Road to Augusta Starts at Doral

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2005 Ford Championship at DoralIt can no longer be said that the PGA Tour season starts at Doral. But the road which winds northerly, up Magnolia Lane, and eventually into the joyous, two-sleeved comfort of a dowdy green jacket certainly begins in Miami, Fla.
 
The Ford Championship sparks the tours Florida Swing. Five tournaments and 623.52 miles later and the boys will be battling at the seasons first major.
 
Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods has finished 2nd (2002) and T9 (1998) in two appearances at Doral.
This weeks event could deliver on what the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship failed to do: pit the worlds top-ranked players against one another down the stretch.
 
World No. 1 Vijay Singh is here, as are Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen. Not to mention Match Play champion David Toms and Adam Scott and Mike Weir and Davis Love III. And then theres the European crew: Sergio Garcia, Ian Poulter, Bernhard Langer, Padraig Harrington and Justin Rose.
 
In all, 11 of the top 12 on the Official World Golf Ranking will test their talents on the Blue Course at Doral Resort and Spa. Ernie Els, who won this event in 2002, is the lone exception. Hes in the field at the Dubai Desert Classic, where he will collect a hefty appearance fee.
 
While appearance fees are commonplace, and legal, on the European Tour, they are not on the PGA Tour. However, many of the world-class players have been lured to Doral thanks to lucrative corporate outings, where they will be handed six-figure fees to entertain Ford Motor Company executives on Monday and Tuesday.
 
Woods has green on his mind this week ' not money, but rather smoother putting surfaces.
 
I can tell you what, Woods said at the Match Play. I cant wait to putt on some good greens.
 
Woods is making just his third start at the Ford Championship, and his first since he finished runner-up to Els in 02.
 
Woods was noncommittal about appearing until his stay at La Costa was shortened in a second-round upset loss to Nick OHearn. This will give him at least three tournaments (Bay Hill and The Players Championship) to fine-tune his game before he vies for his first major title since the 2002 U.S. Open.
 
Now that the West Coast Swing has been swung, players are hoping the Sunshine State will live up to its name.
 
Rain reduced the Nissan Open to 36 holes, and then cancelled the first day of play at the Accenture.
 
The Ford Championship has never been played in less than 72 holes over its 43-year history. Last year, it needed 73 holes to determine a winner.
 
Craig Parry beat Scott Verplank on the first hole of sudden death, when he holed a 6-iron from 176 yards on the par-4 18th, which just happened to play as the toughest hole on tour a year ago.
 
Raymond Floyd is the only player to successfully defend his title, winning in 1980-81. However, several players have triumphed on multiple occassions.
 
Billy Casper, Doug Sanders, Jack Nicklaus, Mark McCumber and Steve Elkington have all won twice. Floyd, Andy Bean and Greg Norman have each won three times.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Ford Championship at Doral