Fact or Fiction: Where does Doral rank?

Originally Published: March 1, 2006
ESPN.com/Golf Digest

Officially, the course for this week's PGA Tour event is called Doral Golf Resort & Spa (Blue Course). Unofficially? It's simply the Monster.

The Blue Monster is holding its annual tournament this week for the 45th consecutive year. Where does the event rank? How about the course? Who will win? Fact or Fiction answers all your questions.

Doral
Doral

• Other than the majors, Players Championship and WGC events, the Ford Championship is the top event on the PGA Tour.

Ron Sirak, executive editor, Golf World: FICTION. Doral used to be the unofficial start to the PGA Tour season, the first event of the year in which the foreign contingent, who were getting ready for The Masters, made an appearance. Not so much the case anymore. Three events run by past masters, whose involvement elicits loyalty, get better fields: Bay Hill Invitational (Arnold Palmer), Byron Nelson Classic and the Memorial (Jack Nicklaus).

Bob Harig, contributor, ESPN.com: FACT. You might even be able to argue it is better than last week's Match Play Championship, simply based on star power. Each of the top seven in the World Ranking is entered, and 17 of the top 20 money winners from 2005 are in the Doral field. If you go by strength of field, few other regular tour events will compare.

Brian Wacker, assistant editor, GolfDigest.com: FACT. Last year's Duel at Doral between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson aside, tournament director Eddie Carbone has gone to great lengths to elevate the Ford Championship to A-list status. Craig Barlow said earlier this week that it's one of the top 10 tournaments on tour, and a lot of players agree with him. So does the PGA Tour, by the way, because beginning in 2007, this event will move further up the food chain and gain World Golf Championship status.

Jason Sobel, golf editor, ESPN.com: FICTION. One year does not make a tournament. Yes, Tiger beat Phil in the final round last season (and, yes, other winners include such luminaries as Nicklaus, Lee Trevino and Greg Norman), but Doral is still a notch below three invitational events -- Bay Hill, Colonial and Memorial. Get back to me next year when this debuts as a WGC event.

Doral
Doral

• Doral, aka the Blue Monster, is the top course in Florida.

Sobel: FICTION. There are, at last count, a few thousand golf courses in Florida. We've heard that Seminole -- where Ernie Els usually plays a member-guest -- is terrific and that the Tavistock Cup competitors (Isleworth and Lake Nona) are very good, or at least look the part on TV. Toss in TPC-Sawgrass, Bay Hill, TPC-Heron Bay, etc., and it's still a testament to the Monster that it ranks in the state's top 10.

Wacker: FICTION. The Copperhead course at the Westin Innisbrook, TPC at Sawgrass and even Bay Hill all rank ahead of it as far as tour courses go. But honors for the best overall course in the Sunshine state have to go to Seminole Golf Club in Juno Beach. In Florida, it just doesn't get any better than the Donald Ross-designed Seminole, which has been around since 1929 and is ultraprivate and ultraperfect.

Harig: FICTION. Doral was once a feared venue, but that is no longer the case today. It looks good on TV, but it's not the same test as Copperhead at Innisbrook, home of the Chrysler Championship. The TPC-Sawgrass, home of the Players Championship, has emerged as one of the best courses in the country. And we're not even talking about many venues that do not host PGA Tour events.

Sirak: FICTION. Among tournament courses, the Stadium Course at TPC-Sawgrass has that honor. Among nontournament courses, Seminole gets the nod.

Woods
Woods

• Pick to win -- Ford Championship at Doral.

Wacker: TIGER WOODS. Last year's 63-66 finish by Woods was a tournament record for a weekend at Doral. His 24-under 264 was also a tournament record. Not that Tiger will repeat any of that, but in his limited appearances in Miami, he has won, finished second and tied for ninth. He'll add to that win total this week.

Harig: PHIL MICKELSON. Lefty rewards his sponsor, Ford, in its final event at Doral with the win after coming up a shot short a year ago.

Sobel: TIGER WOODS. Fun fact of the week: Stephen Ames owns the Doral course record with a 61 in 2000. Not sure whether Woods is still perturbed about Ames' comments about his swing, but if a 9 and 8 match play win wasn't enough, perhaps the defending champ will steal his record, too.

Sirak: ERNIE ELS. He starts his run for The Masters, the major that has broken his heart the most times.

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