Redesigned Blue Monster unveiled

By Randall MellFebruary 7, 2014, 11:37 pm

DORAL, Fla. – The Blue Monster won’t be relying on tropical winter winds as its sole defense anymore.

The redesigned Trump Doral Blue Monster unveiled to the media Thursday is bigger, grander and tougher than the aging Dick Wilson design played as home to the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

The course is also more visually appealing, more the beauty and beast that Wilson imagined when he built it in 1961, before high-tech clubs and balls emasculated his classic test.

While the early media reviews of the redesign are strong, the real measure of what owner Donald Trump and architect Gil Hanse have created will be judged by PGA Tour pros coming to play the Blue Monster in a month. They can be brutally difficult to please.

Will they embrace it?

Or will they pan it?

“No. 1, I want to hear that it’s fair,” Trump said. “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.”

What Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Rory McIlroy say about the redesign will leave a lasting impression on Hanse’s work. The last time Doral ownership sought to toughen the Blue Monster, with Ray Floyd redesigning it in '97, players mostly hated. Floyd added a load of giant new bunkers, shrinking landing areas and toughening approach shots.

“They butchered a good course as bad as I’ve ever seen,” Scott Hoch, Doral’s ’03 champ, said back then.

That redesign was met with so much backlash, Doral’s ownership hired Jim McLean to basically undo all of Floyd’s changes and return the course to the original Wilson look.

Rocco Mediate, who won the Doral-Ryder Open in 1991, is betting there will be a completely different player reaction this time around.

“It’s fantastic,” said Mediate, who played the course Wednesday with Trump. “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.”

Without the wind, golf’s best have been making the Blue Monster look like the Blue Marshmallow, going low in birdie binges. Mediate doesn’t see that happening now.

“Not anymore,” he said. “Now, you’ve got to play.”

The Blue Monster was lengthened, but that’s just part of the strategic element Hanse brought back to the course. Wilson’s design was originally all about the angles. He built a course full of doglegs with punishing bunkering in the elbows. He angled greens awkwardly, making approaches narrower than they appeared. Wilson’s angles were ultimately lost with today’s players bombing drives over the bunkering in the corners of his doglegs and then using wedges to take the awkwardness out of his targets.

“That driving-all-over-the-course crap doesn’t work anymore,” Mediate said. “It’s a real course now.”

Hanse put meaningful angles back into the Blue Monster’s design. While managing to put his own distinct fingerprints on the redesign, Hanse also managed to restore the strategic feel Wilson created.

Of course, nobody knows what Dick Wilson would say about the redesign. Wilson died in 1965. His chief assistant on the project, Robert von Hagge, died four years ago.

While Hanse originally sought to recreate and preserve Wilson’s intentions, his work evolved with Trump pushing for a bigger and grander makeover through the process.

“I think we started with a restoration in mind, but as we really opened the place up, it became more of a redesign, and at this point in time it’s a brand new course,” Hanse said.

What players have loved about Doral through the years is how fair it played in those prevailing tropical winter winds. They could get around hitting the knockdown shots those winds required, with Wilson giving them manageable pathways through the wind. That was a stark contrast to what players hated about the Honda Classic in the late '80s and early '90s, when it was played the week after Doral at the TPC Eagle Trace, just up the road in south Florida. Forced carries over a lot of water in heavy winds off the Everglades drove players crazy at Eagle Trace. Greg Norman called it “carnival golf.”

Hanse made the Blue Monster tougher in part by adding a lot more water. On Wilson’s design, water came into play on six holes. On Hanse’s redesign, water is a major factor on at least 10 holes.

The 15th and 16th holes were made more dramatic adding water. Hanse transformed the 15th  from what had become a nondescript par 3 into a challenging short par 3 with a peninsula green. The 16th is a short par 4 with a small lake left of the fairway and in front of the green. The eighth, ninth and 10th holes are all more dramatically reconfigured around water.

The famed 18th is pretty much the same fearsome test Wilson created. Hanse preserved it while still enhancing it. A neat new row of palm trees more tightly lines the right side of the fairway now, better framing and shaping the tee shot.

The Blue Monster will no doubt make a strong first impression on Tour pros coming in next month. The lasting nature of that impression will emerge as Woods, Mickelson, Els and McIlroy and others try to win a trophy there.

Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey six on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

"He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

"I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

"From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

"And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

"There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

Ko told Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

“It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

"It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."