Notes Sawgrass Back in Business Couples OK

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PGA Tour (75x100)PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- The Stadium Course on the TPC at Sawgrass is back in business, opening after a seven-month project to install sub-air pumps beneath all the greens and to refurbish the fairways with a new base of soil that drains better.
 
There were a few subtle alterations along the way, and in a refreshing change, it wasn't only about length.

The home of The Players Championship now measures 7,215, an increase of a mere 117 yards over six holes. The two largest gains were an additional 23 yards on No. 11 to make it 558 yards, and 31 yards on the opening hole to make it 423 yards, which is still a 3-wood and short iron for most pros. There also is a new tee on the par-3 eighth that allows it to play as long as 237 yards.
 
The most noticeable change are the three bunkers to the right of the seventh fairway in the landing area, which provide a better frame and essentially create at least a half-shot penalty.
 
Also, trees were planted left of the par-5 ninth fairway and to the right of the par-4 sixth fairway. And in case anyone was wondering, no one filled in that big pond surrounding the 17th green.
 
The island green remains the signature hole at Sawgrass, but not necessarily the most breathtaking view.
 
While it won't be finished for another six months, the 77,000-square-foot clubhouse, with a Mediterranean Revival design, looms spectacularly behind the 18th green. It adds distinction to the PGA TOUR's home course, becoming part of the landscape in much the same way as clubhouses at Riviera, Shinnecock Hills and Augusta National (back when you could see the clubhouse from the 18th tee at Augusta).
 
Fans will notice the amphitheater behind the first tee has been removed, allowing for a view of and from the clubhouse.
 
The course officially opened to the public Monday, and while it was in good shape, parts of the ninth fairway (about 180 yards from the tee) were slow to recover. There were chunks of turf missing, along with long strips of dirt that had not grown in, almost as if a varmint had been digging a trench.
 
'Do you know what animal did this?' a TOUR official asked with a smile. 'Vijay Singh.'
 
PGA TOUR players used the ninth fairway as the range while the practice facility was being rebuilt.
 
COUPLES CLOT
Fred Couples says the blood clot discovered in his arm is gone and he feels fine.
 
Couples withdrew from the Bridgestone Invitational in August and was having his back worked on when his specialist, Tom Boers, recommended he go to the hospital. Extensive tests eventually revealed a clot between his wrist and elbow.
 
Couples, 47, treated it with medicine and said, 'I feel great,' although it was a scare.
 
'I've had a couple of small things done with my back that I was in a room, but I've never been in a hospital, and I didn't really enjoy it,' he said. 'And then when I was talking to the doctor, I had a few things going on with the back of my head ... which I laughed about until he sat down with me and told me what could have happened.'
 
Couples' mother died of pancreatic cancer in 1994, and his father died of leukemia in 1997.
 
'I've seen stuff they've been through,' he said. 'I would rather wait quite a few years before anything like that happens.'
 
AUSSIE PRIDE
U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy was among a record six Australians to win on the PGA TOUR this year, and it's safe to say the Aussies are swelling with pride.
 
Ogilvy and Robert Allenby noted that Americans are starting to take notice of the Aussie success, with Allenby suggesting Americans have struggled because they don't have to work for what they get.
 
'We have to work pretty hard to get results, whereas a lot of them over there are looking for handouts, and that is why they don't become the players that they should become,' Allenby told reporters at the Australian Open. 'We'll go anywhere to play. We learn to travel at a young age and they don't. Everything is handed to them on a plate.
 
'We have to work our (tails) off to become the best golfers in the world.'
 
Ogilvy, who won his first major when Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie took double bogey on the 18th hole at Winged Foot, said the Americans are in 'a bit of a flap' over the state of their game, especially with no young players on the horizon.
 
'All of a sudden, there are 20-something of us on tour and we got another five more guys qualifying from the Nationwide Tour, so they are starting to wonder what we are doing,' Ogilvy said. 'In reality, we shouldn't be able to do it when they have 300 million people to our 20 million. It annoys them a bit, not because we are foreigners, but because they are not winning.'
 
Now that the wound is open, it's time to pour some salt.
 
'And,' Ogilvy added, 'they lost the Ryder Cup again this year.'
 
Q-SCHOOL
The second stage of PGA TOUR qualifying school gets under way this week on six courses, which some consider to be the most pressure of all. Those who fail to advance have no chance for status on either the PGA TOUR or Nationwide Tour.
 
Among those who made it out of the first stage was Ty Tryon, who first made it through all three stages in 2001 and would be graduating college this year if he had not turned pro.
 
Several notable players failed to advance through the first stage. One was Kevin Hall, who has been deaf since age 2. He shot 77 in the final round in Lakeland, Fla., and missed making the cut by three shots.
 
The horror story belonged to Aaron Barber, who played with Annika Sorenstam and Dean Wilson in the first two rounds of the '03 Colonial. Barber was only four shots out of the lead going into the final round in North Carolina when he finished with a double bogey, quadruple bogey and quadruple bogey to shoot 83 and miss by one shot.
 
DIVOTS
The LPGA Championship has raised its purse to $2 million for 2007, an increase of $200,000. ... The Champions Tour is bracing for a strong rookie class that includes Mark O'Meara, Bernhard Langer and John Cook. But it is missing two of the biggest stars of that era -- Greg Norman and Nick Faldo -- both of whom have said they do not expect to play more than a few events. Faldo is consumed with television work. Norman has said he will only play the Senior British Open. ... Americans are Nos. 1-2-3 in the world ranking (Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson), but don't have another player until Davis Love III at No. 16.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
John Daly played six more PGA TOUR events than Tiger Woods, but four fewer rounds.
 
FINAL WORD
'Because he's a player that always wins, I didn't know whether I should congratulate him on finishing second.' -- Yang Yong-eun, after winning the HSBC Champions by two shots over Tiger Woods.
 
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