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World Golf Championships at Club de Golf Chapultepec

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March 2, 2017

Jordan Spieth signs autographs and poses for photos during practice for the March 2-5 World Golf Championships Mexico at Club De Golf Chapultepec in Mexico City. (Photo: Jamie Squire, Getty Images)

Mexico City - The irony was not lost on Rory McIlroy last year when the PGA Tour decided to move this week's World Golf Championships event from Trump National Doral Miami to Mexico City.

"We'll just jump over the wall," McIlroy joked last year in reference to President Trump, who during his campaign pledged to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border to stem what he described as the onslaught of illegal immigration, crime and drug trafficking. And Mexico would pay for the wall, insisted Trump, who bought the Doral resort in 2012 and poured $250 million into renovations of the hotel and golf courses.

The move had nothing to do with politics, the PGA Tour said at the time. When the agreement was announced after Cadillac ended its sponsorship, former Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said it was a "difficult conversation" finding a new sponsor to share their brand with the Trump brand.

Grupo Salinas, a collection of companies based in Mexico City primarily involved in retail, television, telecommunications and other businesses, stepped in for seven years. The tournament is now the WGC-Mexico Championship played at Club de Golf Chapultepec in Polanco, a vibrant, upscale region of Mexico City.


Thus, instead of taking a smooth 90-minute drive down I-95 from the Honda Classic to Doral, players boarded charters to get to Mexico. No player said he was apprehensive about coming here, nor were their minds changed when Trump's policies toward Mexico on tougher border enforcement, trade and immigration produced public outrage that has led to protests across the country including effigies of Trump.

Players likely will not encounter such protests or feel unwanted in or outside the gallery ropes. Police escorts accompany them to and from the course, more so to deal with traffic issues than safety issues. The Sedena Military Base is right next door to the course.

The proverbial red carpet has been rolled out by the Salinas family at the Intercontinental Presidente, JW Marriott and Hyatt Regency hotels that are home to players, caddies and media this week in Polanco.

Across the street from the hotels are car dealerships for Bentley, Rolls-Royce and Cadillac. The French Embassy is nearby, as are nearly 100 restaurants within walking distance. A safe walking distance, the players said.

"Everything has been fantastic. They had it all dialed in for us," Brendan Steele said Tuesday before a practice round. "I don't see anything being a problem this week. ... Could we get heckled? I don't know. But we get heckled every week."

Rickie Fowler, who won last week's Honda Classic and took a charter out of Florida on Monday, has played in Brazil, China, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Australia and Britain. He didn't have any fear of coming to Mexico.

"I love getting to play different places, see different cities, and see different cultures. I was excited to come down here," he said. "There was a lot of media talk about Rio for the Olympics ... and that the golf week was going to be tough for us. And it ended up being awesome. If you are cautious, and you are smart about things, you'll be fine. And I think every city in the world has its dangerous spots."

John Sutcliffe, a major presence for ESPN Deportes, grew up alongside the 10th fairway of Club de Golf Chapultepec and is still a member of the club. He said there is a "Mexico within Mexico" that he hopes the rest of the world will see this week. He said his country is proud to host the WGC event and that no protests will be directed at the tournament.

While it's hard to play golf in Mexico because of the expense, he is hopeful the Salinas' commitment will help grow the game.

But Sutcliffe says this week is a big deal to the people of Mexico, who know this tournament was once played at Trump's place.

"Yes, obviously it's a big deal. He's not somebody right now who is very welcomed in Mexico," Sutcliffe said. "There is something that Mexicans love saying ... 'Yes, that tournament is now ours.' But this is a golf tournament and there will be great times here. I wish sports could fix all our problems."

Original article