Rules Blog - The Players
TPC Sawgrass, scene of The Players delivered a thrilling final round with KJ Choi of South Korea eventually winning at the first hole in the play-off with David Toms of the USA.
I was delighted to attend the event, joining the normal PGA Tour staff as one of the twelve invited guest officials from various golf organisations around the world, including the European, Canadian, Asian, South American, Sunshine and Japanese tours, as well as Golf Canada, the USGA and the PGA of America. Quite an international flavour to the PGA Tour's flagship event.
The Players moved from its traditional March date in the golfing schedule a few years ago – when it was played in March the course would be overseeded to get it ready, but the date switch requires no such overseeding. Compared to Scotland, the winters in this part of northern Florida are not particularly cold and harsh, but the grasses used on the TPC, various types of Bermuda grass, need quite a bit of heat to grow. The winter, therefore requires a considerable amount of effort to be put in by the course superintendent and his staff to get the course right. It was. From tee to green it was in excellent condition.
At 7215 yards, the course is by no means long by modern professional standards, but it asks a lot from the players. Tee-shots on par-fours and fives require players to shape the ball, left to right or right to left, and positioning is key, as the second shots to the small and well-protected greens require pin-point accuracy.
Preparation is vital, not just for the competitors but from the Rules staff as well, and the many water hazards took two days to clearly mark with paint – lots of paint – and stakes. That is time well spent though as players, and officials, need to know when a ball is in a water hazard or not, and whether it is a normal water hazard, defined by yellow stakes and lines, or a lateral water hazard, defined by red stakes and lines. There were also drop-zones employed, as additional options, at the fourth, 13th and 17th holes.
The 17th - one of the most famous par-three holes in golf. In many ways it is quite unlike the rest of the course, much of which meanders through the trees. You come to the 17th and the course just opens up; all of a sudden you are in a huge bowl, surrounded by spectators, TV towers, and hospitality tents. The 17th measures only 137 yards, but its island green surrounded by water is a real test of nerve.