Sometimes youre the windshield, said tournament director Tom Neville. And sometimes youre the bug.
The tournaments name this year is the Ford Championship but most people still call it Doral. It has a strong field, one that includes David Toms, Davis Love III and Mike Weir, Nos. 6, 7 and 9, respectively in the world rankings.
And, Neville pointed out happily, his event also boasts a field that includes Nick Faldo, Colin Montgomerie and Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus in particular bears watching. The consensus is that if the 63-year-old Golden One makes the cut at Doral, he will choose to enter the Masters in early April.
But the buzz at the moment is about the players that wont be teeing it up Thursday at Doral Golf Resort & Spas Blue Course. At one time tournament officials had hoped to have Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh in their field. Those four are, in order, the top four ranked players in the world.
Woods bowed out gracefully Friday when he failed to commit. Neville had been praying that Woods, who was scheduled to play in Dubai this week, might come to Doral if he withdrew from Dubai. It was a longshot. Woods, hearing the drumbeat of war in the Middle East, bagged Dubai. But then he decided to take the week off after playing three straight on the West Coast.
The loss of world No. 2 Els hurt even more. He was the defending champion at Doral. But he was also defending at Dubai where he was being offered an appearance guarantee close to a quarter of a million dollars. Els took the money and ran. But not before dropping his family off at their London home.
No. 3 Mickelson hurt even more than that. Just weeks after Ford had entered into a lucrative and long-term endorsement deal with him late last year, the automotive giant signed on as Dorals title sponsor.
Imagine their disappointment when Mickelson announced Monday that he was withdrawing because he needed to stay home to be with his wife Amy, who is expected to deliver the couples third child at any moment. Ford wasnt disappointed about the impending birth, just about Mickelsons absence.
Within an hour of the Mickelson withdrawal, Singh, ranked No. 4 in the world, withdrew with a rib injury. It was the fourth straight week Singh has pulled out with the same injury. This is a period of time that must seem like a lifetime for Singh, a single-minded sort who lives to hit golf balls.
And as if that wasnt enough, three-time Doral champion Greg Norman, always a big draw, decided to skip the event and take his family to Australia. Its spring break for his two children'Morgan a college sophomore and Gregory a high school junior. Normans people said Tuesday The Players Championship probably will be The Sharks only Florida tournament this season. The 48-year-old Norman used to be a fixture at Doral.
Just one of those years, said Neville, who reports ticket sales are high despite the absences. The bottom line is, after all, the bottom line.
And at least one player will walk away late Sunday with a check for $900,000 and a quiet appreciation for the big guns that didnt make it to Doral this week.