Tournament: The Players Championship, March 14-17, 2019
Course: TPC Sawgrass (Stadium), 7,189 yards, par 72.
Defending Champion: Webb Simpson. The Broughton High School product (Raleigh, NC), via Wake Forest University, suddenly found his game that week and tied a course record Saturday (63) to give himself a nice cushion and the eventual victory. Simpson formerly used an “anchored putter”, and it took him a couple of years to get used to the used forbidding anchoring of a club to the players body. But he figured it out and captured the 2nd biggest win of his career.
Fun Fact: You have to say the 17th hole. A 140 yard-ish par 3 that is essentially an island green (see pic above). Likely the most iconic and recognizable hole in all of golf. About 15-16 balls end up in the water each of the first 2 days on average, and about 7-8 balls on the weekend. Which is about 10% of the players.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 1-7 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, 2-7 p.m. (NBC). Sunday, 1-6 p.m. (NBC). And if you are a DIRECTV customer, I hear you have access to bonus coverage of featured groups, some singular coverage of #17, and a channel devoted to ShotLink (the technology that tracks distances, proximity, clubs used, and every possible bit of data available).
Former ‘Dawgs in the Field (Seven): Brian Harman, Harris English, Russell Henley, Keith Mitchell, Chris Kirk, Bubba Watson, Kevin Kisner.
Yes, we’re back in north Florida, just south of Jacksonville, but thankfully not in the
Gator Alltel Everbank TIAA Stadium. This is the home of the PGA Tour, its signature golf course, and the bell cow of PGA Tour tournaments.
Suffice to say it’s a great course, presents a wonderful challenge to the world’s best pros, and has been moved back to the month of March. A 12 year hiatus in May was put right when the world’s professional golf calendar was tweaked this season. (Again, if you have questions, let me know).
While there are some quantitative measures to prove it I’m sure, this is often referred to as the toughest and deepest field in golf. There are about 10 ways to qualify, and they involve either winning a big tournament within the last couple of years, or being so successful that you’re ranked very high on the World Golf Ranking or money list. So this week will be a Who’s Who of professionals playing their best.
The Stadium Course is surprisingly short compared to the Tour averages of about 7,400 yards for par 72 courses. But with the move back to March, the wind is usually gusty and comes from a different direction thanks to late winter/early spring weather fronts. With water all around, and some holes lined tight by trees, this can make it quite difficult. And though the overseeding of the bermuda (it’s a warm-season grass, so rye is seeded earlier to make the course green in these cool months) will make the greens softer, there should be more rough and the winds will combine to keep the boys focused.
And of course the island green, #17. You can see it walking up the 16th hole (the easiest on the course) and it somehow befuddles the world’s best year after year. It’s been described as a balance beam... place the beam a foot off the floor and it’s no problem. Put the beam 10 stories in the air and it’s another story. These pros are dialed in to yardages, even with wind, that they could hit the green 20 out of 20 times any day of the week. Except, apparently, when the tournament starts. Rory McIlroy recently took part in a fun exercise - he tried to hit the green with each club in his bag. I believe he was successful with 4 or 5.
Last week, Keith Mitchell had a successful encore. Having won his first PGA tournament at The Honda Classic, Mitchell followed it up with a closing round of 66 in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, good for T6. Chris Kirk finished T15, Bubba T17, Kisner T23, Swafford T29, and English 68th. Brian Harman was the lone ‘Dawg to miss the cut. But 4 inside the top 25, and 5 in the top 30 is not bad at all.
Let me know in the comments if you have questions about the tourney or our ‘Dawgs. And as always...
**Remember that The Masters, the US Open, the PGA Championship, and The Open Championship/British Open are all run by different organizations. It’s all very confusing, and needlessly complicated, so ask questions in the comments if you’d like to know more.