Pros test Trumped up TPC Blue Monster

Donald Trump claims the new TPC Blue Monster is better than the original.

The field at what is now called Trump National Doral will be judge and jury of that statement this week in the World Golf Championships Cadillac Championship.

“No. 1, I want to hear that it’s fair,” said Trump, who had the course reworked by designer Gil Hanse at a reported price tag of $13 million. “If you hit good shots, you will be rewarded for good shots.

“The word fairness is important. I really believe the great players are going to find it very fair.”

Defending champion Tiger Woods, who withdrew after 13 holes in the final round of the Honda Classic on Sunday because of a back injury, said Wednesday he will play at Doral. Woods has been grouped with Adam Scott and Henrik Stenson at 12:39 p.m. EST in Thursday’s first round.

Woods will not play a practice round0n the reworked course, but will rely on caddie Joe LaCava, who has walked the course this week.

Woods and Phil Mickelson might be the critics Trump has to please most, because they really enjoyed the old Blue Monster, as designed by Dick Wilson and opened in 1962.

In addition to winning the Cadillac last year, Woods claimed three other titles at Doral, the 2007 WGC event and the old Ford Championship at Doral in 2005 and 2006. He has seven other top-10 finishes on the course.

Mickelson captured the WGC event in 2009, tied for third last year and was second in the 2005 Ford Championship at Doral.

One pro already giving a thumbs up to the new Doral is Rocco Mediate, who won what was then the Doral-Ryder Open in 1991 before Ford took over as title sponsor. Mediate played a round with Trump on opening day at the new Blue Monster.

“It’s fantastic,” said Mediate, who plays the Champions Tour these days, adding that the degree of difficulty is immeasurably higher. “Donald doesn’t do things that aren’t fantastic.

“Gil Hanse did a great job. If the guys don’t like Doral now, they should never be invited back. That driving-all-over-the-course crap doesn’t work anymore. It’s a real course now.”

Charlie Rymer of the Golf Channel, a former PGA Tour player, tweeted after playing the new, improved layout: “New Blue is an instant classic.”

The Blue Monster got its name because of the large lakes that dot the course, with water coming into play on six holes of the original. Hanse’s version is a deeper shade of blue, with water being a major factor on 10 holes.

Perhaps the most dramatic changes came at the 15th and 16th holes, which lead to the iconic 18th, giving the Blue Monster an even more difficult finishing stretch.

The 15th went from being a fairly benign par 3 to a relatively short but challenging par 3 with a peninsula green.

No. 16, a shortish par 4, is more difficult with the addition of a lake to the left of the fairway and guarding the front of the green.

Water also was added through the turn on the eighth, ninth and 10th holes.

“It’s a brand-new course, not a redo,” Trump said after playing the new model for the first time. “We felt it was just an amazing piece of land that we could do something spectacular with, and we built a new Blue Monster.

“It’s a bigger course with bigger lakes. It’s a more spectacular course. The old Blue Monster was a good course, but this is better. There is nothing like this in golf. I had a great time playing it.”

In addition to the new lakes, Hanse lengthened the course from 7,334 to 7,450 yards.

Hanse also did his work with the fans in mind, adding mounding in key areas that will make for more advantageous sight lines for those watching the tournament.

“We’ve worked outside the ropes rather than inside the ropes,” said Hanse, who also is designing the Rio de Janeiro course that will be played for golf’s return to the Olympics in 2016.

“This is one of the most exciting projects that I have ever had the privilege to work on. The property itself, being all sand-based, is very unusual and unique, and a tremendous asset for a golf course.

“On top of it all, its location, in the middle of Miami, is unprecedented.”

The famed 18th hole, a 473-yard par 4 that has been the Blue Monster’s signature hole, was changed very little. The row of palm trees that lines the right side of the fairway was replaced by a tighter line of palms that frames the hole and will help players shape the intimidating tee shot.

The drop-off into the lake to the left of the green was made a little steeper, meaning even more balls will go into the water, but the hole remains instantly recognizable for long-time golf fans.

The 18th is where Craig Parry of Australia hit the most famous shot in Blue Monster history, holing his second shot with a 7-iron from 176 yards to beat Scott Verplank on the first hole of a playoff in the 2004 Ford Championship at Doral.

Even The Donald knew that hole didn’t need to be Trumped up.


–Story courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

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