PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is more maddening than a Killer Sudoku puzzle.
And Pete Dye is the master puzzle designer.
That’s pretty much why it’s so difficult to pick a winner at The Players Championship, according to assessments by TV analysts Johnny Miller, Nick Faldo and Brandel Chamblee in an NBC and Golf Channel media teleconference Tuesday.
“This course is such an amazing test,” Miller said. “It’s a course you have to tippy toe around. Tiger has won it, but he’s struggled here. Phil’s won it, but he’s struggled here. It’s a really fun event, but you just don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Since 2000, the average world ranking of The Players Championship winner is 35.8.
“Mentally, very demanding,” Faldo said.
He said the course will 'frustrate, aggravate and annoy” the best in the world.
Chamblee said the Stadium Course asks players tough questions.
“It asks things of players that are not asked the rest of the year, and sort of the same shot values that you see at Augusta National, when you have to shape it one way off the tee, and then you have to shape it another way into the green,” Chamblee said. “But the penalty for making a mistake here is more severe than Augusta, and that's one of the reasons it's so hard to predict.
“It is a confounding golf course to try to predict for the analysts and it's a confounding golf course to play having played it a number of years.”
Chamblee believes Dye’s design is remarkably unaffected by the game’s technological advances.
“This is one of the few, if not only golf course, that I can think of on Tour that has been made harder by the advances in the equipment and the ball,” Chamblee said. “And what I mean by that is every shot out here, every hole, you've got to really work the ball off the tee. You have to really work the ball to the green, and it's hard to work the ball. In the 90s and in the early part of this millennium, you saw players that were able to separate themselves from the field. Davis Love in '92 won by four, the next year Nick Price won by five . . . You’re not seeing as many blowouts anymore in this golf tournament. It's a much, much more bunched field. It's just harder to separate yourself, and you can't do all the things that this golf course is asking you to do.”