The Right Club and Clubhouse

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Be The Right Club, Today. Hal Sutton. Signature Moment, 2000.
 
Freddies ace on 17. On the second ball. For a par.
 
Thats the shot almost everyone remembers even though there were lots of others from Couples when he won THE PLAYERS Championship in 1984 and 1996.
 
THE PLAYERS. Its coming. A week from Thursday.
 
Funk (the other Freddie) getting up and down from the bunker on the 72d hole to win in 2005 followed by a spontaneous release of emotion that manifested itself when he threw his hat into the ground. Take that, doubters.
 
Adam Scotts brave victorious bogey save on the 72d hole the year before Funks victory. Scott did it with drive, a second in the water left, a drop, a tidy chip and a 7-foot putt good for a first prize of $1.44 million dollars.
 
I remember when the entire purse was less than that much, veteran Jeff Sluman had remarked before the tournament. Afterward Scott credited Aussie icon Greg Norman with a pre-tournament short game lesson that helped him to properly steel his nerves late Sunday.
 
Its official name is The PLAYERS Championship. The TOUR prefers, conversationally, THE PLAYERS. The players incorrectly, but almost unanimously, refer to it as TPC even though technically, TPC stands for Tournament Players Club.
 
And these are just a few of its memories that you dont have to look up in a media guide. If youve been paying attention to important golf for the last 30 years, theyre right there in the forefront of your brain.
 
And there are plenty more.
 
Norman himself scorching the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, Pete Dyes seminal design, for a record four-day total of 264, 24-under par, 13 years ago.
 
How about Davis Loves 64 to win by six on the nasty final day that greeted players in 2003?
 
And what about Craig Perks needing just one putt on the final three holes a year earlier to edge a stunned Stephen Ames who thought he had won the tournament or, at worst, earned his way into a playoff?
 
Four years later Ames would fashion the round of the year on the PGA TOUR, a Sunday 67 that made everybody forget how close he had come in 2002.
 
That was last year. And it happened on a golf course that had been tweaked and toughened here and there. And while the spectators had come to appreciate and learn the holes by heart in the 30 years at this venue, the TOUR rightly decided more change was needed.
 
For starters, they moved the dates from weather-plagued March to a May spot on the calendar that historically presents friendlier meteorology. They tore down the clubhouse that had grown a little tired and built a state-of-the-art, 70,000 square foot, $32 million dollar structure that both blends into the landscape and provides all the amenities.
 
The golf course itself has undergone a more subtle makeover. The holes you remember are still easily recognizable. But the agronomy has changed to present firm and fast conditions. For starters, no more ryegrass overseed.
 
Subsequent to Ames victory last year all the fairways were stripped and replaced with layers of sand to facilitate drainage. Then they grew new Bermuda grass. Then the greens were re-built with sub-air systems (pioneered in tournament golf at Augusta National). Also redone was the practice facility.
 
To be sure, The PLAYERS has come a long way since 1982 when Jerry Pate created the original TPC Sawgrass memory by scooping up course designer Dye and then-Commissioner Deane Beman and diving into the water next to the 18th green after clinching victory.
 
So, yes, THE PLAYERS has achieved an identity and a level such that its no longer necessary to engage in the hoary debate about whether it should be golfs fifth major.
 
THE PLAYERS stands on its own with the best field in golf, enough history now to fill volumes and a re-dedication to keeping pace with a game that never stops changing.
 
Plus it no longer serves as a warm-up act for The Masters. Each of golfs five biggest annual four-day events'The Masters, THE PLAYERS, the U.S. Open, The Open Championship and the PGA Championship'now has its own month.
 
Be the right club, today.

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Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - THE PLAYERS Championship