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Damaged greens prompt TPC Sawgrass changes

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Less-than-championship quality greens at TPC Sawgrass in the days leading up to next week’s Players Championship have prompted the PGA Tour to plan significant changes to the Stadium Course in the coming years.

According to a memo sent to Tour players on Wednesday, a particularly cold and wet winter in northeast Florida combined with the “misapplication” of a product designed to combat the wintery conditions has resulted in greens that were recently described by one Tour player as “awful.”

Specifically, Nos. 4, 9, 11, 12 and 14 were damaged by the combination of factors, which prompted officials to use temporary greens beginning on March 28 and the course’s closure on April 14.

As a result, the Tour announced in Wednesday’s memo that a “significant” number of trees have been removed from around the most severely affected greens and that after the 2015 Players Championship the circuit will convert to a hardier variety of Bermuda grass and “will also make strategic design changes to expand certain green complexes to disperse wear and tear from foot traffic.”

“It isn’t one thing that caused this it was several things, shade, foot traffic, winter conditions and the application program, while accepted as the right thing to do it proved to be too aggressive,” said Ty Votaw, the Tour’s executive vice president of communication and international affairs.

GolfChannel.com toured the Stadium Course on Tuesday and found significant stress on the fourth, ninth, 11th and 12th holes, which has prompted officials to cancel practice rounds this weekend. No decision has been made regarding practice rounds beginning on Monday.

The Tour declined a request to interview the circuit’s director of agronomy Tom Vlach or TPC Sawgrass superintendent Clay Breazeale, nor would Votaw say what “product(s)” damaged the putting surfaces.

However, Tour officials explained in Wednesday’s memo it was, “an application program that, while widely accepted in the industry, was utilized in a manner that proved to be too aggressive.”

Cold and wet winters have impacted course conditions at the Tour’s flagship event since the move to May in 2007, particularly in 2010, and the circuit also told players in Wednesday’s memo that the Tour, “will selectively remove additional trees that impact sunlight conditions, (and) continue aggressive play restrictions throughout the year and temporary greens will be maintained for immediate use as conditions dictate.”