With the possible exception of the Old Course in St. Andrews, there is no major league ballpark on earth that elicits higher volume and a wider assortment of opinions than the TPC Sawgrass, which home to the Players Championship since 1982. Any negative perception of Scotland’s sandy seaside ground, the game’s authentic birthplace, is largely the result of naivety. Despite its lunar appearance and anachronistic qualities, St. Andrews is a marvelously simple gem. Golf‘s interpretation of the authentic item.
Sawgrass couldn’t be more different. It was designed with the world’s best players in mind, a grueling test derived from the mind of Pete Dye and the vision of Deane Beman. It’s as contrived as it is artificial, more fabricated than fake, a 7,245-meter obstacle course filled with bells, whistles and gimmicks that make circuit pros cringe.
If any pitch could lack conscience, it’s located just down the street from the PGA Tour headquarters in North Florida. Forty years of carnage has confirmed Sawgrass’ reputation as a beast and the critical importance of imposing a daunting challenge on those who play the game at its highest.
Guys who shoot 75 will always complain about unfair setups and demanding conditions. This is an essential postscript to stink joint. Let them complain, for shouting out loud. This is professional golf, not club championship flight B. About half of all Tour events are little more than slow-pitch softball games with much better pay, played at venues that are no longer capable of demanding supreme skill or never have been.
Sawgrass, meanwhile, has become the unofficial centerpiece of the toughest five-week period the big boys will encounter all year. It started on the final leg of the West Coast swing in Los Angeles, where Riviera played easier than usual, but still produced a modest 12 72-hole totals of 10 under or better. Ten was the winning number at the Honda Classic, where 2 under was good enough for a seventh share.
You saw what happened last week at Bay Hill. Difficult course specialists like Scottie Scheffler and Tyrrell Hatton should get more than eight or 10 tournaments suited to their style of play over an entire season. Mean Street ends next week in Innisbrook, which has proven time and time again that it has all the muscle you could ask for from a Tour venue.
It’s hard to believe the Southwest Florida tournament was kicked off in the fall series just a few years ago before the Camp Ponte Vedra brass wisely reinserted Innisbrook into the starting lineup. It doesn’t have to be all about title sponsorship and charity bread. It’s the golf that matters, God forbid, and when guys play between 7 and 10 million, is it too much to ask for a little club slamming against the bag after an overmatched sucker makes his third consecutive bogey?
Hard golf is sexy, man. If I wanted to watch a putting contest, I could go to the Sports Authority and watch Ted fight Wilbur for five bucks on this giant polythene green mat.
The brave men who oversee the Tour’s field staff are more than happy to define the reality of the hard versus easy factor. There may be two dozen tournaments held in locations that simply cannot be customized to penalize players for things like missing 20-yard fairways or breaking a driver on every hole that isn’t a par-3. Not only has the latest equipment allowed them to play competent shots from nothing less than brutal, they consider it well worth the risk to think remotely now and deal with any potential issues minutes later.
It is commonly called bomb and gouge. Some people think it’s the death of golf, but some people still haven’t had the COVID-19 vaccine either. Plus, chicks dig the longball, which is why Bryson DeChambeau and many others are so exciting to watch, but in this age of uncompromising power and lost course-handling skills, purists continue to writhe. hands.
Is this the end of the world as we know it? Maybe, but that world keeps spinning and a Tour win is now worth seven figures almost every Sunday. That’s what makes this five-week site tax period such a valuable commodity. This requires quality length off the tee and puts more of an emphasis on defense when the situation calls for it, which makes precision with the irons much more valuable.
If that happened every week, we’d probably be a bit spoiled, but then everyone would find something else to complain about. What happened at Bay Hill last Sunday was golf’s most fascinating. Every club swing had consequences. Every player in the game knew that hanging on would keep them in the hunt. Instead of the usual succession of 100-yard sprints, the last lap turned into the longest mile.
May the best win. And with each passing month, Scheffler looks like one of the best men out there.
The Players Championship has never been or ever will be golf’s so-called fifth major, but that’s a big deal with its huge purse and Tour-infused prestige. Camp Ponte Vedra starts promoting the event well before the previous Christmas, which is more than a bit of a stretch, but there’s nothing wrong with a mighty empire beaming with pride for a tournament that has grown to be a 40-year-old stallion. with bulging biceps and a real sense of what this blessed game is all about.
It’s supposed to be hard, stupid.