The PGA tour descends on Doral, Florida this week for one of the biggest non major tournaments of the PGA season with the spotlight on two different stars. After a few days of treatment for a back injury Woods will play at the revamped Doral.
That is good news for one of the biggest stops on the tour. The other star this weekend will be the course itself. Because when Woods and his fellow players arrived at Doral they came to the same venue they always have, but they will not be playing the same old course.
The Blue Monster is not the same anymore. They can thank Donald Trump for that. Some would say, especially Trump, that he saved it. Did Doral need saving? Or even a change? According to caddies and players the answer was a resounding yes. Caddies have joked this week that they used to be able to sleep in before practice rounds instead of doing their usual work of walking the course and checking the yardage and green conditions. That is because so little preparation was needed there.
The yardage was the same. The greens were the same. Players would be playing the same shots with the same clubs they had played for years. The Blue Monster became boring even to players.
Enter Trump and his architects. Trump announced when he bought Doral that he had monster plans for the Blue Monster. He promised a different course that would rival any other in the world. What transpired is the WCG-Cadillac Championship at Trump National Doral. In short Trump National at Doral. Either way it is a mouthful. Which is probably appropriate given the new owner of the resort.
Trump fulfilled his promise. Players have remarked that it is like they are at a completely different course than what they used to play on at old Doral. The only question remaining for Trump National at Doral comes with the competition. How will it actually play? What will Woods find when he plays the revamped Doral?
What happens to trying to drive the Blue Monster when a player needs to make up stroke late in the round? Will the new Doral offer the same drama as the old Doral? It was inherent to the course before. Will the new version of Doral keep up that tradition?
The questions on the course are much simpler. Rory McIlory is trying to bounce back from a complete collapse last weekend, just when it appeared he was ready to grab the tour by the throat. Woods himself is trying to bounce back from tweaking his back last weekend. At least he is trying to play though. Trump must be pleased with that as he shows off his new course. Beware though. If Woods feels even a little twinge in his back he will be done no matter how big an event this is. The Masters are just five weeks away. Woods is not risking anything for that.
That kind of talk can wait for moment. For now the eyes of the golf world are on Woods as he plays the revamped Trump National at Doral.
By Mick Varner