(Reuters) - Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has cast a shadow over the WGC-Cadillac Championship in Miami, even though he has yet to make an appearance at this week’s edition as owner of the hosting venue.
Trump’s polarizing words on the campaign trail have angered many people in the world of golf, and there is a possibility his Trump National Doral resort will not stage the elite World Golf Championships event after this year.
The PGA Tour has a contract with Doral through to 2023, but Cadillac is in the final year of its title sponsorship and does not plan to renew, leaving the path open for a new sponsor to take the tournament elsewhere.
Trump has made his party’s establishment uneasy with his abrasive tone and policy positions, including his promise to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexican border, deport 11 million illegal immigrants and temporarily bar Muslims from entering the country.
And Trump’s antagonistic comments have already cost him in the golfing world.
The elite PGA Grand Slam of Golf, a 36-hole stroke-play event that brings together the winners of the season’s four majors, was scrapped last year due to complications over the proposed venue, Trump’s National course in Los Angeles.
Trump was criticized for comments he made about undocumented immigrants from Mexico, whom he described as rapists and drug-runners when he launched his bid for the Republican nomination, and plans were made by organizers to seek out a different venue following a mutual agreement between Trump and the PGA of America.
Asked this week about Doral’s future as a venue for the WGC event, the PGA Tour said in a statement: ”Mr. Trump’s comments are inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf.
”The PGA Tour has had a 53-year commitment to the Doral community, the greater Miami area and the charities that have benefited from the tournament. Given this commitment, we are moving forward with holding the 2016 event at the Blue Monster.
“Immediately after the completion of the 2016 tournament, we will explore all options regarding the event’s future.”
Trump’s campaign could not be reached immediately for comment on Saturday.
Trump told Golf Week earlier this week that he had not spoken to the PGA Tour about Doral possibly losing the tournament, adding: ”If they want to move it, that’s up to them.
“I think they would be foolish to want to move it, because it’s the best course in Florida ... it’s got tremendous history. There’s nothing comparable to Doral.”
Trump is usually ever-present at golf events hosted by any of his courses but he has not been spotted at Doral this week, mainly because of his hectic commitments on the campaign trail.
While Trump has been conspicuously absent from Doral, a local protest group has been drumming up support to persuade the PGA Tour to drop the Miami-area venue from its playing schedule.
“This started after Trump made some of his most outrageous comments about immigration, about not letting Muslims into the United States,” Aaron Viles, senior grassroots organizer for Care2, a social network of citizen activists, told Reuters.
“Anyone willing to have Trump’s name associated with their endeavors is tacitly approving that type of speech. The goal is to get the PGA Tour to drop the Trump location.”
Care2 launched an online petition in early December demanding that the Cadillac Championship be removed from Doral, and has so far attracted 94,000 supporters.
Doral has been a PGA Tour venue since 1962, and Trump is expected to be there on Sunday, most likely for the conclusion of the final round.
The best players in the game are competing this week, but most have been reluctant to be drawn into making comments about Trump and the prospect of the event changing venues.
“I‘m not American, he’s not going to be the leader of my country,” former world number one Rory McIroy of Northern Ireland told reporters.
“I really thought I knew what politics were until I started to watch some of these presidential debates,” McIroy said. “It’s shocking. If I were to vote, I‘m not sure I would want to vote for any of the candidates.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Additional reporting by Zachary Fagenson in Miami; Editing by Larry Fine and Leslie Adler