Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Clown's Mouth or Golf Marvel?

"It's such a fine line between stupid, and clever."

- David St. Hubbins - Guitarist, Spinal Tap

This week, golf fans get to weigh in on the legitimacy of the infamous 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass. Is it a stroke of Pete Dye genius? Or a "clown's mouth".

Whether or not Sawgrass is the "5th Major" is an argument I find boring. My take: No. Just like there's really no "5th Beatle" there's no "5th Major". No matter how much money they shell out for the winner. No matter how strong the field. No matter how many FedEx Cup points are at stake.

No, no, and no. Run along.

As for the 17th however, that debate is endlessly fascinating to me. To wit, here's an annual TPC rant from my email in-box buddy John Witzke:

When your host course is a swampland goat track that features a made-for-TV clown's mouth, windmill and an island green, you're just never gonna be taken seriously as some sort of "5th major".

Doesn't matter how much $$$ you put up to attract the world's top players to come hang out at the amusement park located in the backyard of your headquarters in buffalo by the sea, FLA.

Nor does it matter how much NBC deepthroats Tim Finchem right when they know they've got the casual fan sucked in. This is no more important than the John Deere Classic or the Shearson-Lehman-Hutton-Andy-Williams-Clambake-Buick-Invitational-at-La-Jolla-Pines.

And of course, it goes without saying that when you make your pipe dream a full field 156 man event, inviting every schmuck on earth that has a tour card, sometimes you're gonna be forced to act like you're happy to be handing over that big fat check and a 5(!!!!!) year exemption to Jodie Mudd or Craig Perks.

Worst week in pro golf, Czabe.

REACT: Well, John is right in many regards. However, a few "yeah buts" on my part. First of all, I am fan of the 17th hole. Big fan. It's controversial, but fair, in my mind. Yes, even when a wind shear cuts down a Paul Goydos tee shot in a playoff and rinses his dreams of a massive payday and much needed exemption, that's golf.

The 17th is a hi-wire daredevil act, and it comes so late in the round, it exists in your head for hours before you even get to that tee.

I have played now both a replica of 17 (www.renditionsgolf.com) and the real deal. It's a scary look, no question about it. It's also a little popcorn wedge or 8 iron at most.

Make the shot, pro. You and your finely creased slacks, and courtesy. Make the f'ing shot!

As for the tournament, John is right. A full 156 man field is absurd. Pick the top 100 and make it taste better without all the gristle.

But I know why they don't do that. This event is to solely enrich the members of The Tour. Period.

In fact, that's why Deane Beman BUILT the joint in the first place. Beman's dream with Dye's creativity, turned a $1 parcel of god-awful Florida swamp into something pretty cool.

And helped make the Tour and the players rich.

I can respect that.

The layout itself is pretty forgettable, save for the closing 3 holes. But again, I must add a caveat. This is Florida, people. You can only do so much with +/- 3 feet of natural elevation change, and your stereotypical Florida golf course features.

Sprinkle of palm trees here. Swampy hazard there. Wind, wind, wind.

Not my favorite state for golf courses, to be honest, but I would wager many Floridians would admit as much themselves.

One of the coolest things about visiting Sawgrass this winter with my main man Mark Spencer, was looking at the framed invoice for raw materials that was typed up by Dye himself on letterhead during construction.

Who would think I could marvel at a document stating: "10,000 cubic tons crushed white gravel for cart-path rough in: $25,000."

But I did.

TPC Sawgrass was a dream of a pioneering sports commissioner, Deane Beman. I respect dreams. Too bad the current commish is so unworthy of the office.

End of rant.

TPC Sawgrass & Amelia Island from Steve Czaban on Vimeo.

Czabe's Trip to TPC Sawgrass - January 2010.

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