Players Championship May Get Extreme Makeover

By Associated PressOctober 11, 2005, 4:00 pm
PGA Tour (75x100)A move to May looms for The Players Championship, although that isn't the half of it.
 
Even if golf's fifth major remains in March, the PGA Tour has drawn up plans to make it the premier tournament by weatherproofing the TPC at Sawgrass, moving 65,000 tons of dirt to allow spectators better views and installing technology so fans can know what's going on no matter where they are.
 
``The goal is to make it as good as we can make it,'' PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in a recent interview. ``Hopefully, it translates to a tournament that all of our tournaments can look at as a model, and that's where the bar is set in terms of fan experience, player experience and sponsor experience.''
 
The cost for the ambitious project, including a Grand Mediterranean style clubhouse, is estimated at $25 million. Work is expected to begin after The Players Championships is held in March in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
 
Finchem continues to work on revamping the schedule for 2007-10, which likely will feature a season that ends in late September with a series of four lucrative events through the Tour Championship.
 
As part of the new schedule, The Players Championship is widely expected to move to May.
 
Separately, however, officials have spent the last few years working on significant upgrades for The Players Championship, which has the best field in golf and the richest purse ($8 million this year).
 
The most dramatic renovation is sub-air pumps beneath each green that can remove 42,000 gallons per hour, allowing the putting surface to drain in minutes. Dirt beneath the fairways will be replaced with sand that drains faster, and the fairways then will be sod anew with high-quality Bermuda grass.
 
That will allow the course to all but guarantee firm, fast conditions even on rainy days.
 
``We're excited about the golf course infrastructure,'' Finchem said. ``It should allow us the flexibility to get the kind of conditions we want, whether we're in March or May -- although we're focused on May.''
 
The Players Championship, which began in 1974, has been played at the Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course on the TPC at Sawgrass since 1982. It is among the most well-known courses in the world, particularly because of the island green for the par-3 17th hole.
 
It also was the first model for ``stadium'' golf, with huge mounds that allow more people to watch.
 
Tour officials said they would reconfigure the mounds and grandstands around the 16th, 17th and 18th holes, which includes lowering the hill alongside the 17th hole by 8 feet for a more subtle climb and more seating.
 
Around the course, video screens will keep fans abreast with action elsewhere on the course, and fans will have the option to rent or bring their own portable satellite radio to listen to six hours of live coverage and interviews.
 
An annual debate is where The Players Championship should be considered a major, although Finchem said that is not behind the renovations.
 
``We're comfortable in trying to make this as good as we can,'' he said. ``At some point, maybe there's a different configuration. But that has never been our focus.''
 
Tour officials are looking at broadening the appeal of The Players Championship, noting that about one-third of the fans come from beyond the northeastern Florida region.
 
Finchem said The Players Championship sells out each year at about 35,000, and the enhancements could allow up some 50,000 fans each day without making it feel too crowded.
 
``We are going to be much more aggressive reaching out to our fans around the country to come see The Players Championship,'' he said.
 
About the only thing that won't change is the length.
 
The Stadium Course plays as a par 72 at 7,093 yards -- the same length since 1999, and only 236 yards longer from when it opened in 1982. Tour research has not shown much difference in scoring except when the conditions are soft. Three of the last six tournaments have finished on Monday because of rain.
 
The tour previously said the clubhouse would be rebuilt after the '06 tournament.
 
``We asked ourselves, 'Since we're shutting down the club, what other things should we be thinking of doing? How broad should our scope be?' And we realized there were upgrades we could do in every area,'' Finchem said. ``It made sense to do it.''
 
The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2006.
 
Copyright 2005 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Getty Images

Pepperell among co-leaders early in Qatar

By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 5:06 pm

DOHA, Qatar – Eddie PepperellGregory Havret, and Aaron Rai made the most of calm early morning conditions at Doha Golf Club to set the pace in the opening round of the Qatar Masters at 7-under-par 65 on Thursday.

Havret went bogey free, Pepperell made one bogey and eight birdies, while fellow English golfer Rai eagled his last hole to add to five birdies.

One shot behind the leaders were four players, including former Ryder Cup player Edoardo Molinari of Italy and former champion Alvaro Quiros of Spain.

Defending champion Jeunghun Wang of South Korea started with a 68, and Race to Dubai leader Shubhankar Sharma of India shot 69 despite a double bogey on the 15th hole.


Full-field scores from the Commercial Bank Qatar Masters


Pepperell, who is fast gaining a reputation on the European Tour for his irreverent tweets and meaningful blogs, showed his clubs can also do an equal amount of talking after missing cuts in Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Malaysia.

Pepperell birdied Nos. 10, 11, 14, 16 and 18 with a single blemish on 13 after starting on the back nine. He made three more birdies on his back nine.

He was joined on top of the leaderboard by Havret, who made five birdies in six holes from the sixth, and Rai, who eagled the last.

''I surprised myself, really,'' said Pepperell, who finished third in Portugal and Netherlands last year.

''I've made some changes this week with personnel, so I've been working on a couple of new things and I surprised myself out there with how well I managed to trust it.

''I hit some quality tee shots, that's the area I feel that I've been struggling with a bit lately. We had a good time.

''It's definitely a bigger picture for me this week than tomorrow and indeed the weekend. I'm not overly-fussed about my early season form.”

Molinari, a three-time champion on the tour including last year in Morocco, started with eight straight pars, and then made seven birdies in his last 10 holes, including a chip-in for birdie on the last.

''I hit every green apart from the last one. I hit a lot of fairways, I had a lot of chances for birdie,'' said Edoardo, the older brother of Francesco.

''Last week in Oman, I had a decent week, I had a bad first round and then three very good rounds. It's been the case for the last few weeks so my focus this week was to try and get a good start.''

Oliver Fisher of England was the best among the afternoon groups with a 6-under 66, joining Molinari, Quiros and Germany's Marcel Schneider in a tie for fourth.

Getty Images

Tiger Tracker: Honda Classic

By Tiger TrackerFebruary 22, 2018, 4:45 pm

Tiger Woods is making his third start of the year at the Honda Classic. We're tracking him at PGA National in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.


Getty Images

Honda Classic: Tee times, TV schedule, stats

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 22, 2018, 2:15 pm

The PGA Tour heads back east to kick off the Florida Swing at PGA National. Here are the key stats and information for the Honda Classic. Click here for full-field tee times.

How to watch:

Thursday, Rd. 1: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Friday, Rd. 2: Golf Channel, 2-6PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream

Saturday, Rd. 3: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET

Sunday, Rd. 4: Golf Channel, 1-2:45PM ET; live stream: http://www.golfchannel.com/pgastream; CBS, 3-6PM ET


Purse: $6.6 million ($1,188,000 to the winner)

Course: PGA National, Palm Beach Gardens, Florida (par-70; 7,140 yards)

Defending champion: Rickie Fowler (-12) won by four, picking off his fourth PGA Tour victory.


Notables in the field:

Tiger Woods

• Making his fourth start at the Honda Classic and his first since withdrawing with back spasms in 2014.

• Shot a Sunday 62 in a T-2 finish in 2012, marking his lowest career final-round score on the PGA Tour.

• Coming off a missed cut at last week's Genesis Open, his 17th in his Tour career.


Rickie Fowler

• The defending champion owns the lowest score to par and has recorded the most birdies and eagles in this event since 2012.

• Fowler's last start was at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he failed to close a 54-hole lead. Fowler is 1-for-6 with 54-hole leads in his Tour career, with his only successful close coming at last year's Honda.

• On Tour this year, Fowler is first in scrambling from the fringe, second in total scrambling and third in strokes gained around the green. 


Rory McIlroy

• It's been feast or famine for McIlroy at the Honda. He won in 2012, withdrew with a toothache in 2013, finished T-2 in 2014 and missed the cut in 2015 and 2016.

• McIlroy ascended to world No. 1 with his victory at PGA National in 2012, becoming the second youngest player at 22 years old to top the OWGR, behind only Woods. McIlroy was later edged by a slightly younger 22-year-old Jordan Spieth.

• Since the beginning of 2010, only Dustin Johnson (15) has more PGA Tour victories than McIlroy (13). 

Getty Images

Lexi, J. Korda part of four-way tie in Thailand

By Associated PressFebruary 22, 2018, 1:01 pm

CHONBURI, Thailand – Three-time tour winner Minjee Lee of Australia finished with a superb eagle putt to be among the four leaders after Day 1 of the LPGA Thailand at Siam Country Club on Thursday.

Lee sank a 45-foot putt on the 18th hole to card a 6-under-par 66 to tie for the lead with 2016 champion Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, and local hope Moriya Jutanugarn.

''I just hit the collar. I didn't know if I was going to have enough. Such a big break there. I'm glad it caught the hole,'' Lee said.

''It's a second-shot golf course. Your approaches are really important, and obviously being in the right spots with the undulation. And if you have a hot putter that's going to help.''


Full-field scores from the Honda LPGA Thailand


Lee won the Vic Open near Melbourne this month and opened her 2018 LPGA tour account last week at the Women's Australian Open, finishing fifth.

Thompson, who won this event in 2016 by six shots with a 20-under total and tied for fourth last year, started her latest round in style with an eagle followed by a birdie only to bogey the third hole. She carded four more birdies.

''It definitely helps to get that kind of start, but I was just trying to keep that momentum and not get ahead of myself,'' Thompson said.

Her compatriot Korda had a roller-coaster round which featured eagles on the first and 17th holes, five birdies, a double bogey on the sixth, and two bogeys.

Jutanugarn was the only player among the four to end the day without a bogey.

''I had a good start today, it was better than I expected,'' said Jutanugarn, who was seventh here last year.

She's trying to become the first Thai winner of the tournament.

Two-time champion Amy Yang and world No. 2 Sung Hyun Park were among six players at 5 under.