweek has learned that it will be played at Club de Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City.

His political humor aside, McIlroy said he supported the move. “They’re called ‘World’ Golf Championships for a reason,” he said. “I always felt that having three of them in the United States wasn’t really spreading the game.

“I think it’s a good move. I think it really is.”

Phil Mickelson didn’t disagree with McIlroy, but he offered two views of the move.

“We’ve been at Doral (since 1962), and it’s been a special place for the PGA Tour,” Mickelson said. “But it does offer an opportunity to take a World Golf Championship outside the United States and bring world-class golf to Mexico City.”

From 1962 to 2006, the Blue Monster course at Doral Golf Resort & Spa was a staple on the Florida Swing, but in 2007 the event became a limited-field WGC. The title sponsor in 2007-10 was CA before Cadillac took over in 2011. But Trump bought the property out of bankruptcy in 2012 for $150 million, and it’s been an intriguing ride, to say the least.

In a statement, Trump said: “It is a sad day for Miami, the United States and the game of golf to have the PGA Tour consider moving (from Doral) to Mexico. No different than Nabisco, Carrier and so many other American companies, the PGA Tour has put profit ahead of thousands of American jobs.”

For his part, Finchem insisted “we have enjoyed our relationship with the Trump Organization.” The commissioner said that when Trump indicated he wanted to make changes to the Blue Monster, “our recommendation would be to use Gil Hanse,” and indeed, the widely-respected architect got the job.

“From a golf standpoint, we have no issues with Donald Trump,” Finchem said, and he reiterated that when it comes to politics “(the PGA Tour) is neutral.”

Finchem went so far as to say that “I think that with the proper property, we can resume our involvement in Miami, which we would be more than pleased to do.”

When Finchem said, “We’re going to focus our efforts on building as good a property as we can over the next seven years in Mexico City,” the comment invited a question about safety in Mexico’s crime-ridden capital of 20 million residents. Some players indicated to Golfweek that they had concerns about traveling to Mexico City. Some remembered a 2003 Champions Tour tournament when six players were robbed of their watches and jewelry while eating at a popular restaurant, an incident in which Rodger Davis was pistol-whipped.

“Just like if you were going to the (Olympic) Games in Rio this year or you were going to play in some of the other countries that we play in South America, you have to be careful,” Finchem said. “But we don’t see it as a quote, dangerous, situation if we take those precautions.”

Since the WGCs were introduced in 1999, there have been 60 tournaments — 47 in the U.S. All 17 editions of the Bridgestone Invitational have been in America, 17 of the Match Plays and 13 of the 18 American Express/CA/Cadillac Championships. All seven years of the HSBC Champions have been played in China, while Spain (two), Ireland (two) and England (one) have played host to the American Express Championship. The Match Play was held once in Australia.

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