The Right Club and Clubhouse

By Brian HewittApril 27, 2007, 4:00 pm
Be The Right Club, Today. Hal Sutton. Signature Moment, 2000.
Freddies ace on 17. On the second ball. For a par.
Thats the shot almost everyone remembers even though there were lots of others from Couples when he won THE PLAYERS Championship in 1984 and 1996.
THE PLAYERS. Its coming. A week from Thursday.
Funk (the other Freddie) getting up and down from the bunker on the 72d hole to win in 2005 followed by a spontaneous release of emotion that manifested itself when he threw his hat into the ground. Take that, doubters.
Adam Scotts brave victorious bogey save on the 72d hole the year before Funks victory. Scott did it with drive, a second in the water left, a drop, a tidy chip and a 7-foot putt good for a first prize of $1.44 million dollars.
I remember when the entire purse was less than that much, veteran Jeff Sluman had remarked before the tournament. Afterward Scott credited Aussie icon Greg Norman with a pre-tournament short game lesson that helped him to properly steel his nerves late Sunday.
Its official name is The PLAYERS Championship. The TOUR prefers, conversationally, THE PLAYERS. The players incorrectly, but almost unanimously, refer to it as TPC even though technically, TPC stands for Tournament Players Club.
And these are just a few of its memories that you dont have to look up in a media guide. If youve been paying attention to important golf for the last 30 years, theyre right there in the forefront of your brain.
And there are plenty more.
Norman himself scorching the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, Pete Dyes seminal design, for a record four-day total of 264, 24-under par, 13 years ago.
How about Davis Loves 64 to win by six on the nasty final day that greeted players in 2003?
And what about Craig Perks needing just one putt on the final three holes a year earlier to edge a stunned Stephen Ames who thought he had won the tournament or, at worst, earned his way into a playoff?
Four years later Ames would fashion the round of the year on the PGA TOUR, a Sunday 67 that made everybody forget how close he had come in 2002.
That was last year. And it happened on a golf course that had been tweaked and toughened here and there. And while the spectators had come to appreciate and learn the holes by heart in the 30 years at this venue, the TOUR rightly decided more change was needed.
For starters, they moved the dates from weather-plagued March to a May spot on the calendar that historically presents friendlier meteorology. They tore down the clubhouse that had grown a little tired and built a state-of-the-art, 70,000 square foot, $32 million dollar structure that both blends into the landscape and provides all the amenities.
The golf course itself has undergone a more subtle makeover. The holes you remember are still easily recognizable. But the agronomy has changed to present firm and fast conditions. For starters, no more ryegrass overseed.
Subsequent to Ames victory last year all the fairways were stripped and replaced with layers of sand to facilitate drainage. Then they grew new Bermuda grass. Then the greens were re-built with sub-air systems (pioneered in tournament golf at Augusta National). Also redone was the practice facility.
To be sure, The PLAYERS has come a long way since 1982 when Jerry Pate created the original TPC Sawgrass memory by scooping up course designer Dye and then-Commissioner Deane Beman and diving into the water next to the 18th green after clinching victory.
So, yes, THE PLAYERS has achieved an identity and a level such that its no longer necessary to engage in the hoary debate about whether it should be golfs fifth major.
THE PLAYERS stands on its own with the best field in golf, enough history now to fill volumes and a re-dedication to keeping pace with a game that never stops changing.
Plus it no longer serves as a warm-up act for The Masters. Each of golfs five biggest annual four-day events'The Masters, THE PLAYERS, the U.S. Open, The Open Championship and the PGA Championship'now has its own month.
Be the right club, today.

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    DJ shoots 64 to surge up leaderboard in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 1:48 pm

    Dustin Johnson stood out among a star-studded three-ball that combined to shoot 18 under par with just one bogey Friday at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Shaking off a sloppy first round at Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Johnson matched the low round of the day with a 64 that put him within four shots of Thomas Pieters’ lead.

    “I did everything really well,” Johnson said. “It was a pretty easy 64.”

    Johnson made four bogeys during an even-par 72 on Thursday and needed a solid round Friday to make the cut. Before long, he was closer to the lead than the cut line, making birdie on three of the last four holes and setting the pace in a group that also included good rounds from Rory McIlroy (66) and Tommy Fleetwood (68).

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    Coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, Johnson is searching for his first regular European Tour title. He tied for second at this event a year ago.

    Johnson’s second-round 64 equaled the low round of the day (Jorge Campillo and Branden Grace). 

    “It was just really solid all day long,” Johnson said. “Hit a lot of great shots, had a lot of looks at birdies, which is what I need to do over the next two days if I want to have a chance to win on Sunday.” 

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    Closing eagle moves Rory within 3 in Abu Dhabi

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:57 pm

    What rust? Rory McIlroy appears to be in midseason form.

    Playing competitively for the first time since Oct. 8, McIlroy completed 36 holes without a bogey Friday, closing with an eagle to shoot 6-under 66 to sit just three shots back at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    “I’m right in the mix after two days and I’m really happy in that position,” he told reporters afterward.

    McIlroy took a 3 ½-month break to heal his body, clear his mind and work on his game after his first winless year since 2008, his first full season as a pro.

    He's back on track at a familiar playground, Abu Dhabi Golf Club, where he’s racked up eight top-11s (including six top-3s) in his past nine starts there.

    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

    McIlroy opened with a 69 Thursday, then gave himself even more chances on Day 2, cruising along at 4 under for the day when he reached the par-5 closing hole. After launching a 249-yard long iron to 25 feet, he poured in the eagle putt to pull within three shots of Thomas Pieters (65). 

    Despite the layoff, McIlroy edged world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, coming off a blowout victory at Kapalua, by a shot over the first two rounds. 

    “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now, and one of, if not the best, driver of the golf ball," McIlroy said. "To be up there with him over these first two days, it proves to me that I’m doing the right things and gives me a lot of confidence going forward.”

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    Duke to fill in for injured Pavin at CareerBuilder

    By Ryan LavnerJanuary 19, 2018, 12:25 pm

    Ken Duke will fill in for Corey Pavin for the next two rounds of the CareerBuilder Challenge – with nothing at stake but his amateur partner’s position on the leaderboard.

    Pavin was 4 over par when he withdrew after 17 holes Thursday because of a neck injury. Tournament officials phoned Duke, the first alternate, and asked if he would take Pavin’s spot and partner with Luis Lopez for the next two rounds, even though he would not receive any official money.

    Duke accepted and explained his decision on Twitter:

    Playing on past champion’s status, the 48-year-old Duke has made only four starts this season, with a best finish of a tie for 61st at the RSM Classic.

    Pavin received a sponsor exemption into the event, his first PGA Tour start since the 2015 Colonial. 

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    Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

    By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

    Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.