The PGA plans to move a long-standing golf tournament from Donald Trump’s Doral, Florida course to one in Mexico City – sparking rumors that the organization is looking for either more money or less Trump for their event.
The tournament chairman of the former Cadillac Championship, one of the four World Golf Championships that attract the best players in the world, said the PGA Tour has informed him the event is leaving next year for Mexico City.
The move comes after Cadillac pulled out as a sponsor and the PGA decided to explore other options for the event in the wake of his controversial comments on Muslim immigrants. Outgoing World Golf Championship-Cadillac Championship chairman Butch Buchholz said it was a coincidence that the changes happened after Trump’s comments.
“Cadillac was going to leave,” Buchholz said. “It had nothing to do with Trump. They said they’re changing their whole marketing strategy. The tour had almost a year to find a replacement.”
Trump said Tuesday night in a Fox News interview with Sean Hannity that he had just heard the PGA Tour was taking the tournament out of the Miami area.
"They're moving it to Mexico City, which, by the way, I hope they have kidnapping insurance," the presumptive Republican nominee added.
Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said that the move comes down purely to money. He said after scouting other golf courses in the Miami area, the PGA gave him an ultimatum late Friday night: either secure $6 million for the yearly golf tournament or it will be moved to Mexico. With the holiday weekend coming up, Gimenez said the PGA’s deal amounted to an exit announcement.
"It's a question of money," Gimenez said, according to the Miami Herald. "Cadillac was going to spend a certain amount. The people in Mexico are going to spend a certain amount. The gap, I guess, is $6 million."
Despite Gimenez’s assurances that the move to Mexico was about the money, there is still speculation that Trump’s rhetoric on the campaign trail is the main reason for the PGA moving the tournament to Mexico.
Gimenez also told the Herald about an earlier effort by the PGA to move the tournament out of Trump's Doral resort to Key Biscayne after Trump’s comments last summer about immigrants and Mexico.
Gimenez himself returned a $15,000 donation from Trump to his mayoral reelection bid and the Miami-Dade commissioners passed a resolution that condemned the presumptive Republican nominee.
"There was a time when Donald Trump was kind of toxic, and maybe toxic to the PGA. They thought they may have difficulty in getting sponsors," Gimenez said. "At the time, they thought Cadillac was going to pull out. By moving the venue, they thought it would be easier to get sponsors and raise more money."
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem was traveling and was expected to discuss the change Wednesday afternoon.
Trump criticized the tour in a statement Wednesday, calling it a "sad day for Miami, the United States and the game of golf" to leave Doral after 54 years and go to Mexico.
"No different than Nabisco, Carrier and so many other American companies, 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," Trump said. "This decision only further embodies the very reason I am running for president of the United States."
After Trump's comments about Mexico last year, golf quickly distanced itself from him, though not entirely.
The PGA of America canceled its Grand Slam of Golf that was scheduled for Trump's course in Los Angeles last fall, and golf organizations stood behind a statement that said Trump's comments were not consistent with golf's commitment to be diverse and welcoming.
But the U.S. Women's Open and the Senior PGA Championship next year are still scheduled for Trump properties, as is the 2022 PGA Championship.
Doral has been the longest-running PGA Tour event in Florida, dating to 1962. The Cadillac Championship had been at Doral since 2007 was one of the WGCs that originally moved around the world. It was played in Spain, Ireland and England until 2007, when all the WGCs moved to America. Now there is one in Shanghai.
Doral had been a regular PGA Tour event before that.
The PGA Tour already has one tournament in Mexico in the fall, the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, held at a beach resort south of Cancun.
The tour has had problems in Mexico City in the past. When a PGA Tour Champions event was held there in 2003, six players were robbed at gunpoint in a restaurant, and thieves got away with expensive watches. No one was hurt.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.