One of the most popular and fun weeks of the PGA Tour season is here. THE PLAYERS Championship, played at the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course, is considered by many as the "5th major championship."
THE PLAYERS is similar to The Masters, in that the course itself is the primary focus rather than the stars playing it. The course was designed and built by famous golf architect Pete Dye for the sole purpose of providing a stern test and a great stage for the PGA Tour and THE PLAYERS. That it does very well.
Unlike The Masters' Augusta National Golf Club, the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course is open to the public. I've played the course and doing so makes watching the tournament even more fun.
The primary focus on the TPC every year is the famous par-3 17th hole, the island green. The water around the 17th is the graveyard for over 120,000 amateurs' golf balls every year, and the pros aren't immune to it either. Though the hole is very short in length, 7-9 irons typically, players who feel the pressure can make big numbers on the 17th and shoot themselves right out of contention.
The 16th is a fairly short par-5, reachable by a large portion of the field this week. But distance isn't the only factor on 16. Right of the fairway and green is the same water which guards the 17th green. You can't see it on TV, but that water wraps around the back of the green as well. Bunkering guards short right and trees short left of the green will block 2nd or 3rd shots which are too far left. The 16th can be had, only by players who can hit accurate 2nd and 3rd shots.
The 18th hole is a beast. A large water hazard runs the entire length of the hole from tee to green. The fairway curves like a half moon, right to left. The proper shot from the tee on 18 is a long draw. Players who challenge the carry and overcook their draw will find the water. Conversely, players who bail out could be blocked by trees if their tee shots go too far right. Heavy undulations lie right of the green and a bunker left.
Not enough of the course is shown on TV. Anybody ever seen say the first 4-5 holes? #1 is a very nice par-4 hole with water in play right. Shots which go long on #2 find a very undulated and tough collection area.
Contrary to TV coverage, there are other par-3's the course and they're quite beautiful. They aren't as tough as the 17th on Sunday however.
The course has many sand and water hazards which run parallel to the fairways. During daily play, those sand waste areas double as cart paths.
The Course In General
Playing the course is a treat, though it puts a big dent in the pocketbook at $275 plus caddy. The biggest impression I got from playing it was the size. The TPC is a big course. Fairways, greens, hazards, trees… they're all big. Long tee shots combined with great short game are required to tame this big course, or the scores will be big too.