What's new at The Players Stadium at TPC Sawgrass for 2014?

By Brandon TuckerJanuary 31, 2014, 9:06 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- It's only January on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, but there are already signs of a big event on the horizon. Grounds crews are in trees, clearing out grasses for new spectator areas, and around the 16th & 17th green, the epicenter of fan excitement, platforms have already been set.

The Players won't begin until the second week of May, but tournament officials have been busy since last year's event ended trying to up the ante. 

Matt Rapp, Executive Director of The Players, is in charge of finding new ways to enhance the spectator experience each year, whether it's adding to culinary options with local vendors and food trucks or improving spectator traffic flow. He looks at his duties this way: "We want the next year to feel like the 'Super Bowl'," he said. "And last year's to feel like AA-baseball."

Last year's Players was anything but minor league. Tiger Woods' victory was his first here since 2001 and the event drew 173,946 fans, checking in just shy of the sea of humanity at the TPC Scottsdale during the Waste Management Phoenix Open (179,022). The Players is unique because it carries a major-worthy field that attracts huge attention, yet unlike three of the four majors, it's staged at the same venue every year. That means the PGA Tour can invest in permanent event facilities other tour stops can't -- and the only other venue where it seems logical to do so is at Augusta National. The result is many niceties for fans you won't find at other events (or any outdoor festival for that matter) like convenient parking and plenty of permanent bathrooms. The Stadium currently has two, enormous, $800,000 rest areas on the course specifically meant for The Players, with a third being built by the 12th tee to be ready for 2014: 


More permanent bathrooms on the Stadium Course are a welcomed site to any spectator. 

Unlike The Masters, fan capacity at TPC Sawgrass is high enough that, despite the top field, it's rather easy to get tickets. Weekly ground passes start at $150 while daily grounds passes start at $58 (cheaper during practice rounds) and head higher depending on what kind of access to the clubhouse and VIP areas you want. For those who want to walk the whole course, Rapp and his crew have prided themselves on analyzing spectator traffic each year and looking for ways to weed out the bottlenecks, making it feasibly possible to follow a group from the first tee to 18th green. Natural, grass mounding that frame holes have always been a signature of the TPC "Stadium" concept, and as a result, there are very few bleachers erected around the course, mostly just around the 1st tee and the amphitheater around No. 16 and 17, plus corporate hospitality and VIP tents. For 2014, mounds have been added to seven holes (No. 1, 3, 5, 7, 11, 12 & 14) specifically for the purpose of viewing lines, making it all that much easier to follow action throughout the course.


Spectators will have a new, elevated vantage point of the 3rd green thanks to newly installed mounding. 

Playing golf at TPC Sawgrass

TPC Sawgrass is the home of the PGA Tour, and many tour pros reside here just to play and practice here, but that doesn't mean you can't play through. Rounds on the Stadium don't come cheap here and green fees can soar north of $400 in prime times with a forecaddie or walking caddie. Dye's Valley course, a Web.com-worthy venue, can be played more affordably (rates are currently under $200). However, Dye's Valley, which is usually open for play during The Players, is scheduled to close March 1st for renovation work and is expected to reopen in September.

If the green fees are too heavy on your wallet, don't let that deter you from at least visiting the property, which is a marvel. The 77,000-square-foot clubhouse, built in 2007, may appear opulent on TV, but it's very welcoming inside. Volunteer tour guides are on premises every single day except Christmas, and will take anyone on a free tour of the many artworks and artifacts that aim to tell the PGA Tour story. Also, anyone can have a meal in Nineteen, the restaurant and bar overlooking the course, which is frequented by many tour players and dignitaries. 

For those looking for a stay-and-play golf package at the TPC Sawgrass, look no further than the next door Sawgrass Marriott Resort, which just underwent a thorough refresh to their public areas in the hotel (including spa) as well as their roomy vacation rentals. They've also built a new path that can shuttle guests straight to the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse without any need of a car.

Punch Shots: Is the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass the best golf course you can play in Florida? 


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Hadwin returns to site of last year's 59

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 11:04 pm

Adam Hadwin had a career season last year, one that included shooting a 59 and winning a PGA Tour event. But those two achievements didn't occur in the same week.

While Hadwin's breakthrough victory came at the Valspar Championship in March, it was at the CareerBuilder Challenge in January when he first made headlines with a third-round 59 at La Quinta Country Club. Hadwin took a lead into the final round as a result, but he ultimately couldn't keep pace with Hudson Swafford.

He went on to earn a spot at the Tour Championship, and Hadwin made his first career Presidents Cup appearance in October. Now the Canadian returns to Palm Springs, eager to improve on last year's result and hoping to earn a spot in the final group for a third straight year after a T-6 finish in 2016.

"A lot of good memories here in the desert," Hadwin told reporters. "I feel very comfortable here, very at home. Lots of Canadians, so it's always fun to play well in front of those crowds and hopefully looking forward to another good week."

Hadwin's 59 last year was somewhat overshadowed, both by the fact that he didn't win the event and that it came just one week after Justin Thomas shot a 59 en route to victory at the Sony Open. But he's still among an exclusive club of just eight players to have broken 60 in competition on Tour and he's eager to get another crack at La Quinta on Saturday.

"If I'm in the same position on 18, I'm gunning for 58 this year," Hadwin said, "not playing safe for 59."

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Rahm: If I thought like Phil, I could not hit a shot

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 10:39 pm

When it comes to Jon Rahm and Phil Mickelson, there are plenty of common bonds. Both starred at Arizona State, both are now repped by the same agency and Rahm's former college coach and agent, Tim Mickelson, now serves full-time as his brother's caddie.

Those commonalities mean the two men have played plenty of practice rounds together, but the roads quickly diverge when it comes to on-course behavior. Rahm is quick, fiery and decisive; Mickelson is one of the most analytical players on Tour. And as Rahm told reporters Wednesday at the CareerBuilder Challenge, those differences won't end anytime soon.

"I don't need much. 'OK, it's like 120 (yards), this shot, right," Rahm said. "And then you have Phil, it's like, 'Oh, this shot, the moisture, this going on, this is like one mile an hour wind sideways, it's going to affect it one yard. This green is soft, this trajectory. They're thinking, and I'm like, 'I'm lost.' I'm like, 'God if I do that thought process, I could not hit a golf shot.'"

CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos

The tactics may be more simplified, but Rahm can't argue with the results. While Mickelson is in the midst of a winless drought that is approaching five years, Rahm won three times around the world last year and will defend a PGA Tour title for the first time next week at Torrey Pines.

Both men are in the field this week in Palm Springs, where Mickelson will make his 2018 debut with what Rahm fully expects to be another dose of high-level analytics for the five-time major winner with his brother on the bag.

"It's funny, he gets to the green and then it's the same thing. He's very detail-oriented," Rahm said of Mickelson. "I'm there listening and I'm like, 'Man, I hope we're never paired together for anything because I can't think like this. I would not be able to play golf like that. But for me to listen to all that is really fun."

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DJ changes tune on golf ball distance debate

By Will GrayJanuary 17, 2018, 9:16 pm

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is already one of the longest hitters in golf, so he's not looking for any changes to be made to golf ball technology - despite comments from him that hinted at just such a notion two months ago.

Johnson is in the Middle East this week for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, and he told BBC Sport Wednesday that he wouldn't be in favor of making changes to the golf ball in order to remedy some of the eye-popping distances players are hitting the ball with ever-increasing frequency.

"It's not like we are dominating golf courses," Johnson said. "When was the last time you saw someone make the game too easy? I don't really understand what all the debate is about because it doesn't matter how far it goes; it is about getting it in the hole."

Johnson's rhetorical question might be answered simply by looking back at his performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions earlier this month, an eight-shot romp that featured a tee shot on the 433-yard 12th hole that bounded down a slope to within inches of the hole.

Johnson appeared much more willing to consider a reduced-distance ball option at the Hero World Challenge in November, when he sat next to tournament host Tiger Woods and supported Woods' notion that the ball should be addressed.

"I don't mind seeing every other professional sport, they play with one ball. All the pros play with the same ball," Johnson said. "In baseball, the guys that are bigger and stronger, they can hit a baseball a lot further than the smaller guys. ... I think there should be some kind of an advantage for guys who work on hitting it far and getting that speed that's needed, so having a ball, like the same ball that everyone plays, there's going to be, you're going to have more of an advantage."

Speaking Wednesday in Abu Dhabi, Johnson stood by the notion that regardless of whether the rules change or stay the same, he plans to have a leg up on the competition.

"If the ball is limited then it is going to limit everyone," he said. "I'm still going to hit it that much further than I guess the average Tour player."

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LPGA lists April date for new LA event

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 17, 2018, 8:18 pm

The LPGA’s return to Los Angeles will come with the new Hugel-JTBC Open being played at Wilshire Country Club April 19-22, the tour announced Wednesday.

When the LPGA originally released its schedule, it listed the Los Angeles event with the site to be announced at a later date.

The Hugel-JTBC Open will feature a 144-player field and a $1.5 million purse. It expands the tour’s West Coast swing, which will now be made up of four events in California in March and April.

The LPGA last played in Los Angeles in 2005. Wilshire Country Club hosted The Office Depot in 2001, with Annika Sorenstam winning there.