COLUMBUS (Ohio) • Donald Trump suffered a rare defeat on Wednesday when the World Golf Championships event held at a course that he owns outside Miami was moved to Mexico City.
The PGA Tour announced that it was ending a 54-year relationship with Doral, which the American presidential candidate bought in 2012 and spent US$250 million (S$343 million) renovating, because it could not find a sponsor to replace Cadillac, whose contract ran out this year.
The tournament is expected to be played at Club de Golf Chaultapec and will be renamed the Mexico Championship after the Tour reached a seven-year agreement with Grupo Salinas.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem insisted the move was not a political decision but admitted that Trump's larger-than-life profile created "difficulties" when it came to attracting sponsors.
"Donald Trump is a brand, a big brand, and when you're asking a company to invest millions of dollars in branding a tournament and they're going to share that brand with the host, it's a difficult decision," he said.
"From a political point of view, we are neutral, PGA Tour has never been involved in presidential politics," he added, before remarking: "The politics might have contributed some since he (Trump) has been running, and he knows that."
Trump broke the news of the dissociation on Tuesday in an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity and added, "I hope they have kidnapping insurance," a reference to the spate of abductions of high-profile sportsmen, including that of Mexican footballer Alan Pulido last weekend, who was rescued.
He also blasted the Tour, saying the move was akin to decisions by some United States companies to move jobs to Mexico, 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.
Rory McIlroy, the world No. 3, did not sound bothered by the relocation of the WGC event. In 2015-16, three of the four WGC events will be held in the US - at Doral; Austin, Texas; and Akron, Ohio. The fourth is in China.
"I always felt that having three of them in the United States wasn't really spreading the game," said Northern Irishman McIlroy, who poked fun at the fact the event is being moved to Mexico, the border country where Trump has promised to build a wall to keep out illegal immigrants.
"It's quite ironic that we're going to Mexico after being at Doral," McIlroy joked. "We just jump over the wall."
NEW YORK TIMES, REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE