Sawgrass Revolution

By Adam BarrOctober 15, 2005, 4:00 pm
Were so busy using the present to get ahead, theres no time for looking back.
 
Youre familiar with the feeling. An accidental chance to see some old video ' for instance, Jack Nicklaus at Baltusrol in 1980 ' and you remember what your hectic chase for the future made you forget about the past. Man, he was good. Electrifying, even after all these years.
 
That must have happened to the folks at the PGA Tour recently. While preparing for the 25th anniversary of The Players Championship and looking at photos of former commissioner Deane Beman and golf course architect Pete Dye during the building of the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass in the late 1970s, they must have thought, Wow. This was quite an accomplishment.
 
It was. The land on which the course now stands was as formidable a swamp as any in Florida. Clearing it to make way for a world class golf course and resort, along with the practice areas and other amenities good enough to attract the worlds best professional golfers, appeared to be such a huge task that some privately doubted it could be done well.
 
But it never paid to doubt Beman or Dye. And so today, the Tour has both a tournament and a facility that are the envy of the sports world.
 
So why would they want to tinker with it?
 
This isnt about making The Players Championship a major, said Bob Combs, the Tours senior vice president of communications, and its not about moving it from March to May.
 
The whole major debate isnt relevant to a tournament that has developed such stature. And the May move, while possible, misses the point of the Tours just-announced campaign to rejuvenate The Players Championship. (The changes, which we reported on Golf Central on Oct. 11, would be complete in time for the 2007 tournament.)
 
Twenty-five years ago, we reinvented the next generation of [professional] golf, says the Tours presentation materials. Our goal is to elevate the entire experience for players, spectators, members and guests ' to reinvent the next generation of golf again.
 
Youve got to admire anyone who wants to reengineer a brand while things are good, instead of waiting until problems crop up. So what will the new Players Championship look and feel like?
 
As the Tour has said, it all begins with the golf course.
 
Its a part of the life of any golf course. Over the years, organic matter (dead turf, weeds, insect remains, you name it) builds up under the turf and blocks proper drainage. Rain pools, turf gets spongy, and roll off the driver simply stops while water trickles through oh so slowly.
 
At Sawgrass, the Tour noticed, it affected scoring. In soggy years, the winner averaged almost 14 under par (Greg Norman, a bomber in his day, go it to 24 under in 1994). But in years when the course stayed dry, scores went up; winners averaged between eight and nine under. Driving the ball long involved the risk of sending it through the fairway into the famed penal rough, or into areas hemmed in by trees. Approach shots that werent well placed could run through the green; comebackers are especially touch at Sawgrass.
 
Fortunately, Dye is still around to help solve the problem. To prove his point about the organic muck below the turf, he personally shoveled soil samples from the course, bagged them, and put them on current commissioner Tim Finchems desk. Replacing that junk with sand, Dye said, would speed up drainage and make the course play firm, fast and fair even after torrential rains. Were talking 24,000 tons of sand, enough to fill a line of dump trucks seven miles long. That, and special vacuums to suck moisture out of the greens (such as those found at Augusta National), would be part of a hefty price tag to update the course, between $6 million and $8 million.
 
The Tour never hesitated. The turf will be peeled back after the 2006 tournament and the muck removed, and the sand will be put in. Its been done on a few holes already as an experiment, and the locals ' that is, the tour pros who live at Sawgrass ' are happy with the results.
 
In conversations with media, Tour officials have said they admire the quick drainage and hard-and-fast nature of the great Scottish courses. The bounce and roll encountered on the Auld Sod, they say, invigorate golfs challenge. Thats what theyre looking for in the new Sawgrass. They also want The Players Championship to set the bar for what a PGA Tour event can be. They want it to be something the other 47 official money events on Tour can aspire to. And while not every Tour venue has a few million dollars available to redo its substrate, some will ' and that could make for exciting play.
 
From the fan and member points of view, the extracurricular amenities are no less ambitious. A permanent entry walkway, built to welcome and inspire, will get fans in the mood for a top sports event before they even walk out on the course. Remodeled mounding (there goes another 65,000 tons of soil) will improve sight lines and on-the-ground sitting comfort, and new Jumbotron-type scoreboards will show action on other holes. A huge clubhouse, whose 80,000 square feet will be reoriented to face down 18, will include everything from interactive history exhibits to Mediterranean Revival architecture.
 
Also, based on data that show that nearly a third of the fan base at the course every year is from outside the Jacksonville/PonteVedra area, the Tour is making sure to 'nationalize' its spectator marketing and amenities so The Players Championship will be welcoming to both locals and out-of-town visitors.
 
Between the fan friendliness and the firmer, faster golf course, the 2007 Players Championship will feel like a new event.
 
Or perhaps, in 25 years, one that will make us think, Wow. That was quite an accomplishment.
 
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Perez skips Torrey, 'upset' with Ryder Cup standings

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 2:19 am

Pat Perez is unhappy about his standing on the U.S. Ryder Cup points list, and his situation won't improve this week.

Perez won the CIMB Classic during the fall portion of this season, and he followed that with a T-5 finish at the inaugural CJ Cup. But he didn't receive any Ryder Cup points for either result because of a rule enacted by the American task force prior to the 2014 Ryder Cup which only awards points during the calendar year of the biennial matches as well as select events like majors and WGCs during the prior year.

As a result, Perez is currently 17th in the American points race - behind players like Patrick Reed, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas and James Hahn, none of whom have won a tournament since the 2016 Ryder Cup - as he looks to make a U.S. squad for the first time at age 42.

"That kind of upset me a little bit, the fact that I'm (17) on the list, but I should probably be (No.) 3 or 4," Perez told Golf Digest. "So it kind of put a bitter taste in my mouth. The fact that you win on the PGA Tour and you beat some good players, yet you don't get any points because of what our committee has decided to do."

Perez won't be earning any points this week because he has opted to tee it up at the European Tour's Omega Dubai Desert Classic. The decision comes after Perez finished T-21 last week at the Singapore Open, and it means that the veteran is missing the Farmers Insurance Open in his former hometown of San Diego for the first time since 2001.

Perez went to high school a few minutes from Torrey Pines, and he defeated a field that included Tiger Woods to win the junior world title on the South Course in 1993. His father, Tony, has been a longtime starter on the tournament's opening hole, and Perez was a runner-up in 2014 and tied for fourth last year.

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Woods favored to miss Farmers Insurance Open cut

By Will GrayJanuary 24, 2018, 1:54 am

If the Las Vegas bookmakers are to be believed, folks in the San Diego area hoping to see Tiger Woods this week might want to head to Torrey Pines early.

Woods is making his first competitive start of the year this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, and it will be his first official start on the PGA Tour since last year's event. He missed nearly all of 2017 because of a back injury before returning with a T-9 finish last month at the Hero World Challenge.

But the South Course at Torrey Pines is a far different test than Albany, and the Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook lists Woods as a -180 favorite to miss the 36-hole cut. It means bettors must wager $180 to win $100, while his +150 odds to make the cut mean a bettor can win $150 with a $100 wager.

Woods is listed at 25/1 to win. He won the tournament for the seventh time in 2013, but in three appearances since he has missed the 36-hole cut, missed the 54-hole cut and withdrawn after 12 holes.

Here's a look at the various Woods-related prop bets available at the Westgate:

Will Woods make the 36-hole cut? Yes +150, No -180

Lowest single-round score (both courses par 72): Over/Under 70

Highest single-round score: Over/Under 74.5

Will Woods finish inside the top 10? Yes +350, No -450

Will Woods finish inside the top 20? Yes +170, No -200

Will Woods withdraw during the tournament? Yes +650, No -1000

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Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements

By Rex HoggardJanuary 24, 2018, 12:27 am

SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.

Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.

“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.

Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.

“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”

Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.

“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”

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Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 24, 2018, 12:07 am

SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.

Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.

Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim. 

Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.