DORAL, Fla. – Eventful week this side of South Beach. Newly crowned world No. 1 Rory McIlroy began his much-anticipated rivalry with former No. 1 Tiger Woods, Gil Hanse landed two of the most-coveted design projects in the game and The Don scored a long-awaited spot on the PGA Tour dance card, with or without an invitation.
Not bad for a no-cut, free-money event.
Worlds apart. The most worldly of all the World Golf Championships has delivered again with a leaderboard that looks like a United Nations office party. The current top 10 features seven different countries and your frontrunners feature a Bubba, a Bjorn and a bunch of intrigue.
Bubba Watson took the lead with a week’s best 62 on a golf course he “don’t really like,” while England’s Justin Rose was paired with the American on Friday, carded a 64 and would have lost in match play, 1 down, to the free-swinging lefty.
“No one quite knows what to expect (from Watson),” Rose said. “I think it’s fascinating to watch.”
The same could be said for the Cadillac, which features the year’s deepest field on the PGA Tour as well as the possibility, again, for another changeover atop the World Golf Ranking on Sunday.
Gil Hanse. He is, by all accounts, the right man for the Olympic job and his insight, and instincts, about the Rio 2016 layout only reinforced that notion.
The architect du jour is clearly more comfortable piloting a bulldozer than he is behind a microphone, but when asked what he hoped to accomplish with the Olympic project he didn’t disappoint.
“We want this to be received well those two weeks, but we really want it also to be something the Brazilians are proud of,” Hanse said. “If it can lead to in 2024 or whatever, you know, there's a Brazilian in contention at the Olympics for a gold medal, then we have done an even better job.”
In short, golf’s Olympic experiment isn’t about gold medals, it’s about growing the game.
Tweet of the week: @McIlroyRory “What a day (Sunday)! Very honored and proud to be the world’s No. 1golfer! Thank you to everyone who has supported me along the way.”
The Ulsterman’s ascension to the top of the World Golf Ranking last week was storybook stuff. Now, if only he can crack the 1 million followers mark. Just 88,000 more to go.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
Augusta National. Ryo Ishikawa is certainly deserving of a special invitation into this year’s Masters and the club has been rather clear that would-be participants should never expect a free pass into the year’s first major.
Still, this week’s announcement marks the second time Ishikawa has been granted a special invitation into the Masters while there are always other deserving players each year.
Davis Love III, for example, had played the Masters every year between 1991 and 2007, finished runner-up twice and is destined for the World Golf Hall of Fame yet the U.S. Ryder Cup captain will sit out this year’s event for the fourth time in five years.
International exemptions are nice, but charity should start at home.
Missing the Monster. The famed Monster Grill adjacent Doral’s 18th hole has been a favorite of players, caddies and media for years, but this year the must-stop grill has been reduced to a snack machine.
No word on whether the closure is budget related, but the best burgers on Tour will be missed.
Jarrod Lyle. Count this as a “bad things happening to good people” deal. The Australian will celebrate the birth of his first child this week and start chemotherapy treatments almost immediately afterward.
Lyle was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia at age 17 but recovered and seven years later was in the field at the British Open. Just weeks after his best finish on the PGA Tour (T-5 at the Northern Trust Open) he was informed by doctors that the cancer had returned.
Lyle is best known in the United States for acing the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale last year. The Bird’s Nest faithful should save a special celebration for Lyle when he wins his second bout with cancer.
Donald Trump. With all the delicacy of a linebacker The Don elbowed his way into the PGA Tour conversation this week with his purchase of Doral Resort, predictably breaking copious amounts of china along the way.
Trump’s $200 million overhaul of the resort will include a makeover of the famed Blue Monster but at least he tabbed the right man for the job – unassuming Gil Hanse. It was a self-promoting opportunity that The Don couldn’t pass up.
“I'm glad I chose him first. In fact, without my choosing him he would not have gotten the Olympics. They relied on me, believe me,” Trump boasted. “I'm only kidding . . . maybe (it’s) a little true.”
For good measure, Trump also plugged his growing aspirations to host a major championship.
“I'm going to say this off the record even though we are on live television. I'm hearing rumors about getting the U.S. Women's Open (to a property of his in New Jersey),” he announced.
And now Trump is a Tour “partner.” Let the show begin.