Notes TPC at Sawgrass Turns 25

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Dean Beman had played enough tournament golf -- and dodged enough periscopes -- to know there had to be a better way for people to watch his sport.
 
'People would walk 4 or 5 miles and only see four or five holes,' said Beman, former PGA Tour commissioner.
 
And so he came up with stadium golf, first showcased to so-so reviews at the inaugural Tournament Players Championship in 1980. Beman contacted famed architect Pete Dye. The two helped create the Stadium Course at Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass.
 
'We really thought it would be something that would kick the game and get it going,' said Dye, who was given the PGA Tour's Lifetime Achievement Award on Wednesday.
 
The layout features rolling mounds where fans can watch action on several holes at once. Beman said common areas designed to better route spectators were also part of the plan. While some golfers had problems with Dye's difficult layout -- 'They don't snarl at me as they go by anymore,' Dye joked -- it was a hit with ticket buyers who until then trusted clunky cardboard periscopes to see their favorite stars.
 
Beman said he thought of the idea in the early 1960s, but couldn't put into practice until 1979 when PGA Tour headquarters moved to Florida from Washington and construction began on the Stadium Course.
 
Dye and Beman 'gave us a snapshot of what the future of golf was going to look like,' said Steve Elkington, a two-time winner at The Players Championship.
 
Dye didn't think the design would have that much of an impact. 'But I'm sure (Beman) did,' Dye said. 'I'm sure he was thinking way beyond what I did about what would happen to the PGA Tour.'
 
The are 23 TPC courses across the country, 10 of which hold Tour events including the recently opened TPC of Louisiana that's hosting the Zurich Classic of New Orleans next month.
 
Beman smiles when asked what his notion meant to the sport. 'I think stadium golf is something we're going to keep refining and growing over the years,' Beman said.
 
DORAL BUZZ
Phil Mickelson's first thought at seeing Tiger Woods hit a ball out of bounds at Bay Hill last Sunday?
 
'Where was that' at Doral? Mickelson said.
 
If Woods had done that three weeks ago at the Ford Championships at Doral, it might have been Mickelson holding the trophy instead of Tiger.
 
But Woods shot a closing 66 and overcame Mickelson's two-stroke lead in a finish that electrified everyone who watched two of golf's biggest names duel it out at the Blue Monster.
 
Mickelson said Wednesday he was thrilled by the battle.
 
'I want to take him on at his best because that's the greatest barometer as a player is knowing how (Woods) is playing and trying to beat him at his best,' Mickelson said.
 
Mickelson's adrenaline surged when Woods made eagle on the par-5 12th that put him in front for the first time.
 
'I actually loved the fact that he made eagle, that he was playing his best and I had the chance to try and beat him head-to-head,' Mickelson said. 'I wasn't able to do it, but I came close.'
 
The Players Championship is Mickelson's first tournament since then.
 
EMERALD ISLE
Padraig Harrington says the shrinking planet and golf's worldwide expansion have improved the fortunes of Irish golfers such as himself.
 
Harrington won the Honda Classic two weeks ago, while countryman Des Smyth took the SBC Classic on the Champions Tour the same day.
 
And the Emerald Isle kept its sparkle last week when Graeme McDowell of Northern Island tied for second behind champion Kenny Perry at the Bay Hill Invitiational.
 
Harrington says Ireland has always had world-class golfers.
 
'I think what's happening now is maybe there's more access to playing a worldwide schedule,' Harrington said. 'In the times of Des Smyth when he was playing well in his early years and Christie O'Connor Jr. they didn't get the opportunity to show their game but in a Ryder Cup or one or two events.
 
'We've got more opportunity to play around the world,' he says, 'and that's why we're probably showing up a little bit more.'
 
DIVOTS
PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said that as the Tournament Players Club at Sawgrass celebrates its 25th year, the Tour will look at some 'infrastructure renewal' projects at its TPC clubs across the country to make sure they're up to modern-day standards. ... It seems only the weather can derail Vijay Singh's tournament preparation. Rain and thunderstorms in the area kept him to only 15 holes and little range time at The Players Championship before Wednesday. 'Hopefully, it doesn't rain so I can get prepared properly,' he said. ... Darren Clarke says he'd use whatever club off the 18th tee that would go straight. How about a putter, it was suggested. 'I can't hit that straight either,' Clarke laughed.
 
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