What's new at The Players Stadium at TPC Sawgrass for 2014?

By Brandon TuckerJanuary 31, 2014, 9:06 pm

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- It's only January on the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass, but there are already signs of a big event on the horizon. Grounds crews are in trees, clearing out grasses for new spectator areas, and around the 16th & 17th green, the epicenter of fan excitement, platforms have already been set.

The Players won't begin until the second week of May, but tournament officials have been busy since last year's event ended trying to up the ante. 

Matt Rapp, Executive Director of The Players, is in charge of finding new ways to enhance the spectator experience each year, whether it's adding to culinary options with local vendors and food trucks or improving spectator traffic flow. He looks at his duties this way: "We want the next year to feel like the 'Super Bowl'," he said. "And last year's to feel like AA-baseball."

Last year's Players was anything but minor league. Tiger Woods' victory was his first here since 2001 and the event drew 173,946 fans, checking in just shy of the sea of humanity at the TPC Scottsdale during the Waste Management Phoenix Open (179,022). The Players is unique because it carries a major-worthy field that attracts huge attention, yet unlike three of the four majors, it's staged at the same venue every year. That means the PGA Tour can invest in permanent event facilities other tour stops can't -- and the only other venue where it seems logical to do so is at Augusta National. The result is many niceties for fans you won't find at other events (or any outdoor festival for that matter) like convenient parking and plenty of permanent bathrooms. The Stadium currently has two, enormous, $800,000 rest areas on the course specifically meant for The Players, with a third being built by the 12th tee to be ready for 2014: 

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More permanent bathrooms on the Stadium Course are a welcomed site to any spectator. 

Unlike The Masters, fan capacity at TPC Sawgrass is high enough that, despite the top field, it's rather easy to get tickets. Weekly ground passes start at $150 while daily grounds passes start at $58 (cheaper during practice rounds) and head higher depending on what kind of access to the clubhouse and VIP areas you want. For those who want to walk the whole course, Rapp and his crew have prided themselves on analyzing spectator traffic each year and looking for ways to weed out the bottlenecks, making it feasibly possible to follow a group from the first tee to 18th green. Natural, grass mounding that frame holes have always been a signature of the TPC "Stadium" concept, and as a result, there are very few bleachers erected around the course, mostly just around the 1st tee and the amphitheater around No. 16 and 17, plus corporate hospitality and VIP tents. For 2014, mounds have been added to seven holes (No. 1, 3, 5, 7, 11, 12 & 14) specifically for the purpose of viewing lines, making it all that much easier to follow action throughout the course.

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Spectators will have a new, elevated vantage point of the 3rd green thanks to newly installed mounding. 

Playing golf at TPC Sawgrass

TPC Sawgrass is the home of the PGA Tour, and many tour pros reside here just to play and practice here, but that doesn't mean you can't play through. Rounds on the Stadium don't come cheap here and green fees can soar north of $400 in prime times with a forecaddie or walking caddie. Dye's Valley course, a Web.com-worthy venue, can be played more affordably (rates are currently under $200). However, Dye's Valley, which is usually open for play during The Players, is scheduled to close March 1st for renovation work and is expected to reopen in September.

If the green fees are too heavy on your wallet, don't let that deter you from at least visiting the property, which is a marvel. The 77,000-square-foot clubhouse, built in 2007, may appear opulent on TV, but it's very welcoming inside. Volunteer tour guides are on premises every single day except Christmas, and will take anyone on a free tour of the many artworks and artifacts that aim to tell the PGA Tour story. Also, anyone can have a meal in Nineteen, the restaurant and bar overlooking the course, which is frequented by many tour players and dignitaries. 

For those looking for a stay-and-play golf package at the TPC Sawgrass, look no further than the next door Sawgrass Marriott Resort, which just underwent a thorough refresh to their public areas in the hotel (including spa) as well as their roomy vacation rentals. They've also built a new path that can shuttle guests straight to the TPC Sawgrass clubhouse without any need of a car.


Punch Shots: Is the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass the best golf course you can play in Florida? 


 

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Fleetwood fires 63, waits to see if score is enough

By Rex HoggardJune 17, 2018, 8:52 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Tommy Fleetwood became the sixth player to shoot 63 at the U.S. Open, and just the second to do it in the final round. Now he waits.

Fleetwood teed off almost 2 ½ hours before – and six strokes behind – the leaders at Shinnecock Hills on Sunday, but stormed into the hunt thanks to four consecutive birdies starting at the 12th hole. The Englishman’s round was even more impressive considering he didn’t birdie either of the layout’s par 5s.


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Fleetwood finished at 2 over par – after missing a 9-foot putt for birdie and 62 at the 18th – which was tied for second place and one stroke off the lead held by Brooks Koepka when he completed his round.

After speaking with the media, Fleetwood went to the locker room to await a possible playoff, which was changed this year from an 18-hole overtime to just two holes of aggregate play.

“We'll go and relax a little bit and just see,” said Fleetwood, who rolled in 159 feet of birdies putts. “Only time will tell what's going to happen today at the course. If it was like yesterday, I'd feel a little more comfortable than now.”

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Fowler follows 84 with 65, praises Shinnecock setup

By Rex HoggardJune 17, 2018, 5:44 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – As promised, the USGA dialed back Shinnecock Hills for Sunday’s final round, watering the greens overnight and deferring to more user-friendly hole locations.

The evidence of this was on the leaderboard, with four early finishers having shot under-par rounds, including Rickie Fowler, who closed with a round-of-the-week 65. There were just three under-par cards on Saturday.

“That's the golf course I enjoy playing. Obviously, pin placements were a lot safer,” said Fowler, who had just one bogey on Sunday and opened his day with a 4-under 31 on his opening nine. “The pins today will definitely allow for the greens to firm up and get fast, and we'll see how much they dry out. It was definitely more receptive this morning than yesterday, that's for sure.”


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It was a 19-stroke turnaround for Fowler, who ballooned to a third-round 84 on Day 3 during what most contend were the week’s toughest conditions. Fowler had put himself into contention going into the weekend thanks to a second-round 69, but struggled on Saturday afternoon like much of the field.

Fowler said the setup was vastly different to what players faced on Saturday and that even if the winds increase for the afternoon tee times the course will remain playable, unlike Round 3 when many players said the USGA “lost” the golf course.

“They did a good job of staying safe,” Fowler said, “because if it does dry out, it will still be very playable.”

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Phil celebrates par on 13, ducks media after round

By Ryan LavnerJune 17, 2018, 5:35 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – Phil Mickelson didn’t have another meltdown at the U.S. Open.

Back on the 13th green Sunday – less than 24 hours after taking a two-shot penalty for hitting a moving ball and recording a sextuple-bogey 10 – Mickelson poured in a 10-footer and raised his arms in mock triumph, as if he’d finally won that elusive major title.

Not quite.

He’d simply made par.

“It looked like he won the Masters,” said playing partner Rickie Fowler. “He didn’t jump, but he had a little celebration there.”


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The par save and the final-round 69 were one of the lone bright spots during what was an adventurous week for Lefty, even by his unpredictable standards. Mickelson’s shocking swat was still the talk of this Open, especially after USGA executive director Mike Davis revealed Saturday night that Mickelson had called him to ask for more clarification on the rule he said that he knew he’d broken.

Despite some calls for him to withdraw from the tournament, Mickelson displayed his usual cheerful demeanor inside the ropes with Fowler.

“He joked about it right as we went down the first hole,” Fowler said.

Fowler said that he didn’t know “if I would have had the wits like Phil to run after it” on 13, but added that it never should have come to that in the first place.

“He could have saved himself a shot by just letting it go and taking unplayable, but then that would still look pretty funny too,” he said. “The course shouldn’t play that way.”

If you’re wondering whether Mickelson would be defiant or contrite on Sunday, we don’t know the answer. He declined to stop and speak with the media, deciding instead to sign autographs for more than a half hour and then offering a few short answers before ducking into player hospitality.

“The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’” he said. “I don’t know.”

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USGA slows greens, alters hole locations for Sunday

By Ryan LavnerJune 17, 2018, 3:29 pm

SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – After admitting that it went too far with the setup Saturday at the U.S. Open, USGA officials made some modifications for the final round.

In a statement released Sunday morning, the USGA said that it watered Shinnecock Hills’ greens an “appropriate level” and slowed down the surfaces nearly a foot on the Stimpmeter.


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That was in anticipation of a sunny, dry forecast that calls for temperatures to reach 80 degrees and wind gusts up to 20 mph.

They said the setup for the final day is similar to what was used in Round 1, when officials braced for 30-mph winds.

Some of the hole locations were also adjusted based on the forecast – changes, the USGA said, that were meant to “maintain a challenge yet fair U.S. Open test.”