Inside the Ropes: TPC Blue Monster to undergo major changes after this year

When Justin Rose defends his title this week in the WGC-Cadillac Championship, the TPC Blue Monster at what is now Trump Doral Resort will play host to a PGA Tour event for the 52nd consecutive year.

And perhaps for the last time as we have come to know the course, which was designed by Dick Wilson and opened in 1962. It was retooled by Jack Nicklaus in 2002.

After real estate mogul Donald Trump bought the property last year, he signed up course designer Gil Hanse to retool four of Doral's five courses, the exception being Greg Norman's Great White Course.

The renovation will begin soon after the final putt is holed on Sunday.

"We are obviously making some significant changes to golf holes, but I think within the spirit of Dick Wilson, we'll try to recapture some of the stylistic elements," said Hanse, who also is designing the course that will host golf in the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. "We'll try to recapture some of his exciting green shapes, hole locations.

"We'll try to create a golf course where angles are relevant again and where it's important to get to a proper side to score as opposed to just hitting it as far as you possibly can. If we can do some things that can hopefully enhance the interest and character in the course, that's really our first and foremost goal."

This is one of the iconic courses on the PGA Tour, so hopefully Hanse will not make it unrecognizable to players and golfers who have come to know and love the Blue Monster, so-called because there is water everywhere.

After Billy Casper came from four strokes behind with eight holes to play in windy conditions and claimed a one-stroke victory over Pete Bondeson in the inaugural Doral Open in 1962, the course's first director of golf, Frank Strafaci said: "This is a monster. A blue monster."

And the name stuck.

From 1962 until 2006, Doral tested the best in the game, often as the first event of the Florida Swing, and the names etched on the championship trophy would make any tournament proud.

Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Lee Trevino, Billy Casper, Raymond Floyd, Greg Norman, Nick Faldo, Tom Weiskopf, Ernie Els, Ben Crenshaw, Lanny Wadkins, Steve Elkington, Andy Bean, Hubert Green and Jim Furyk were among those to win on the Blue Monster.

In 2007, the World Golf Championships event replaced the regular PGA Tour event at Doral, and the winners have been Woods, Els, Phil Mickelson, Geoff Ogilvy, Rose and Nick Watney.

Only Rose and Watney are not major champions, proving that Doral's class clearly has survived the test of time.

"I've always loved playing here in Miami at Doral," said Els, who won at Doral in 2002 and 2010.

The tradition will continue on the new course because Trump recently signed an agreement with the PGA Tour to keep the WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral through 2023.

And as great as Doral has been, the resort needed a facelift, and Trump is promising it will become even better.

"It is a great honor to have such a long-term extension with the PGA Tour," Trump said when the deal was announced. "They know how great this facility will become. It will be the finest anywhere in the United States."

The TPC Blue Monster has been stretched out over the years to 7,344 yards, featuring plenty of sand in addition to all the water.

However, it's the finish at Doral that everyone remembers.

"Because 17 and 18 are pretty challenging coming in, you want to take advantage of the birdie opportunities on 15 and 16, so you have to get aggressive," said Mickelson, who won at Doral in 2009.

The 419-yard 17th is tough enough, but the famed 467-yard 18th is a real, uh, monster, ranked consistently among the top 100 golf holes in the world and where tournaments are won and lost.

Last year, the 18th played to a scoring average of 4.539, the second-toughest par 4 of the year on the PGA Tour. There is water all down the left side, with sand, trees and thick rough on the right.

"The 18th at Doral one toughest par 4s you will ever play, especially if it is into the wind," said Woods, who won at Doral in 2005, 2006 and 2007. " ... You have to fit your tee shot into a short, little neck between the water and bunkers, or the rough.

"And it's one tough second shot. You can bail out right into greenside bunker, but most balls tend to roll toward the back end of that bunker to give you a some type of a downhill lie into a downhill green."

When it comes to the teeth of the Blue Monster, all Hanse has to do is sharpen them.


PGA TOUR: WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship on the TPC Blue Monster at Trump Doral in Miami, Fla., Thursday through Sunday.

TV: Thursday and Friday, 2-6 p.m. EST on the Golf Channel; Saturday, 12-2 p.m. EST on the Golf Channel and 2-6 p.m. EST on NBC, and Sunday, 1-3 p.m. EDT on the Golf Channel and 3-7 p.m. EDT on NBC.

LAST YEAR: Justin Rose came from three strokes behind in the final round to claim the biggest victory of his career by one stroke over Bubba Watson, who blew the 54-hole lead before nearly forcing a playoff. Rose, who closed with a 2-under-par 70, was on the practice tee preparing for the possibility of extra holes when Watson, who shot 74, reached the 18th hole. Bubba, in a bit of a preview of his brilliant shot that won the Masters a month later, carved a brilliant approach shot out of the trees to within nine feet of the hole. Then he missed the putt, giving Rose the fourth victory of his PGA Tour career.

PGA TOUR: Puerto Rico Open at Trump International Golf Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, Thursday through Sunday.

TV: Thursday and Friday, 6:30-8:30 p.m. EST; Saturday, 6:30-9:30 p.m. EST, and Sunday, 7:30-10:30 p.m. EDT, on the Golf Channel each day.

LAST YEAR: George McNeil carded birdies on his last three holes to close out a 3-under-par 69 and claim the second victory of his PGA Tour career by two shots over Ryo Ishikawa of Japan. The 36-year-old McNeil, whose previous victory came in the 2007 Open, has been close several other times, with six runner-up finishes on the PGA Tour that included two playoff losses. Ishikawa, 20, who has won nine times on the Japan Golf Tour, birdied three of his last four holes and posted his best finish in a PGA Tour event.

CHAMPIONS TOUR: Toshiba Classic at Newport Beach Country Club in Newport Beach, Calif., March 15-17.

TV: Friday, 8:30-10:30 p.m. EDT; Saturday and Sunday, 7:30-9:30 p.m. EDT, on the Golf Channel each day.

LAST YEAR: Loren Roberts overcame three bogeys in a span of four holes through No. 17 by holing a five-foot birdie putt on the final hole to claim his 13th victory on the Champions Tour by two strokes over Mark Calcavecchia, Tom Kite and Bernhard Langer. Roberts, who had not won in a span of 34 tournaments dating to 2010, began the final day two strokes behind 54-hole leader Calcavecchia, but took the lead for good with birdies on three of his first four holes en route to a 2-under-par 69. Langer, who was in the group in front of Roberts, was only two strokes behind but could not take advantage of Roberts' late struggles because he carded a double-bogey 5 on the 17th hole, where his putt from the fringe rolled into the right greenside bunker, and he shot 70. Kite closed with a 69 and Calcavecchia struggled to a 73.

LPGA TOUR: RR Donnelly LPGA Founders Cup at Wildfire Golf Club at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort and Spa, March 14-17.

TV: Thursday and Friday, 6:30-8:30 p.m. EDT; Saturday and Sunday, 4-7 p.m. EDT, on the Golf Channel each day.

LAST YEAR: Yani Tseng of Taiwan, the No. 1 player in the Rolex Women's World Golf Rankings, two-putted from 40 feet for a par in cold and dark conditions to claim the 14th victory of her LPGA Tour career over Ai Miyazato of Japan and Na Yeon Choi of South Korea. Tseng, who closed with a 4-under 68, was three strokes behind Miyazato at the turn, but birdied five of the first six holes on the back nine before parring in. Tseng took the lead for good with a 20-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole and added a two-putt birdie in driving rain on the next hole. Miyazato, who closed with a 69, missed a 25-foot putt on the final hole that would have forced a playoff, while Choi, who shot 68, missed from 30 feet.