(Editor’s note: This story originally ran in USA Today sports on Dec. 16, 2014, but is being re-run after the news that a new PGA Tour stop will be added here.)
CABO SAN LUCAS, Mexico — Eight years after he created his golf course design business, six years after the seismic downward shift in the global economy and three months after Hurricane Odile blasted through these parts, Tiger Woods finally opened the first golf course with his signature on it.
At the bottom tip of the Baja Peninsula, at 8:40 a.m. local time Tuesday with a mariachi band 14 instruments strong nearby and the Pacific Ocean off in the distance, Woods sent the ceremonial first tee shot hit at El Cardonal at Diamante, an upscale resort/housing complex that is a playground for both young and old and everyone in between.
Woods, who has lost 15 pounds the past two weeks due to a lingering illness, found a fairway bunker with his drive as nearly 500 people walked along as he played the front nine. While under the weather, he still was upbeat.
“We knew this day would come,” Woods said.
Others had doubts.
Three previous projects by Woods – in Baja Mexico, Dubai and North Carolina – were upended by the economy or developer problems with finances.
Then Hurricane Odile provided another obstacle and pushed back the opening back six weeks. Finally, the day arrived.
“You always want to have a first some time,” Woods said.
He won’t have to wait long for his second opening, and his third and fourth and beyond. Woods suddenly has his hands full in the design business.
His design near Houston called Bluejack National is set to open in the fall of 2015. He announced a collaboration with Donald Trump where Woods will design an 18-hole course at Trump World Golf Club in Dubai, which will be a centerpiece of a community called Akoya Oxygen. And Tuesday he announced he would be designing a second 18-hole course at Diamante tentatively called The Oasis.
But Woods won’t fill his days with blueprints.
“I’m only going to do a few at a time,” Woods said. “I’m still in the peak of my playing years and I’m still concentrating on winning golf tournaments and winning major championships. I just don’t have the time, with family, to try and do all that and try and design 15 courses all around the world.
“I want to do a couple here and there and give them my entire input and time.”
El Cardonal plays to a par of 72 and can stretch out more than 7,300 yards as it weaves through natural arroyos, native dunes and mature vegetation.
There are few forced carries. The fairways are wide, the greens are big. Players will be able to run the ball up onto the greens. And if players miss a green, there are plenty of options for their next shot.
“His idea was to make it fun and make people enjoy it,” said Ken Jowdy, CEO and developer of Diamante. “It’s been great to work with him. I wondered if he was committed to being in the design business and committed to the project and the first time I met him it was clear.
” … I don’t think anyone else can move the needle like he has for us. For whatever reason Tiger brings it to another level.”