DORAL, Fla. – Of all the things Donald Trump buttoned up before this week’s WGC-Cadillac Championship at Doral, the weatherman apparently didn’t get the memo. A storm rolled through south Florida about three hours into the opening round and halted play for nearly 2 ½ hours, sending The Don’s grand opening off script. Luckily for the boss, the play on the course maintained the status quo. In CliffsNotes form, Russell Henley picked up where he left off after winning his second PGA Tour title last week up the road at PGA National; Rory McIlroy showed that good play can overcome a momentary lapse; and Tiger Woods is still not firing on all cylinders. The good news for Woods, he has three more days to figure things out as long as his ailing back, and the forecast, continues to cooperate. WGC-Cadillac Championship: Articles, videos and photos Only six players completed the opening round before play was halted by darkness just after 6 p.m. Harris English was among those who finished. He closed with a birdie at the par-3 ninth hole – he started on No. 10 – for a 3-under 69 and the clubhouse lead. Winds gusted to 25 mph before and after the weather delay, making the revamped Blue Monster even tougher. “It was blowing so much harder,” said Hunter Mahan, who was 3 under through 15 holes when play was called for the day. “I was looking at my book all day off the tee to figure out where I could hit it, where the runoffs were going to be and figure out what clubs I was going to hit. It definitely made it challenging.” First-round play is scheduled to resume at 8:45 a.m. on Friday, but things don’t look as if they will be getting any easier. And that was Trump and architect Gil Hanse’s master plan. Consider the new and improved Blue Monster a mission accomplished. Just 19 players, including Henley at 2 under, were under par when darkness fell, compared to 40 players in the red through 18 holes last year at the World Golf Championship. Included in that group was McIlroy, who blew a late lead last week at the Honda Classic, but he didn’t seem fazed by his Sunday swoon. “I’m playing well and I’m comfortable with my game. So I wasn’t going to let one bad day last week sort of derail the good path that I’m on,” said McIlroy, who was at 1 under through 14 holes. But if wind, rain and waiting were the stars of Thursday’s show, the nip/tucked Blue Monster was the top supporting actor. “In general they have brought a lot of strategy into play on the golf course,” said Jason Dufner, who has three holes to play and was one of five players at 3 under. “This used to be a golf course where you grab your driver on every hole, swing for the fences and play from there. You can’t get away with that here at Doral anymore.” Woods was one of the players who found the going tough on Thursday, but at least this time when he made an early exit it wasn’t to withdraw. The world No. 1 struggled to find fairways, but so did most of the field on a windswept day. Woods also had difficulty with the new greens, but his ailing back, which forced him off the course last Sunday after 13 holes at the Honda Classic, wasn’t an issue. “My warm-up was good, and I felt good all day even through the delay,” said Woods, who was 2 over par through 10 holes. “I’m ready to go back out tomorrow and play well.” Some players were surprised that Round 1 reconvened following the mid-day storm. Initially, players were told the rain would continue throughout the afternoon and there was little chance play would resume. English retreated to his room at the redesigned resort and was contemplating a nap when he got the call, but at least he didn’t have far to go to get back to work. Jonas Blixt had left the property and was in a nearby Five Guys ordering a late lunch when he got the call. “He had to run back out here,” laughed English, who was paired with Blixt on Day 1. And the rest of the week looks like it will be a similar scramble for players and officials with a forecast for more storms over the next two days. Mother Nature, it seems, didn’t get Trump’s memo.
In a “long view” edition of Cut Line, Royal Portrush’s time arrives after a half-century wait, while Tiger Woods’ time on the bench remains uncertain. Made Cut Royal return. After a 68-year hiatus the game’s oldest championship will return to one of the game’s best golf courses. The R&A announced on Monday that the 2019 Open Championship will be played at Royal Portrush, the Northern Irish gem that last hosted the event in 1951. Although it took plenty of leg work to bring Portrush back into the Open fold – including a dramatic restructuring of the course that includes two new holes to replace the 17th and 18th, which will be used for the championship’s corporate village – those who lobbied for the event, most notably high-profile locals Darren Clarke and Rory McIlory, proved to be too persuasive to ignore. As an aside, if you’re looking for an early favorite to win the ’19 Open may we suggest McIlroy, who as a 16-year-old set the Royal Portrush course record with a 61. That’s Rich. Depending on how things play out next fall at the Ryder Cup, Rich Beem probably shouldn’t expect a Christmas card from U.S. captain Davis Love III. That is, of course, if Ian Poulter makes next year’s European team and does what Ian Poulter does best, which is beat Americans in the biennial event. Poulter, who dropped out of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking and lost his spot in next month’s WGC-HSBC Champions, needed to play the Hong Kong stop to maintain his European Tour status and remain eligible for next year’s Ryder Cup. Beem, who was already in Hong Kong preparing to play the event on a sponsor exemption, gave up his spot in the field so Poulter could play. “I saw Rich in the hotel this morning, so I went over and said, ‘That’s awfully kind of you to do this,’” said Poulter after an opening 3-under 67 on Thursday. “He didn’t have to, but he was nice enough to do it, and yeah, I have to thank him for that.” If the odd turn of events leads to another historic Ryder Cup for Poulter, and another European victory, Beem shouldn’t expect the same level of gratitude from Love and the U.S. team. Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF) Good news, bad news. Tiger Woods resurfaced this week at an event he had planned to play before being sidelined by his second back surgery earlier this year. That’s the good news. The bad is that it’s about as close to a competition as he will get for some time. “I’ll start my rehab soon, but it’s a long and tedious process. The last time, it took me a long time to come back,” Woods said at the Bridgestone America’s Golf Cup in Mexico. “Some of the guys who have had it [microdiscectomy surgery] done said it took them over a year to be pain free. I hope it doesn’t take me that long to be pain free.” Woods said he’s facing a “long and tedious rehab” and that he’s hopeful he can return to the Tour “early in 2016.” While that’s probably not what fans want to hear from the former world No. 1, after numerous starts and stops in recent years another extended break may be his only chance to finally break free from the DL. Tweet of the week: After watching the bombers hit it 400 yards last night, I’m convinced I need to hit it farther. #LongDrive— Brooks Koepka (@BKoepka) October 21, 2015 Everybody loves the long ball, even Koepka who is one of the PGA Tour’s longest, and this week’s World Long Drive Championship was certainly entertaining, but some purists used the event to lament what they see as continued out-of-control distance gains. Tour statistics, however, suggest otherwise. Although the driving distance leaders have varied the last five years – from J.B. Holmes’ circuit-leading 318-yard average in 2011, to Luke List’s 306 yards in ’13 and last season’s 317-yard average by Dustin Johnson – the overall Tour average has remained surprisingly flat over that period. In 2011, the circuit average was 290 yards, compared to 289 yards last season, suggesting that while the long ball is still entertaining, it is, at least at the highest level, not the uncontrollable force some think it to be. Missed Cut Travel warnings. Players were warned in an email from the Tour on Thursday of potential risks associated with a recent typhoid outbreak and poor air quality in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, site of next week’s CIMB Classic. According to the email obtained by Cut Line, there have been more than 30 cases of typhoid reported in Kuala Lumpur since the beginning of August, and players were also warned of poor air quality due to severe drought conditions. While this is the cost of doing business in far-flung locales, and according to officials hasn’t led to rash of withdrawals, what is curious is that the Tour didn’t send a similar warning to any caddies. Communication between the circuit and caddies has broken down this year since a lawsuit was filed in February in U.S. District Court by a group of caddies against the Tour. Legal proceedings have a tendency to cool relationships, but issues of public safety should be above the fray.