Doral just isn't Doral anymore

3/20/2007 - Golf

MIAMI -- Billy Casper won the first PGA Tour event played here, back when Doral was considered so far out of Miami that it might as well have been in the Everglades. There was not even a paved road to the resort.

The year was 1962, and the Blue Monster was truly fearsome. Casper's winning total was 283, just 5 under par. Raymond Floyd remembered thinking at the time that it was the hardest course he had ever seen.

Over the years, the tournament grew in stature, with most of the game's greats showing up to get their games in shape for the Masters, which was usually just a few weeks to a month away.

Jack Nicklaus won the tournament twice. Floyd won it back-to-back and again when on the verge of joining the Champions Tour. Greg Norman won it three times, each victory three years apart.

Doug Sanders, Lee Trevino, Hubert Green, Andy Bean, Tom Weiskopf, Tom Kite, Lanny Wadkins, Ben Crenshaw, Nick Faldo, Ernie Els, Tiger Woods … all were part of the tournament's storied history.

And now the book on that tournament is closed. Sort of.

Doral is still on the map -- in fact, it has incorporated into its own town just west of the Miami International Airport -- but the tournament has a different look and a new name.

Instead of the Doral Open or any of its name variations, the tournament is now called the CA Championship -- one of three World Golf Championship events on the current schedule.

And that basically means the tournament known as Doral is gone. The new event will take on the history of the event formerly known as the American Express Championship, which dates to only 1999.

"I don't like that, actually," said Steve Elkington, who won Doral in 1997 and 1999. "I understand why they do it, but I don't like that theory."

When the PGA Tour revamped its Florida Swing by moving The Players Championship from the last weekend in March to May, it had an opening for another tournament. In stepped the PODS Championship near Tampa.

But the tour didn't stop there. Because the new FedEx Cup schedule condensed the season, the old AmEx tournament was left on the outside. The tour decided to move it inside and put it here.

The result seems a bit odd, but it would be hard for any of the locals to complain. As recently as four years ago, the Doral tournament suffered from being right after the Match Play Championship. Many big names stayed away.

Now they're all here. Each of the top 50 players in the world is entered, and a field of 74 will begin play Thursday. Although there has been some murmuring that a limited-field event should not be so close to the Masters -- because it potentially thwarts others from qualifying -- you can't beat this kind of gathering.

"I think this is a good golf course for this type of event," Ireland's Padraig Harrington said. "It's a very exciting golf course."

But, Harrington added, "All thoughts are on the Masters now. This is a big event, but I think everyone's thoughts are on Augusta. The key to this week is to try and play well, and if you get into contention, there is added focus. If you don't get into contention, then you are looking ahead to Augusta."

That has always been the case at Doral, no matter what the tournament is called.

Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at harig@sptimes.com.