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Doral Fights Back

Say what you will about its' sullied image as a result of the November election mess, but South Florida in the winter time still holds great allure. The weather's warm and South Beach cooks.
But whether or not South Florida still holds the stature it once commanded as the de facto kick off event for The PGA Tour is another question.
Doral in recent years had lost some luster, and big names, too. Bumped up against an improved West coast swing, and on a course many grew to dislike, Doral became a skippable stop.
But the powers that be - The PGA Tour, new sponsor Genuity, and resort owner, Doral Resort and Spa - have battled back. First,they responded with more money, the purse having been pushed well over $4 million with better than 800 large to the victor. Second, the course over the last two years has been returned to its more vintage Blue Monster form and players seem to have taken notice.
The field is impressive, starting with Davis Love III, the king of the West coast swing. It also includes Vijay Singh, fresh off his triumphant two week run through Asia. Most guys would opt for some R & R after traipsing halfway around the world. But Vijay enjoys his work so immensely. His wedge play and work on the greens looked superb in Asia, and that bodes well with his defense at Augusta looming.

L.A. winner Robert Allenby joyously floated from California to Florida atop the classic wood he knifed to Riviera's brutal 18th. Meanwhile, David Duval's lost West coast swing has cast some curious attention his way as he looks for a fresh start this week at Doral.
Of course one guy who pretty much begins his American campaign at Doral is three champ Greg Norman, who 'copters in each day from his nearby home in Hobe Sound.

And it's doubtful anyone will have more butterflies come Thursday than 17-year-old Miami area junior standout James Vargas, in the field on a sponsor's exemption. Same holds for U.S. Amateur runnerup James Driscoll.
Also, Jack and Gary Nicklaus get to spend some quality father-son time together this week while sleeping in their own beds at their nearby Palm Beach area homes. Jack captured the first of his two titles here nearly 30 years ago in 1972, the year he also won the first two legs of the grand slam.
Ernie Els, back from his native South Africa, is here as well along with Nick Price and Jesper Parnevik. All three stars maintain residences in the Sunshine state, which, while having suffered that election fallout double bogey in the public relations department, remains a pretty good place to play some golf in the winter time.