(Reuters) - The PGA Tour’s long-established tournament in Miami will move to Mexico City next year, a switch prompted by sponsorship issues and welcomed by some players but blasted by Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump.
The elite World Golf Championships event formerly known as the WGC-Cadillac Championship will no longer be staged at Trump’s Doral course after the tour was unable to find a new title sponsor.
The PGA Tour had a contract with Doral through to 2023, but Cadillac ended its backing this year and no replacement could be found. It will be renamed the WGC-Mexico Championship and will be played from March 2-5, 2017 at a venue yet to be announced.
“The decision made here was based on the reality that we were not able to secure sponsorship for next year’s WGC at Doral, or for out years for that matter,” PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem told a news conference in Dublin, Ohio.
“At the same time, we had an opportunity to build what we think is going to be a spectacular event in an area that is strategically important to the growth of the sport and the activity of the PGA Tour that has been focused in South America and Central America for the last good number of years.”
Trump, however, blasted the PGA Tour earlier in the day, saying the move was akin to decisions by some U.S. companies to move jobs to Mexico, which has been a frequent refrain of his presidential campaign.
“The PGA Tour has put profit ahead of thousands of American jobs, millions of dollars in revenue for local communities and charities and the enjoyment of hundreds of thousands of fans who make the tournament an annual tradition,” he said in a statement.
Trump, as he runs for presidency of the United States, has angered many people with his polarizing words on the campaign trail, 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 his antagonistic comments have previously cost him in the golfing world.
The elite PGA Grand Slam of Golf, a 36-hole stroke-play event that features 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.
Finchem, however, said that the PGA Tour’s decision to move the WGC event from Doral to Mexico had been “fundamentally a sponsorship issue”.
He added: “We are a conservative organization. We value dollars for our players. We have a strong sense of fiduciary responsibility, so we make decisions that are in the best interests of our players, short term and long term.
“From a golf standpoint, we have no issues with Donald Trump. From a political standpoint, we are neutral. The PGA Tour has never been involved or cares to be involved in presidential politics ... this is not a political decision.”
Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, a former world number one, warmly welcomed Wednesday’s announcement.
“They’re called the World Golf Championship for a reason,” McIlroy told reporters on the eve of this week’s Memorial tournament in Dublin, Ohio. “I always felt that having three of them in the United States wasn’t really spreading the game.
“So I think it’s a good move. I think it really is. It’s going to be a great prize fund. It’s going to have all the best players in the world there. I’m sure it’s going to be a good golf course.”
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Andrew Both