By Steve Elling
DORAL, Fla. -- A consummate showman, billionaire real-estate mogul Donald Trump has a lot of P.T. Barnum in him, and he certainly knows how to feed the media beast.
But when the guy talks about golf, you know it's not just blather and bluster intended purely for hype. The guy plays the game, is a single-digit handicapper, pays attention to the professional tours, and reads stories about the state of the sport.
As Trump was introduced on Thursday as the new owner of the Doral Golf Resort & Spa, which will undergo a $200 million makeover over the next three years, he promised he'd be a responsible steward and the end result would rock.
Doral, a landmark, has hosted the PGA Tour for 50 years, including this week's Cadillac Championship, which features the best field so far this season.
"We think that Doral has just tremendous opportunity, it's a tremendous location, 800 acres right smack in the middle of Miami, and we look to make this one of the great places anywhere in the world for golf," said Trump. "It needs a lot of work. It's a little bit tired and that's okay, and we are going to do something special."
Trump basically stole the place at fire-sale prices, paying $150 million, or roughly $187,000 per acre. The Blue Monster will be completely made over by Gil Hanse, who on Tuesday was named as the architect of the 2016 Olympics course in Brazil.
"That price allows me to pour some money into this thing," he said.
The Blue Monster will be shut down immediately after the 2013 tour event, Trump predicted, and be closed for six months during the redesign. Marriott is exiting as the hotel operator on June 1 when the property changes hands, and Trump said the clubhouse and hotel would remain open the entire three-year project while undergoing rehab in stages.
The driving range will effectively double in size and Trump indicated he is toying with the idea of morphing the Red and Gold course into the re-do, and possibly making one big-league-sized course by combining the acreage of the two.
Trump said he hasn’t decided what the venue will be named, excepting one part of the equation.
"I’ll always be keeping the name Doral in some form," he said.
Trump shot the breeze after the formal press conference about Rory McIlroy's win last week at Honda, the state of Tiger Woods' game and Phil Mickelson's re-emergence. He definitely keeps his finger on the pulse of the pro game and wants the sport to fit in seamlessly with the new purchase.
"We are going to do this really right," he said. "I enjoy it, and I view it as a business, but it's not my main business. But more importantly, I will spend much more money on fixing Doral than somebody else, because somebody else is looking on return on investment; I'm not. I'm looking to make an amazing place, and the return will come. I think it's a good thing for golf."
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