It's pretty weird not having The Players Championship in late March, but at least we get a World Golf Championship (WGC) event in its place. The fields for WGC events are always just as strong as they are for major championships, so it's definitely an added bonus. On top of that, we still get The Players Championship and Sawgrass in May.
Like I mentioned above, the fields are very strong for WGC events. The golf courses are usually equal to the task, but this week may be a little different. I was watching "The Approach" on The Golf Channel last night, and one of the topics really piqued my interest. The topic centered around whether or not The Blue Monster at Doral is worthy of having a World Golf Championship event.
Frank Nobilo argued for Doral, while Alex Miceli (the resident stats guy) argued against. In the end, it comes down to personal opinion. I'm going to break things down a little farther by listing arguments for and against, and I'll end by listing a few other courses that should be considered for future World Golf Championship events.
Arguments Against Doral
The main argument against Doral hosting a WGC event centers around the course difficulty. The winning score at the 2007 Ford Championship at Doral was -20, and the winning score in previous years wasn't much different. In 2007, only the winners of The FBR Open (Aaron Baddeley) and Pebble Beach Pro-Am (Phil Mickelson) ended with scores of -20 or lower.
Does the winning score really matter, and if so, why? Golf fans who argue against Doral have their reasons. The World Golf Championship events are supposed to be played at a higher level than the average PGA Tour events, and the golf courses should be held to higher standards as well. If fans want to see -20 or lower, they can tune into The FBR Open or Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
The last few weeks on the PGA Tour have been very exciting, and a lot of the credit goes to the golf courses and how challenging they have been. The Florida Swing has been very tough so far, with the winning scores ranging from -5 to -10. The U.S. Open is my favorite stroke-play event in golf, so it's obvious I'm a fan of the winning scores close to even par. I like to see the golf course win as many battles as the golfers. The tougher the course, the better.
In the end, naysayers of Doral are mostly arguing the fact it's not difficult enough for a prestigious event. The tee shot at the 18th hole is difficult, but other than that, the course isn't very intimidating for the world's best. The rough is practically non-existant, which makes the course a long hitter's paradise (surprise surprise). We only get a few WGC events each season, and it would be nice to see some tougher courses along the way. I'm definitely one of the naysayers.
Arguments For Doral
First and foremost, The Blue Monster is one of the most popular golf courses in the United States. When I hear TPC at Sawgrass, I immediately think of the island green at 17. The same can be said for Doral. When I hear Blue Monster, I immediately think of the intimidating tee shot the players will face at the 18th hole. It's undoubtedly one of the toughest finishing holes in golf. The familiarity factor definitely helps golf fans get into the action a little better.
Also, the Florida Swing is always played in March, and this year will be no different. The Blue Monster is one of the most popular golf courses in Florida, and the timing keeps things flowing. Why would the PGA Tour have a WGC event somewhere else in the United States during the Florida Swing? It makes perfect sense in that regard.
Finally, the entire field plays the same golf course, and the tournament winner will obviously be the golfer with the lowest score after four days. So it really shouldn't matter if the winning score is -30 or +30. On top of that, the golf course is always in great shape, and the world's best golfers are going to tee it up regardless. It doesn't hurt that Tiger always adds Doral to his schedule. If it's one of Tiger's favorite courses, it seems to be one of the fans' favorite courses.
Future WGC Courses
Since I'm obviously one of Doral's naysayers, I'll list some other courses I'd prefer to see in its place for World Golf Championship events. The first that comes to mind is Congressional Country Club. The 1997 U.S. Open was played at Congressional, and things went great. The last couple holes are tough as nails, and the rest of the course isn't much easier. We got to see PGA Tour golfers play Congressional the week before the 2005 U.S. Open (Booz Allen Classic), but that was a one-time only deal. I'd love to see it more than once or twice a decade.
The second course that comes to mind is Whistling Straits, the site of the 2004 PGA Championship. To this day, that's still the only time I've seen a PGA Tour event held at Whistling Straits. It would be nice to see it more often, especially in a WGC capacity. Mixing it in every few years wouldn't make it any less enticing as a major championship venue either.
Finally, I'll give the Great Northwest a little love by mentioning Bandon Dunes. It's fairly new, but it would be a great test for the best golfers in the world. If nothing else, it would provide a new look for golf fans. It's high ranking in Golf Digest doesn't hurt its case any, so I say bring it on! It wouldn't fit into The Florida Swing very well, but flying doesn't take too long does it?
The Final Say
There are very good arguments for and against The Blue Monster as a WGC host venue, and as I've mentioned above, it all comes down to personal taste. Some fans like to see golfers struggle for pars, and some fans love to see tons of eagles and birdies. I'd rather see a competition between the golfer and course rather than a complete domination by the golfer over the course.
The past few events at Doral have been exciting for most fans, and I'm not trying to take anything away from it. It would still make a great PGA Tour event, but it probably won't make a great WGC event. There should be a difference between a regular PGA Tour and WGC event, but there won't be this week. Here's to hoping the course plays tougher than ever, and I look like a complete loser.
Now it's your turn to tell me what you think. Do you think Doral is worthy of hosting a World Golf Championship event? If so, why? If not, why? Finally, which other courses would you like to see host future WGC events? If you have anything to add, please comment below or discuss it in the forum. Thanks for reading this week's Thrash Talk!