Miami’s loss is Mexico’s gain as World Golf Championship moves

March 2, 2017

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Miami’s loss is Mexico’s gain.

For the first time since 1962 – before Jack Nicklaus had won any of his 18 majors – the PGA Tour will not have a tournament at Doral this year. Doral had hosted a World Golf Championship event the last nine years until Cadillac did not renew as title sponsor and the tour couldn’t find another that wanted to be at what is now Trump Doral. It found a sponsor in Grupo Salinas, giving birth to the Mexico Championship.

Adam Scott is the defending champion in a country where he has never played.

”It’s nice to go back to the course that you played really well on, but it’s just another week, and we’re all learning the course, kind of starting on an even playing field,” Scott said. ”If we were all at Doral, we would all know the course.”

This is nothing new to Scott. He won the Australian Open at New South Wales and played the next year at The Lakes. He won The Barclays at Liberty National in 2013 and his title defense was at Ridgewood.

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That won’t be an issue next year. Grupo Salinas has signed up for six more years, and Chapultepec Golf Club is reputed to be the best in a very large town.

As for Doral?

Commissioner Jay Monahan has said the PGA Tour would like to go back to Doral, though that would require a sponsor and, more importantly, room on the schedule. Players would certainly embrace a return to Doral.

”Hopefully, we’ll get a tournament back in Miami, because it’s a wonderful golf mecca,” Phil Mickelson said. ”But to move a World Golf Championship to Mexico City is a good thing.”

One anomaly about the move to Mexico? There are no golf tournaments in the United States this week.

The Mexico Championship historically was the one WGC event that was designed to move around the world.

It started in 1999 as the American Express Championship at Valderrama, when Tiger Woods made a triple bogey on the 17th hole, still got into a playoff and beat Miguel Angel Jimenez with the Spanish Civil Guard out on the fairway.

Mike Weir won at Valderrama. Woods in 2002 and Ernie Els in 2004 won at Mount Juliet in Ireland. The last time this ”World” Golf Championship was held outside the United States was in 2006 when Woods won at The Grove in England.

It also is the second WGC event to be held in Mexico. The World Cup was held in Puerto Vallarta in 2002.

But it’s the first time that two individual WGCs have been held outside the United States. The HSBC Champions is held in Shanghai.

Once everyone gets over being in a different Spanish-speaking city, two story lines come into play.

The first is altitude, with Chapultepec Golf Club at nearly 7,800 feet. The ball travels a long way in the thin air, and one only had to see the TrackMan numbers for Dustin Johnson on the range. He hit a pitching wedge 181 yards. ”I hit that one pretty good,” said Johnson, the king of understatements.

Johnson is playing his first tournament as No. 1 in the world having won at Riviera. And he won’t have Jason Day to worry about, because the previous No. 1 withdrew with an ear infection. Rory McIlroy is playing for the first time since Jan. 15 because of a rib injury. He can go to No. 1 with a victory if Johnson doesn’t play well.