Move to May Wont Solve All the TPC Problems
And even that only lasted about 12 hours.
Standing on the 18th green late Sunday afternoon, his name on the richest first-place check on the PGA Tour, Ames was asked about the three-year exemption he received to the Masters. In a rare moment of indecision, he wasn't sure he would play. His kids were starting their spring break, and Ames had plans to take them to his native Trinidad.
'I'd rather go on vacation, to be truthful,' he said.
Ames changed his mind Monday morning, telling a Canadian radio station that he had talked it over with his wife and two sons, and 'we are going to go.'
No wonder the PGA Tour wants its showcase event moved to May.
It's hard to embrace The Players Championship as a major when all anyone wanted to know about Ames was whether he was going to play in a real one - the Masters - two weeks away.
Not that next year will solve everything.
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was asked where The Players Championship would fit into the pecking order of majors when it moves to May in 2007, and he quipped, 'We already think it's No. 1.'
Finchem has a background in politics, although this was more tongue-in-cheek that all-out lobbying. He has said the last several years, and repeated in an interview last October, that his only focus for The Players Championship is making it the best it can be - a great course, the best field, largest purse and a TV presentation with limited commercials that rivals the Masters.
In that respect, The Players Championship is a huge success.
But it cannot be perceived as a major based on the calendar alone.
The Stadium Course will be torn up next week and refurbished with high-tech gadgets and agronomy that will allow it to be firm and fast even if conditions are soggy and slow. It might be the closest thing to indoor golf.
Next year, golf will have a big tournament in April, May, June, July and August.
But golf in May is hardly lacking now.
The Wachovia Championship is held the first week of the month, and Quail Hollow is such a superb golf course that in its inaugural year, 2003, players deemed it worthy of a PGA Championship - that week. Some even mentioned a U.S. Open, although the consensus was the USGA would ruin it.
The Memorial is at the end of May, another world-class golf course (Muirfield Village) that is run with impeccable taste by the tournament host (Jack Nicklaus).
As good as they are, both are links between the Masters and U.S. Open. There is no guarantee The Players Championship will be much more than that.
But what hurts The Players Championship - beyond the fact a grand slam means four items, whether it's breakfast at Denny's or runs scored in baseball - is the aura desperately lacking in what otherwise is a local event.
And that starts with the gallery, and why they go to Sawgrass.
The first clue came Thursday, when the Stadium Course was surprisingly quiet. Go to any other major, and thousands of spectators are gathered around the first tee or already staking out positions on the golf course when the tournament begins.
David Duval, who grew up in Jacksonville, and Davis Love III, a quasi-neighbor who makes his home at Sea Island, were among the early starters Thursday. There was no more than about 500 spectators milling between the first two fairways or camped out in the bleachers. Even when Tiger Woods teed off Friday morning, there were only about 300 people ready to enlist in his army.
Even when the crowd swelled in the afternoon, and especially on the weekend, it was easy to distinguish between The Players Championship and a major.
Most of the spectators were not at Sawgrass to watch golf.
They were there to be seen.
The atmosphere at The Players Championship is closer to PGA Tour stops in Phoenix or Dallas than major championships at Olympic Club or Hazeltine.
Ernie Els was three shots off the lead, standing steady over a 10-foot par putt on the 14th hole on Sunday, and must have felt like he was in the middle of a cocktail party. On a mound just beyond the green were a half-dozen people, sipping beer and sharing laughs, unaware there was a golf tournament going on.
The 17th hole is a natural attraction because there is no other hole like that in championship golf, and everyone loves to see a train wreck. Thousands cram onto the hills to the left of the green and behind it, and behind the tee as space allows, creating a theater not unlike the par-3 16th hole at Phoenix.
But it becomes the main event, instead of a pivotal hole during an 18-hole test on a brilliantly designed course.
The reason most fans go to a major is to watch golf. You don't get that sense at Sawgrass, where golf is a diversion to pass time while standing in the beer line or waiting for the next ball to miss the island-green 17th.
Maybe the move to May will help in one respect. Along with refurbishing the golf course and rebuilding the clubhouse, Finchem is embarking on a national marketing campaign with hopes of The Players Championship becoming a golf tournament that fans around the country, or the world, will want to come watch.
That could be a pivotal step in making it feel like a major, if not look like one.
It deserves that.
Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Watch: Daly makes birdie from 18-foot-deep bunker
John Daly on Friday somehow got up and down for birdie from the deepest bunker on the PGA Tour.
The sand to the left of the green on the 16th hole at the Stadium Course at PGA West sits 18 feet below the surface of the green.
That proved no problem for Daly, who cleared the lip three times taller than he is and then rolled in a 26-footer.
He fared just slightly better than former Speaker of the House, Tip O'Neill.
Koepka (wrist) likely out until the Masters
Defending U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka is expected to miss at least the next two months because of a torn tendon in his left wrist.
Koepka, who suffered a partially torn Extensor Carpi Ulnaris (ECU), is hoping to return in time for the Masters.
In a statement released by his management company, Koepka said that doctors are unsure when the injury occurred but that he first felt discomfort at the Hero World Challenge, where he finished last in the 18-man event. Playing through pain, he also finished last at the Tournament of Champions, after which he underwent a second MRI that revealed the tear.
Koepka is expected to miss the next eight to 12 weeks.
“I am frustrated that I will now not be able to play my intended schedule,” Koepka said. “But I am confident in my doctors and in the treatment they have prescribed, and I look forward to teeing it up at the Masters. … I look forward to a quick and successful recovery.”
Prior to the injury, Koepka won the Dunlop Phoenix and cracked the top 10 in the world ranking.
Cut Line: Color Rory unafraid of the Ryder Cup
In this week’s edition, Rory McIlroy gets things rolling with some early Ryder Cup banter, Dustin Johnson changes his tune on a possible golf ball roll-back, and the PGA Tour rolls ahead with integrity training.
Paris or bust. Rory McIlroy, who made his 2018 debut this week on the European Tour, can be one of the game’s most affable athletes. He can also be pointed, particularly when discussing the Ryder Cup.
Asked this week in Abu Dhabi about the U.S. team, which won the last Ryder Cup and appears to be rejuvenated by a collection of new players, McIlroy didn’t disappoint.
“If you look at Hazeltine and how they set the course up – big, wide fairways, no rough, pins in the middle of greens – it wasn’t set up for the way the Europeans like to play,” McIlroy said. “I think Paris will be a completely different kettle of fish, so different.”
McIlroy has come by his confidence honestly, having won three of the four Ryder Cups he’s played, so it’s understandable if he doesn't feel like an underdog heaidng to Paris.
“The Americans have obviously been buoyant about their chances, but it’s never as easy as that,” he said. “The Ryder Cup is always close. It always comes down to a few key moments, and it will be no different in Paris. I think we’ll have a great team and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”
September can’t get here quick enough.
Mr. Spieth goes to Ponte Vedra Beach. The Tour announced this year’s player advisory council, the 16-member group that works with the circuit’s policy board to govern.
There were no real surprises to the PAC, but news that Jordan Spieth had been selected to run for council chair is interesting. Spieth, who is running against Billy Hurley III and would ascend to the policy board next year if he wins the election, served on the PAC last year and would make a fine addition to the policy board, but it is somewhat out of character for a marquee player.
In recent years, top players like Spieth have largely avoided the distractions that come with the PAC and policy board. Of course, we’ve also learned in recent years that Spieth is not your typical superstar.
Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)
On second thought. In December at the Hero World Challenge, Dustin Johnson was asked about a possible golf ball roll-back, which has become an increasingly popular notion in recent years.
“I don't mind seeing every other professional sport. They play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball,” he said in the Bahamas. “I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage.”
The world No. 1 appeared to dial back that take this week in Abu Dhabi, telling BBC Sport, “It's not like we are dominating golf courses. When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy?”
Maybe it didn’t feel that way, but DJ’s eight-stroke romp two weeks ago at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly looked pretty easy.
Long odds. I had a chance to watch the Tour’s 15-minute integrity training video that players have been required view and came away with a mixture of confusion and concern.
The majority of the video, which includes a Q&A element, focuses on how to avoid match fixing. Although the circuit has made it clear there is no indication of current match fixing, it’s obviously something to keep an eye on.
The other element that’s worth pointing out is that although the Tour may be taking the new program seriously, some players are not.
“My agent watched [the training video] for me,” said one Tour pro last week at the Sony Open.
Groundhog Day. To be fair, no one expected Patton Kizzire and James Hahn to need six playoff holes to decide last week’s Sony Open, but the episode does show why variety is the spice of life.
After finishing 72 holes tied at 17 under, Kizzire and Hahn played the 18th hole again and again and again and again. In total, the duo played the par-5 closing hole at Waialae Country Club five times (including in regulation play) on Sunday.
It’s worth noting that the playoff finally ended with Kizzire’s par at the sixth extra hole, which was the par-3 17th. Waialae’s 18th is a fine golf hole, but in this case familiarity really did breed contempt.
Tweet of the week:
Welp I didn’t get hit by a ballistic missile today so that’s a plus! #imalive— John Peterson (@JohnPetersonFW) January 14, 2018
It was a common theme last Saturday on Oahu after an island-wide text alert was issued warning of an inbound ballistic missile and advising citizens to “seek immediate shelter.”
The alert turned out to be a mistake, someone pushed the wrong button during a shift change, but for many, like Peterson, it was a serious lesson in perspective.
Watch: McIlroy gives Fleetwood a birthday cake
Tommy Fleetwood turned 27 on Friday. He celebrated with some good golf – a 4-under 68 in Abu Dhabi, leaving him only two shots back in his title defense – and a birthday cake, courtesy of Rory Mcllroy.
While giving a post-round interview, Fleetwood was surprised to see McIlroy approaching with a cake in hand.
“I actually baked this before we teed off,” McIlroy joked.
Fleetwood blew out the three candles – “three wishes!” – and offered McIlroy a slice.