Doral Golf Resort & Spa: A Miami legend turns 50 in 2012

By Travel ArticlesJanuary 23, 2012, 5:00 am

MIAMI -- The great history of Doral Golf Resort & Spa, a Marriott Resort, continues to play out right before our eyes on TV.

The battle between Tiger and Phil in 2005; Craig Parry's eagle hole-out on No. 18 to win a playoff in 2004; Greg Norman's chip-in on No. 1 to end a four-way playoff in 1990 -- the memories go on and on.

Only Colonial Country Club in Texas and Augusta National have hosted the PGA Tour pros longer than Doral's storied TPC Blue Monster. This year, the Cadillac Championship -- a World Golf Championship in March -- promises to be even more special. The iconic resort celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2012.

Way back in 1959, Doris and Alfred Kaskel had a vision for acres of swampland in west Miami. The Doral Hotel and Country Club -- named from a combination of their names -- opened in 1962, welcoming golfers to a new clubhouse and the Blue, Red and Par 3 golf courses. That same year, the Kaskels hosted the Doral Open Invitational, Florida's first PGA event, benefiting the American Cancer Society. A tradition was born.

Doral has had its ups and downs over the past five decades. Some might call its current state a downward trend. The resort continues to operate in bankruptcy after its owner forfeited on a bond payment. Donald Trump remains in negotiations to buy Doral, with the exception of the Great White Course.

Amazingly, even through this uncertain time, Doral looks better than it has in years. There's a bigger commitment to top conditioning year-round at all five courses, not just tournament week on the Blue Monster. A $16 million renovation added elements previously missing and upgraded others in 2009.

Doral isn't getting any younger, but she's doesn't look like an old maid anymore.

The resort life at Doral

Doral's Miami address has always been its biggest selling point for guests. It's just a short seven-mile cab ride from the Miami International Airport to the resort, set on 650 acres smack in the middle of today's urban sprawl.

The nightlife of South Beach can feel like a bit of a haul (about 30-40 minutes away), but resort staff aren't shy about recommending it. They know, at some point, guests will eventually tire of all the late-night shenanigans and stick to the new comforts of the resort.

The renovation beefed up Doral's inadequate dining scene, no pun intended. The patio at the Champions Sports Bar & Grill remains a great spot after golf but not the place for a special meal. The new Latin-inspired Mesazul Steakhouse fills that void, giving off the classy vibe of a big-city restaurant with a great selection of saucy steaks, lobster pot pie and more.

The Brazilian Bossa Nova lobby bar cooks up a more casual setting with a tappas menu that serves excellent pizzas, mini-burgers and fun appetizers. Diners can hang out and munch while a live band or musician entertains the crowd.

Away from the action of Miami's guilty pleasures, a redesigned Spa at Doral offers more European-designed treatments in a classic Italian villa setting. More relaxation comes at the adult-only outdoor pool nearby. Separate chambers of cold cascading waterfalls feel revitalizing after a night on the town or a hot day of golf. This peaceful spot was purposely designed far from the family pool and 125-foot waterslide of the Blue Lagoon and Camp Doral. The spa's partnership with the Pritikin Longevity Centre has increased its emphasis on healthy living.

Should Trump ultimately buy Doral, he's promised $150 million in upgrades, a necessity for some of its 693 guest rooms, including 73 suites, spread out among 10 lodges. Covered walkways connect these lodges to the main clubhouse building -- home to the restaurants, a sprawling golf pro shop on the lower level and the newly renovated, state-of-the-art fitness center. Seven tennis courts reside on property.

Golf at Doral Resort

Celebrities and stars flock to take on Doral. When I was there last November, Urban Meyer walked off the 18th green and drove by in a cart.

Be warned that playing the Blue Monster won't wow you aesthetically. It's relatively flat, and the noise from the nearby gun range and the airplanes overhead hardly paint a picture of 'serenity, now.' Still, there's no doubting the bite of this original Dick Wilson design. After the first two holes, players will have their hands full with score-bruising bunkers, water hazards and gnarly Bermuda rough.

'This course is all aerial and knowledge,' Doral Resort Head Golf Professional Cory Head said.

Strong holes skirt trouble at every turn. The sweeping, par-4 third and the waterlogged par 5s at No. 8 and 10 come to mind. What's most interesting is the 245-yard, par-3 12th rates harder on the handicap than the more-famous, 467-yard 18th.

'It's not the most memorable course, but it is rock, rock solid. I like it more every time I play it,' said Doral General Manager Paige Koerbel.

Noted instructor Jim McLean, who still runs Doral's golf school after all these years, revamped the silver course -- now called the Jim McLean Signature Course at Doral -- in 2009. The McLean will always be the resort's stepchild since it is off property.

McLean softened contours and added subtle touches. The signature stretch, 'The Bermuda Triangle,' delivers tough par 4s at No. 13 and 15, sandwiched around a par 3 with an island green at No. 14.

Greg Norman did a similar upgrade to his Great White Course in 2006, although on a smaller scale, by revamping two holes and reworking bunkers. It's puzzling why Trump wouldn't want the second-best course at Doral.

The crushed-shell cart paths and swaying palms give the Great White some sex appeal compared to Doral's other more traditional Florida layouts. New TifEagle Bermuda grass greens highlight the recent changes on the Great White (opened in 2000) and the Gold Course. Next in line for a makeover is Doral's Red Course. But that will wait for another day and a new owner.

Darrin Helfrick, the resort's golf general manager, said Doral has a bright future.

'Everyone (who has offered to buy Doral) has talked about $30-$35 million dollars in upgrades. That's rooms, golf, hotel,' he said. 'Either way, we are excited for the sale to happen.'

In the meantime, Doral will celebrate its milestone birthday like it always has -- by rolling out the red carpet for the greatest players in the world.

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Garcia 2 back in weather-delayed Singapore Open

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 3:06 pm

SINGAPORE - Danthai Boonma and Chapchai Nirat built a two-stroke lead over a chasing pack that includes Sergio Garcia and Ryo Ishikawa midway through the third round of the weather-interrupted Singapore Open on Saturday.

The Thai golfers were locked together at 9 under when play was suspended at the Sentosa Golf Club for the third day in a row because of lightning strikes in the area.

Masters champion Garcia and former teen prodigy Ishikawa were among seven players leading the chase at 7 under on a heavily congested leaderboard.

Garcia, one of 78 players who returned to the course just after dawn to complete their second rounds, was on the 10th hole of his third round when the warning siren was sounded to abruptly end play for the day.

''Let's see if we can finish the round, that will be nice,'' he said. ''But I think if I can play 4-under I should have a chance.''

The Spanish golfer credits the Singapore Open as having played a part in toughening him up for his first major championship title at Augusta National because of the stifling humidity of southeast Asia and the testing stop-start nature of the tournament.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Although he finished tied for 11th in Singapore in 2017, Garcia won the Dubai Desert Classic the subsequent week and was in peak form when he won the Masters two months later. He is feeling confident of his chances of success this weekend.

''I felt like I hit the ball OK,'' Garcia said. ''My putting and all went great but my speed hasn't been great on this green so let's see if I can be a little more aggressive on the rounds this weekend.''

Ishikawa moved into a share of the lead at the halfway stage after firing a second round of 5-under 66 that featured eight birdies. He birdied the first two holes of his third round to grab the outright lead but slipped back with a double-bogey at the tricky third hole for the third day in a row. He dropped another shot at the par-5 sixth when he drove into a fairway bunker.

''It was a short night but I had a good sleep and just putted well,'' Ishikawa said. The ''greens are a little quicker than yesterday but I still figured (out) that speed.

Ishikawa was thrust into the spotlight more than a decade ago. In 2007, he became the youngest player to win on any of the major tours in the world. He was a 15-year-old amateur when he won the Munsingwear Open KSB Cup.

He turned pro at 16, first played in the Masters when he was 17 and the Presidents Cup when he was 18. He shot 58 in the final round to win The Crowns in Japan when he was 19.

Now 26, Ishikawa has struggled with injuries and form in recent years. He lost his PGA Tour card and hasn't played in any of the majors since 2015. He has won 15 times as a professional, but has never won outside his homeland of Japan.

Chapchai was able to sleep in and put his feet up on Saturday morning after he completed his second round on Friday.

He bogeyed the third but reeled off three birdies in his next four holes to reach 9-under with the back nine still to play.

Danthai was tied for 12th at the halfway stage but charged into a share of the lead with seven birdies in the first 15 holes of his penultimate round.

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McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi through 54

By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, five shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

“That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

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Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''

Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

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The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

“What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.