Sunday, May 15, 2011
TPC Sawgrass: A Humble Defense
Yes, it's goofy.
Yes, it's tricked to the max.
It's a golf course equivalent of a Honda Civic, with it's rims jacked, windows tinted, and noisy exhaust just to make it sound scary.
But like that Civic, it DOES catch your eye.
A classic layout - this Pete Dye/Deane Beman collaboration - it is not.
And if you want to measure it against the great, distinguished layouts in the game of golf, then it will always come up short.
But when it comes to delivering drama late on Sundays, the course does it's job. The final 3 holes are brilliantly calibrated to offer the full mix of a closing test of high level tournament golf.
The 16th is meant to be abused with a solid drive and long-iron/hybrid approach. Your last chance to jump into the picture with a birdie or eagle.
The 17th is a visual knee knocker, but honestly, at 132 yards long, a should-be easy par unless the wind is blowing at 25-plus.
The 18th is a monster, plain and simple.
You can play those final three holes in any combination of aggressiveness, and with any combination of birdie-par-bogey-disaster.
As such, the Players at Sawgrass never comes down to a snoozing par-march to the clubhouse.
But let's get back to course itself. My only problem with the set-up currently, is that there are several greens where a well struck shot, can land GENTLY on the surface, and yet still pick up steam and slip entirely off the ledge into a hazard.
It happened to Mickelson on #13 on Thursday. It happened to McDowell on #18 on Sunday morning.
That needs to be fixed. Period. You can have balls slide off false fronts, into a bunker, a collection area, or the rough. But not a hazard. No. Never a hazard. Properly struck shots, that merely land in the wrong quadrant of a green, should never result in a penalty stroke.
Okay, that's an easy fix. Just bring those fringe collars up an inch or so, and you won't have that problem. You can leave the contours as they are. Just keep the balls from getting wet.
As for the rest of Sawgrass's quirky vindictiveness - you know, mounds and whoop-de-do's with ankle high rough - I'm fine with that. Tall strands of pampas grass and razor palms that eat up your ball, and restrict your swing?
Hey, who told you to hit it there?
Off line shots should be penalized, and at this course, the penalties are like Russian roulette. Hit it straighter. Think hard about how you plan to extricate yourself from trouble. A simple pitch, loosely executed, will become a seven before you can say "damn you to hell, Pete Dye!"
As for Sawgrass having memorable holes besides #'s 16-18, well, it doesn't. Hell, I played the place two winters ago, and many of the holes still elude my recollection. Granted, given the course was in a dormant bermuda winter yellow, and most of the deciduous trees were without their foliage, much of the place looked very unfamiliar.
You gotta remember, this is Florida, folks. On the global "master list" of great courses, Florida might only have 2 that even deserve to be on the list besides Sawgrass. (Seminole, which nobody ever sees, and Bay Hill would be mine).
Florida is flatter than Calista Flockhardt on her prom night. And the state is all freaking sand. As a course designer, you just can't do anything interesting with it. Period. You could design an iPhone app that has enough power to layout a typical Florida golf course.
Dogleg. Palm trees. Sand traps. Lake or marsh.
I respect TPC Sawgrass for the simple fact that it was Beman's brainchild. The course, and the vision for the PGA Tour that Beman had back in the day, is why all of these dudes are flying from tournament to tournament in LearJets, not driving by car.
Beman knew the PGA Tour needed a true "home course." It needed an event it could call it's own. The Tour didn't own even a slice of the four majors. While nobody with an IQ above that of a lob wedge thinks this event is somehow a "5th major" you can't blame Beman - and now, Finchem - for pushing this thing, to the point of eye rolling annoyance.
Go ahead and google up the stories of how Beman decided to build TPC Sawgrass.
He bought the property, for $1.
Yes. A dollar.
It was a swampy fucking mess.
Over the years, Beman and the Tour have turned a $1 swampy mess, into one helluva championship golf course, a money making resort gem, and they play a very lucrative event there every year - rent fucking free.
As the kids say: "props to that."
So it's not an oak tree lined Tillinghast masterpiece from 1914.
It is what it is.
To that, I tip my cap.
Oh yeah, one last thing. If you missed the trash-can lid sized turtle taking the "Nestea Plunge" in super-slo-mo on Saturday, don't worry.
Czabe has you covered.....