THE PLAYERS - A New Look
It used to be called THE PLAYERS Championship. Now it is simply THE PLAYERS. But that is only one of many changes that will give one of golfs premiere events a completely new look.
THE PLAYERS, which for its entire life until next week, was always a fixture during the PGA TOUR's Southern Swing in March, will now occupy a May date roughly halfway between The Masters and the U.S. Open. The date change itself will alter the conditions at THE PLAYERS Stadium Course as the layout will not be over-seeded with ryegrass as it was in March.
However, the massive renovation that was recently completed will have more to do with how the course plays than the date change. All of the tees, fairways and greens were rebuilt with new sand and a drainage system, which will produce firmer and faster conditions. With the fairways playing faster, perimeter trouble will be much more in play places like waste areas, trees and of course the water hazards.
The greens promise to be quite firm next week as a Sub-Air subsurface mechanical drainage system was installed under the greens, which can vacuum out water when needed. Six of the eighteen holes have been moderately lengthened and new mowing cuts such as chipping areas will provide a wider variety of shot options. When you add up all these changes to the course, what has always been a great test for the PGA TOUR's best will now be even more strenuous.
But to me, the thing that sets THE PLAYERS apart from any other PGA TOUR event is the atmosphere. The crowds are always large and enthusiastic and the amphitheatre down at No. 16 and No. 17 is like none other in golf. In fact , I can now make a good argument that the 17th is the most famous and recognizable par 3 in golf.
And next week the electricity in this remarkable arena will be turned up significantly. More spectator mounds have been added behind the 16th green and 17th tee. The hillside along 17 has been modified to allow for more seating. Grandstands have been added up near the green and when players leave the island they will walk through a tunnel to the 18th tee.
There are times that no matter where you are in the course, you can hear whats going on down at 16 and 17. It must be very difficult for the players to attack the Stadium Course one shot as a time. Probably like no other venue, the thought of playing the shot at 17 creeps into your mind before you ever get there.
And for me, this tee shot is always one of the most difficult of the year to call. If I stand on the side between the tee and the green I can tell if an airborne ball is the right distance but I cant tell if its really on line. If I stand behind the tee I can see if the ball is on line but where it will come down is pretty much a guess from that angle.
When you watch THE PLAYERS on GOLF CHANNEL and NBC Sports next week know how much we enjoy broadcasting it to you . This is without a doubt one of my favorite events of the year and I believe that with the PGA TOUR making all the right moves, the stature of THE PLAYERS will be elevated even higher.
Thats My View.
Editors Note: Mark Rolfing, a Maui resident, is one of the leading forces in sports event marketing and production in Hawaii. As NBC Sports award-winning golf commentator, Rolfing continues to cover top golf events such as the prestigious Ryder Cup, The Players Championship and The U.S Open. Rolfing also hosts Golf Hawaii on The Golf Channel. Golf Hawaii, now in its twelfth season is one of the longest running sports shows in the nation.
Monahan buoyed by Tour's sponsor agreements
SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance announced on Tuesday at Torrey Pines a seven-year extension of the company’s sponsorship of the Southern California PGA Tour event. This comes on the heels of Sony extending its sponsorship of the year’s first full-field event in Hawaii through 2022.
Although these might seem to be relatively predictable moves, considering the drastic makeover of the Tour schedule that will begin with the 2018-19 season, it is a telling sign of the confidence corporations have in professional golf.
“It’s a compliment to our players and the value that the sponsors are achieving,” Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.
Monahan said that before 2014 there were no 10-year title sponsorship agreements in place. Now there are seven events sponsored for 10-years, and another five tournaments that have agreements in place of at least seven years.
“What it means is, it gives organizations like the Century Club [which hosts this week’s Farmers Insurance Open], when you have that level of stability on a long-term basis that allows you to invest in your product, to grow interest and to grow the impact of it,” Monahan said. “You experienced what this was like in 2010 or seen other tournaments that you don’t know what the future is.S o to go out and sell and inspire a community and you can’t state that we have a long-term agreement it’s more difficult.”
Events like this year’s Houston Open, Colonial in Fort Worth, Texas, and The National all currently don’t have title sponsors – although officials at Colonial are confident they can piece together a sponsorship package. But even that is encouraging to Monahan considering the uncertainty surrounding next season’s schedule, which will include the PGA Championship moving to May and The Players to March as well as a pre-Labor Day finish to the season.
“When you look back historically to any given year [the number of events needing sponsors] is lower than the typical average,” Monahan said. “As we start looking to a new schedule next year, you get excited about a great schedule with a great group of partners.”
Day WDs from Farmers pro-am because of sore back
SAN DIEGO – Jason Day has withdrawn from the Wednesday pro-am at the Farmers Insurance Open, citing a sore back.
Day, the 2015 champion, played a practice round with Tiger Woods and Bryson DeChambeau on Tuesday at Torrey Pines, and he is still expected to play in the tournament.
Day was replaced in the pro-am by Whee Kim.
Making his first start since the Australian Open in November, Day is scheduled to tee off at 1:30 p.m. ET Thursday alongside Jon Rahm and Brandt Snedeker.
Farmers inks 7-year extension through 2026
SAN DIEGO – Farmers Insurance has signed a seven-year extension to serve as the title sponsor for the PGA Tour event at Torrey Pines, it was announced Tuesday. The deal will run through 2026.
“Farmers Insurance has been incredibly supportive of the tournament and the Century Club’s charitable initiatives since first committing to become the title sponsor in 2010,” PGA Tour commissioner Jay Monahan said.
“We are extremely grateful for the strong support of Farmers and its active role as title sponsor, and we are excited by the commitment Farmers has made to continue sponsorship of the Farmers Insurance Open for an additional seven years.
In partnership with Farmers, the Century Club – the tournament’s host organization – has contributed more than $20 million to deserving organizations benefiting at-risk youth since 2010.
Woods impresses DeChambeau, Day on Tuesday
SAN DIEGO – Bryson DeChambeau played with Tiger Woods for the first time Tuesday morning, and the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t overcome by nerves.
“That’s what I was concerned about,” DeChambeau said. “Am I just gonna be slapping it around off the tee? But I was able to play pretty well.”
So was Woods.
DeChambeau said that Woods looked “fantastic” as he prepares to make his first PGA Tour start in a year.
“His game looks solid. His body doesn’t hurt. He’s just like, yeah, I’m playing golf again,” DeChambeau said. “And he’s having fun, too, which is a good thing.”
Woods arrived at Torrey Pines before 7 a.m. local time Tuesday, when the temperature hadn’t yet crept above 50 degrees. He warmed up and played the back nine of Torrey Pines’ South Course with DeChambeau and Jason Day.
“He looks impressive; it was good to see,” Day told PGATour.com afterward. “You take (Farmers) last year and the Dubai tournament out, and he hasn’t really played in two years. I think the biggest thing is to not get too far ahead, or think he’s going to come back and win straight away.
“The other time he came back, I don’t think he was ready and he probably came back too soon. This time he definitely looks ready. I think his swing is really nice, he’s hitting the driver a long way and he looks like he’s got some speed, which is great.”
Woods said that his caddie, Joe LaCava, spent four days with him in South Florida last week and that he’s ready to go.
“Before the Hero I was basically given the OK probably about three or four weeks prior to the tournament, and I thought I did pretty good in that prep time,” Woods told ESPN.com, referring to his tie for ninth in the 18-man event.
“Now I’ve had a little more time to get ready for this event. I’ve played a lot more golf, and overall I feel like I’ve made some nice changes. I feel good.”
Woods is first off Torrey Pines’ North Course in Wednesday’s pro-am, scheduled for 6:40 a.m. local time.