Dick Rugge, senior technical director for the U.S. Golf Association moved among the enemy, so to speak, when he visited the practice range here at the TPC Sawgrass. On all sides were representatives of equipment companies who often resent the way the USGA handles regulations on their products.
But relations were downright cordial Tuesday as the affable Rugge, a veteran of the equipment industry from his days at TaylorMade-adidas Golf, chatted with Bill Young, vice president of player promotion for Titleist & FootJoy Worldwide.
Im here to listen. Tour players are among our most important constituencies, Rugge said.
And if the trip had a public relations component, it appears to have been a success.
Im glad when Dick or anyone from the USGA comes out on Tour, said Young. But I dont use occasions such as this to push any kind of agenda. Its just good to see them out here.
Rugge spent a lot of time talking to players, checking out their opinions on equipment and how the elite segment of the game should be regulated. One particularly long conversation we couldnt quite overhear occurred around the bag of two-time major champion Vijay Singh.
Moving more anonymously in his trademark rumpled jacket and golf cap was course designer Pete Dye, who walked through crowds of fans with nary a double take applied to him. Dye, who is comfortable with the idea that hell be muttered about unflatteringly many times between now and Sunday, remains proud of the challenge he built into the stadium course at Sawgrass.
The challenge of the course has evolved, with new grasses becoming available, Dye admitted. But he added that the course still irritates players the way it was meant to when The Players Championship was first played here in 1982.
And although he was a cooperative interview subject, Dye was thinking less about himself and more about wife and fellow designer Alice, who was defending in her club championship Wednesday.
What time is it? Pete said? Shell be coming up eighteen right about now. And probably leading.
Little-known Pete Dye design note: Ive never used a drawing in my life.
As you may have seen in a story I did for Golf Central, the PGA Tour bends over backwards to make sure it caters to every whim of its players during this event. Happily overwhelmed by it all is 15-year Tour veteran Brandel Chamblee, even though hes been coming to this event for nine years.
I get here, Chamblee said, and a guy says, Mr. Chamblee, do you have any laundry? Well, no; gimme a chance. Its only Monday. You want the stuff Im wearing? They really do pamper us here.
And finally, in the Things-You-Dont See-Every-Day Department: Four county sheriffs deputies working on a car with Bones, Phil Mickelsons caddie, who wore a sheepish look on his face because he had locked his keys in the carwhich was parked in his boss space.