Hours after news broke that the PGA Tour would be moving a World Golf Championship event from Trump National Doral in Miami to Mexico City, commissioner Tim Finchem reiterated that the Tour's decision was based on sponsorship dollars - not politics.
Speaking to media at the Memorial Tournament, Finchem confirmed that the former WGC-Cadillac Championship will be played next year in Mexico, the first year of what Finchem described as a seven-year agreement. He indicated that Donald Trump, presidential candidate and owner of Trump National Doral, was "disappointed" when informed of the decision Tuesday night in a meeting in New York.
"As we anticipated, some of the reaction revolves around the feeling that somehow this is a political exercise, and it is not that in any way, shape or form. It is fundamentally a sponsorship issue," Finchem said. "We are a conservative organization. We value dollars for our players. We have a strong sense of fiduciary responsibility, so we make decisions that are in the best interest of our players, short-term and long-term."
The decision means that the Tour's longstanding relationship with Doral, which has hosted a tournament every year since 1962, will come to an end.
Trump took over the property in 2012 and spent $250 million to renovate both the resort and the famed "Blue Monster" course. The Tour inked a 10-year agreement with the resort in 2013, but the contract contained an out clause should the Tour be unable to find a sponsor.
This year was the final year of Cadillac's sponsorship of the tournament, and Tour officials had hinted in December that they would be re-evaluating the tournament's long-term future.
While Finchem noted that the PGA Tour remains neutral on political issues, he did indicate that Trump's high-profile presence was a sponsorship deterrent, both for the event at Doral and for the Tour's apparent efforts to bring a tournament to Trump National Bedminster in New Jersey.
"I think it's more, Donald Trump is a brand - a big brand. And when you're asking a company to invest millions of dollars in branding a tournament, and they're going to share that brand with the host, it's a difficult conversation," Finchem said. "It's just a struggle to get a customer to spend those kinds of dollars and share the billing."
Trump himself broke news of the move during a Tuesday interview with "Hannity" on Fox News, and he issued a statement Wednesday afternoon regarding the decision.
"It is a sad day for Miami, the United States and the game of golf, to have the PGA Tour consider moving the World Golf Championships, which has been hosted in Miami for the last 55 years, to Mexico," Trump's statement read. "No different than Nabisco, Carrier and so many other American companies, the PGA Tour has put profit ahead of thousands of American jobs, millions of dollars in revenue for local communities and charities and the enjoyment of hundreds of thousands of fans who make the tournament an annual tradition. This decision only further embodies the very reason I am running for President of the United States."
Finchem added that despite the venue shift, the Tour remains committed to returning an event to the Miami area at some point in the future.
"We are keen on coming back to Doral. We need to find the right property to resume our long-term involvement with the community. We’re proud of being there for over 50 years, and we’d like to come back," he said. "I think that with the proper property, we could resume our involvement in Miami which we would be more than pleased to do."