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.
Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational
Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.
The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.
Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.
Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.
The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump
Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.
Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.
None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.
Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.
An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.
Playing with the pros
Tiger, DJ and Faxon
President at the Presidents Cup
Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham
Cart on the green
Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open
Trump golf properties
Reportedly fake TIME covers
Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story
Pros comment on the president
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates. And click here for the full collection of articles.
No. 1: Dec. 18