Championship Guide 2012
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1 THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP GUIDE 2012
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THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP GUIDE 2012 3
Table of Contents
2011 PLAYERS CHAMP: K.J. CHOI....................................................................6 WHO WILL WIN THE 2012 PLAYERS.......................................................10
CINDERELLAS NO MORE.....................................................................................17 Q School finished as path to PGA Tour CAN A 52 YEAR OLD WIN THE PLAYERS..........................................22 ADDITIONS & IMPROVEMENTS.....................................................................24 at the players TPC SAWGRASS .............................................................................................................28 The course the pros love to hate FIVE GO INTO WORLD GOLF.........................................................................40 Hall of Fame THE LONG, LONGER AND LONGEST....................................................46 Putter debate continues EQUIPMENT PICKS.......................................................................................................54 Serious and not so - from the PGA Merchandise Show
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2011 PLAYERS CHAMP:
K.J. Choi BY KATHY BISSELL
K.J. Choi is a pathfinder. Ground-breaker. Trailblazer. In 1999, he became the one-person advance party for Korean men on the PGA Tour. His arrival in the fall of that year for Qualifying School was the beginning of what would become a growing contingent of Koreans who now call the PGA Tour home. Choi’s initial experience in the U.S. as a professional golfer was at the World Cup held at Kiawah Island in 1997. It influenced his decision to come to the US. “I was very impressed about a lot of things,” he said. “First of all, you know, the local crowds gallery were really supportive of me. They were very fair in cheering. The volunteers, the tournament organizers were very showed special attention to all the players, gave them all the good service.” Not that it was easy at first. He had to learn something about the language and culture. What was the easiest was the golf, although his initial choice of TPC Sawgrass as a home base may have been questionable. “When I first joined the Tour, moved over here in 1999, this course — my level, my level of talent golf-wise wasn’t good
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enough to shoot under par on this course,” he confessed. “You had the wind factor; the course is long. Growing up in Korea, when you practice in Korea, the only practice driving range you have is like indoor driving ranges where there’s no wind. So it was really impossible to think about practicing in a facility on a golf course where you’re facing the wind. That’s why it was very hard for me.” After a 35th place finish at the 1999 Q-School, he had an undistinguished but respectable first season, finishing 134th, and had to return to Q-School again in 2000. However in 2001, things began to turn around for him. With a 65th place finish on the money list, his future was secure for the next year, and in 2002, he won two tournaments which carried two-year exemptions: the Compaq Classic of New Orleans and the Tampa Bay Classic. Choi had the luxury of working on his game knowing that he had a place to play. Doing some international travel, Choi was victorious in the Linde German Masters in 2003. Then beginning with the Chrysler Classic of Greensboro in 2006, he became an even more consistent winner, capturing the 2007 Memorial Tournament and inaugural AT&T
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THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP GUIDE 2012 7
National in 2007 followed by the 2008 Sony Open in Hawaii before winning the 2011 Players Championship. Choi has developed a fan club in the U.S., a group that calls themselves Chois Bois. Every year they make a trip from Tennessee to The Players to follow their favorite golfer. They have shirts with Chois Bois printed on them and one guy they follow. “For the Choi’s Bois, for them to come all the way from Tennessee to watch me play, imagine,” Choi said last year, adding it was the first time he had seen them. “For them to fly all the way over just because they like me as a player and to support me the way that they did, I’m very appreciative. It’s really spectacular to see something like that. I felt that with support like that, every shot that I hit, I have to try my best. I didn’t want to let them down.” Although many golfers will say that their first professional victory was their biggest one, certainly Choi’s victory at The Players has been his most significant in terms of prestige. But it was won in a hard fought battle against veteran David Toms. Choi, playing the 18th hole, had a one shot lead over Toms. Toms has always had a lethal putting stroke, and he made birdie putt at 18 to pull into a tie with Choi who had to chip and putt for a par. “When David Toms made that putt on the 18th for birdie, it was as loud as something you’d hear at the Masters, someone holing an important putt at the Masters,” Choi explained. “When I saw him hole that birdie putt on the 18th, I could sense the confidence building up with David.” Choi and Toms then entered a sudden death playoff on one of the most famous holes in golf, the island 17th at TPC Sawgrass. The place where Jeff Sluman was defeated by Sandy Lyle, where Paul Goydos was defeated by Sergio Garcia, where many tournaments have been won and lost. “Going to the playoff on the 17th hole, I had a 30-foot putt, and I putted to about two feet,” Choi explained about the situation. “I was pretty confident that we would move on to the next hole.” Then he saw the putt that faced Toms. “It was a downslope, and I could tell that that was a very difficult putt because when I practiced it during the practice round, the lie is a very difficult lie,” he added. “I knew it wasn’t going to be easy.” Choi thought that when Toms made the stroke, it was a slighter longer putting stroke than Toms typically has. Like Choi, Toms missed his long putt, but his comeback putt was slightly longer than Choi’s. Toms missed the four footer, leaving the door open for K.J. Choi to win the biggest tournament of his professional career. Choi made putt and became the 2011 Players Champion. “As a fellow player I felt very sorry for him because I know how that feels,” Choi added about Toms’ missed putt. Choi’s success has allowed him to make charitable contributions, like the $200,000 donation to tornado relief last year.
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“Once the tournament was over, you know, when I had a little bit of time to grab a moment and think, I remembered that the tornado had hit the southeastern region, and I just came up with the thought of, you know, helping them because so many good things have happened to me, and I wanted to do something in return for those states that suffered because they do need a lot of help over there,” Choi said. Since winning The Players he has also been able to fulfill a personal dream. “I remember my first tournament ever playing here was Jack’s (Nicklaus) tournament at Memorial when he invited me back in 1999. And what I remember is that I was just blown away with not only how the tournament was set up, but more so actually witnessing how — it was not just the tournament people, but how the local people, the local citizens, the volunteers were part of the tournament, the local people for the tournament, the charities, and that really — I was very impressed with that,” he explained. “Ever since then I thought to myself that if I ever had the opportunity to have a tournament on my own, this is what I want to emulate, you know, something to this caliber, depth of tournament where you have not only the players participating, the sponsors, but also the local community being part of it.” In conjunction with the Korean Tour and the Asian Tour, it has become a reality. “I’m really proud of it. And I want it to be a tournament where all the players are able to participate and feel proud that they’re being — they’re playing in a tournament that not only is special for them, but also for the community where it’s being held,” he added. He won the inaugural event in October of 2011, making three birdies on the final at the Haesley Nine Bridges Golf Club. In addition to playing and hosting his tournament, he tries to help young Korean golfers expand their horizons by bringing them to the US for a visit. “Normally, every year, I bring over three junior golfers from the K.J. Choi Foundation in Korea, and they come during the off season. So I train with them; I teach them,” Choi said. Recently he took his juniors to the Tampa area. “For me, I was actually able to feed off of the Junior golfers by teaching them and by practicing with them and by training them, I gained a lot of training, as well. So it was a real good challenge for me.” In addition to his victories in the US Chois has won the 2009 Iskandar Johor Open, 2003/2005 S.K. Telecom, 2003 Linde German Masters 1996 Korean Open, 1999 Kolon Korean Open, 1999 Ube Kosan Open, 1999 Kirin Open, 1997 Fantom Open, 1997 Astra Cup PGA Championship, 1997 Pocari Korea Times Open, and the 1995 Fantom Open Choi represented South Korea in the WGC-World Cup in 2002, 2003 and 2005, and was a member of the International Team in the Presidents Cup in 2003, 2007 and 2011.
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THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP GUIDE 2012 9
WHO WILL WIN THE
2012 Players BY KATHY BISSELL
It’s that time of year again when all the sophistication and knowledge and expertise derived from years of covering golf totally fails to help me predict a winner. It’s pretty much a standing joke that if you are picked here, you have no chance, except for the year I picked an Aussie and Adam Scott won. That’s as close as I’ve come in more than a decade of doing this. Apologies are hereby offered in advance for those who are about to be cursed by being selected as potential winning candidates. Before making picks, I tried in vain to talk the editor of the paper into a Ouija board session, but she would have none of it, and as you know, it takes more than one per-
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son to make the Ouija work. Who knows what names would have surfaced if she’d been willing to give it a try? “Downton Abbey” fans will vouch for the Ouija’s ability to offer timely and correct advice. N’est-ce pas? So, since the cracked crystal golf ball is in the shop for repairs right now, that leaves a few alternative methods for selecting possible winners of The Players. The first one is guaranteed to be nearly foolproof. First, I give a bottle of Diet Pepsi a hearty shake, unscrew the cap and see what initials are spritzed out on clothing and the kitchen floor. While certainly not a method employed by Ladbrokes, the British gambling company, is it any less accurate? There’s no doubt in my mind, the results of this system would be better if Diet Coke, one of the PGA Tour official soft drinks, was the beverage of choice, but face it: there’s no accounting for taste or lack of it. That’s probably the only thing keeping this sure-fire system from becoming the gold standard for predicting sports outcomes. It will probably be used at next year’s Superbowl parties, although potentially replaced by a beverage with hops and barley in it. This time around, the Diet Pepsi spritzed the initials LW for Lee Westwood. Sure, last year he took a Pasadena on The Players, but now he’s taking a second look at the PGA Tour. His agent Chubby Chandler even said — and you do have to understand and appreciate “Chubby humor” for this one — LAST year there was no way The Players was the fifth major, because Lee Westwood was skipping it. This year, he said it is definitely the fifth major because Lee Westwood is playing in it. He was laughing when he said it. Basically, where Westwood is or where Darren Clarke is — the two of them
being his long-standing clients — those are the most important tournaments being played, even if it’s in Antarctica. However, Westwood has also finished well at The Players. It is a course that demands excellent ball striking, and that is Westwood’s forte. If you do not like the carbonated beverage picking system, there is the always-interesting method of blindfolded pointing to the list of PGA Tour players entered. At least that provides a 1 in 144 chance of winning, if you can get your hands on an accurate list of entrants. The list is often the stumbling block. You can end up pointing to someone who has not qualified or someone who withdraws. However, that definitely will not happen this year because the pointer has shown Luke Donald, no doubt about it. The TPC Sawgrass is not a super long golf course at 7,215 yards, so Donald’s not overshadowed by long hitters the way he might be on a 7,600-yard track. He can hit the kind of pinpoint iron shots that are required for success. When he defeated Lee Westwood last year to take over the number one spot in the world rankings, if Westwood hit an iron to 6 feet, Donald hit one inside him to 4 feet. It was that kind of match between the two of them. There are other methods that are every bit as good as the first two when it comes to picking the next champion. An excellent one is to wrap your head in a towel, sit on the floor and meditate. Immediately what pops into my mind—and I know this works the same way for you—is Hunter Mahan, furry vest and all. Imagine what kind of new Golf Boys poster the foursome come up with if Mahan won The Players after Bubba Watson won The Masters? Would Mahan be wrestling the alligator from the 17th hole while Bubba wore a
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THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP GUIDE 2012 13
green jacket over bib overalls? Mahan has won twice this season already. If he has not cooled down since the Shell Houston Open victory, he can still make a run at The Players. His Nome putter is working for him despite the fact that it’s from Nike and not from Alaska. Again, he’s a solid ball striker, which is what a golfer has to be to have success at TPC Sawgrass. If you take a bunch of Sharpies and toss them into the air and see if they spell anything when they land, I’m sure you’ll see the name Mark and that will, of course, tell you that Mark Wilson, the quiet assassin of 2011, is going to win The Players. He’s not flashy. He goes about business without a fuss. He doesn’t seem to get scared—like of the finishing hole with a shot over water at the Humana Challenge. He just gets it done. The Sharpies like Mark for The Players. Who else could surprise this year? Padraig Harrington seems to post good scores at TPC Sawgrass. Watch for him to work his way up the leaderboard. Steve Stricker, though he has not won here, has the game for the TPC Sawgrass. So does Zach Johnson who finished second at RBC Heritage on a vintage Pete Dye course. We have yet to see newer stars of 2011 make waves at Dye’s disaster zone: Webb Simpson, for instance, or Bill Haas, the Fed Ex Cup champ. And while the ball strikers are certain to be in contention, what about the amazingly long hitters who have strutted their stuff of late? Kyle Stanley, who hit one drive 375 yards at the Waste Management Open and played from near the hospitality tents on the 18th instead of the fairway. Masters champ Bubba Watson who regularly hits over or around every kind of trouble except for three story houses. Gary Woodland, if his wrist is healed.
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What about Keegan Bradley who is both long and straight? Or the resurgent Adam Scott? Recent winner Justin Rose? Even Carl Pettersson, who just got his US citizenship. The list of talent is seemingly endless this season. Perhaps that is because more golfers had an opportunity to get out from behind the exceedingly long shadow cast by the victory totals of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson and—for a while—Vijay Singh. When a handful of golfers are eating up trophies by the handfuls like they were peanuts or potato chips, it doesn’t leave much room for everyone else to shine. Finally, there are the guys who are expected to win every week they tee it up, and of course they don’t because nobody but the late Byron Nelson could do that. We’re talking about players like Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods. Players with so much talent that they can break out at any time and snag another one for the trophy room. Woods looked unstoppable when he captured his seventh title at Arnold Palmer’s place. McIlroy looked equally good on his victory march at the Honda Classic. Yet neither one could translate that into a Masters title in 2012, so when it comes to The Players, all bets are off except that they both have so much talent that it would be ridiculous to fail to mention them as possible winners. Finally, the dark horse picks: Couples and Love. When guys have done as well at a golf course as these two have, they have to be somewhere on the radar screen, for nostalgia if nothing else. So there you have it, the absolute locks for victory at the 2012 Players. And you did NOT hear it from us.
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CINDERELLAS NO MORE Q-School finished as path to PGA Tour BY KATHY BISSELL Since golf has been played, there have been a variety of ways for golfers to gain entry into top professional events. In just the last 50 to 60 years, the system has changed a few times. Arnold Palmer recalled how he made it to the Tour, which at that time, was run by the PGA of America. He had an avenue that opened
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up to him via success as an amateur. “The National Amateur Champion of that current year was exempt from qualifying. So I had that exemption from ‘54 to ‘55,” Palmer explained. “The other thing that was different was that most of the qualifying and the people who were making the Tour — that were not otherwise eligible
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— were able to go to the site, enter the tournament, and qualify on a Monday. And every week, for the entire Tour, there was a qualifying on Monday to get into the tournament. Same number of players as there are today.” Palmer explained that there were exemptions for winning the U.S. Open, British Open, The Masters and the British Open as well as for money list placement. In the 1950s and even the 1960s, many of those who played the Tour also had club jobs. Few were able to get by just by playing professional golf because there was not enough money in it. In 1965, for the first time, a qualifying school was held. There were 49 who applied and 17 cards were handed out. The late John Schlee won it. The next season 99 applicants played for 32 cards. When the PGA Tour came into being in 1968, there were two qualifying schools annually, one in the spring and one in the fall. By 1970 the number of applicants had grown to 250, and that would continue to grow. When Ben Crenshaw and Fuzzy Zoeller won the Q-Schools in 1973 and 1974, there were between 300 and 500 players with three regional qualifiers. Today Q-School has become such hot ticket that a pre-qualifying stage has been added because so many people want a shot at the PGA Tour. As of now, this year will be the last chance to get to the PGA Tour through the Q-School process. From now on, Q-School will only earn a golfer a spot on the Nationwide Tour or whatever name it takes with a new sponsor. There are other changes, too. In the past, 25 cards were awarded from Q-School, and the top 25 on the Nationwide Tour earned a spot on the PGA Tour. Although the PGA Tour is looking at awarding a certain number of cards for those at the top of the Nationwide Tour at the end of every season, as of now, they do not know how many it would be. Details are still being worked out. Instead of awarding cards to the top players on the Nationwide and as a result of Q-School, at the end of each season, the top 75 on the Nationwide Tour and the players from 126 to 200 on the PGA Tour will go into a three tournament playoff series to determine who gets to play the 2014 season on the PGA Tour and who goes back to the second circuit. The new playoff series will conclude during what has been the bye week of the FedEx Playoffs. By eliminating Q-School as a path to the PGA Tour, this new system has removed one significant avenue for those who want to make it to the big show. However, there is another way, but it is also in jeopardy. Golfers are still allowed seven sponsor exemptions each year to earn money equal to the 125th player of the prior season. Only a handful of golfers have been able to do that, including Gary Hallberg, Justin Leonard, Tiger Woods, Ryan Moore, and Bud Cauley. They were all distinguished amateurs, and most, including Tiger Woods, entered tournaments in the Fall Series to try their hand at earning enough money to get their cards. Due to a change in the PGA Tour schedule, those Fall Series events will now become part of the next season’s regular PGA Tour. That means for a college player to gain access between the NCAAs and the next PGA Tour season, he will have to enter seven PGA Tour events between the end of May and September. Any new golfer would have a tough time doing that since there are only five, regular, non-invitational, PGA Tour events and two opposite field events in that time span. It would be poor form for a golfer to turn professional over the winter and leave school to try to get seven sponsor exemptions starting in March or April, but that may be what they have to do. The alternative would be to wait another year to try for the PGA Tour or try to quality for whatever the Nationwide Tour is called next. To be clear, there is one big reason to make the change, and that is finding a product that will interest a new title sponsor for the second level tour. While PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem has said that the Tour could run the second level tour without a title sponsor, though unspoken, it is not something the PGA Tour wants to do. If each event rises and falls on its own merit, how much different would the system become? We don’t know because it’s not been done. 18 THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP GUIDE 2012
While the change has been voted into acceptance, there are plenty of golfers who have expressed concerns about the new system when asked. Many of them are former Hogan/ Nike/ buy.com/ Nationwide players. Others, like the legendary Arnold Palmer, are in favor of it. “I think I’ve advocated for some time the Nationwide Tour should be the stepping stone to the major tour,” Palmer said earlier this year. “Your performance on the Nationwide Tour will set the pace for you becoming a regular Tour player. And I think that’s the way it should be.” Would it affect the number of foreign players? Justin Rose who has moved his family to the U.S. and plays primarily on the PGA Tour, had thoughts on that. “If you look at it from a European perspective, there could be an impact there, but obviously the PGA Tour needs to look at the PGA Tour,” Rose said. “I think that the overall attitude is that if you’re a good enough player, you’re going to find your way onto a tour. You can’t keep good guys out.” He cited the ability of getting exemptions and making one or two cuts which he felt should get anyone into the top 200, which gets them into the playoff series. “A good player should back themselves over three events rather than a six round Q-School process,” Rose added. “So that’s my attitude —if you can just get yourself into that playoff series to get a card, I think the good players are going to come through no matter what.” He also pointed out that by playing well in Europe, a golfer would be able to more easily get sponsor exemptions in the U.S. “To tell you the truth, I’m 50-50 on it,” Charley Hoffman said about the new program. “I see both sides of it. I live by an ‘if it’s not broken, don’t fix it’ sort of thing. I think we’re producing great players through the qualifying school and the system like that. But is there a better system that you can come up with? Maybe. Unless you try, you really don’t know.” However, Hoffman pointed out, ”It’s not proven that if you come from the Nationwide Tour you’re going to be a better player.” Australian turned Scottsdale, Ariz., resident Geoff Ogilvy likes the current system. “But I quite liked the way the Tour was before the FedExCup was, and I actually like the Tour better now with the FedExCup,” he said. “I thought it was ridiculous having the FedExCup, but now it happened, and I’m like ‘This is pretty good.’ Every year it’s gotten better, and I really like it.” However, he said it bears watching. “It’s going to be interesting to see how people get on to how they choose to get on the Tour, and is everyone going to have to do that stepping stone through the Nationwide Tour? Or is there realistically a way to get to those playoff events without doing all of that?” he wondered. “And how the Europeans choose to if less of them choose to come and play here because it might be more difficult for them too, I don’t know.” Webb Simpson talked about his path to the PGA Tour. “I turned pro in 2008. My first event was Memphis and I got five starts out here. I didn’t really do much. I made a couple cuts,” he explained. “But then I went to the Nationwide Tour, I Monday qualified, top 25ed, ended up playing eight events going into Q-School.” He made it through to the PGA Tour that year but feels that playing in the PGA Tour events and also playing in Nationwide events helped him get where he is now. “Overall, I think it’s going to be a great thing,” he added. “Is it unTHE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP GUIDE 2012 19
fortunate for the best players out of college? Maybe a little bit, but you know, if you’re good enough, you’re going to get out here and whether it’s delayed a year, I don’t think it will really matter in the grand scheme of things.” For perspective, two Champions Tour players—Kenny Perry and Tom Lehman—offered thoughts, although they do not get a vote in the matter. Kenny Perry went through a number of attempts before making it through the 1986 Q-School. “I came through the qualifying school, and that’s been in place for a long time,” he said. “Sometimes change is good. I mean, maybe you need to try it and see where it goes, and if it doesn’t pan out very well, go back to the other system. But I hadn’t really thought much about it because I’m so old and will never go through that process again!” Perry said many who got a card through Q-School were not ready for the PGA Tour the first year. “The Nationwide gives them a full year to be under—to travel, to get around, but it’s very expensive for those kids,” he added. “They’re actually spending money like we are out here, so they need good sponsorship or good backing. That was a lot of my problem when I was coming up was funding. Financially, it was tough. So we managed to scrape by and make it happen.” Perry played mini-tours for five years before making it through Q-School. Tom Lehman played unsuccessfully on the PGA Tour from 1983 to 1985, then migrated to the Hogan Tour in 1990. In 1991, after winning three events, he received a promotion to the PGA Tour for the next season. He went on to win the British Open in 1993. While admitting that he does not know all the details of the proposed changes, he does have a few opinions. “I think the Hogan Tour buy.com/Nike/Nationwide Tour has proven to be a great stepping stone and training ground for guys on the PGA Tour,” he said. “They seemingly have a great history of, a great record of getting guys on Tour and guys staying on Tour. So I do believe it should be strongly tilted in favor of that Tour for access. But I do think there ought to be some direct access also outside of that, and I actually feel like, you know that number 125
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is a bit arbitrary, and if you really wanted to get serious about it, to look at reducing the number of exempt players to 110, or something probably makes more sense.” If there are no slots at Q-School, next year’s crop of best collegiate amateurs, may have skip the US Amateur and Walker Cup prior to taking a shot at the PGA Tour. They may have to take extraordinary measures. The schedule that Tiger Woods played in the fall of 1996 won’t exist any more. Some may opt for the path that 2010 US Amateur champ Peter Uihlein did after turning professional in 2011. He went to Europe. Rickie Fowler, a friend of Uihlein’s from Oklahoma State golf, agreed that Europe might be a faster track for some. “Not that the Nationwide Tour is a bad starting point,” Fowler said, by way of explanation. “In some European Tour events, you played well over there, and it’s definitely going to have a bigger bump in the world ranking versus playing well in a Nationwide Tour event. So Peter, I think, made a good decision. He’s over there, and hopefully he gets plenty of starts and he’s able to put a full year together. I think that’s huge on getting started because he’s able to get into a rhythm and hopefully play well.” While many are on the fence, Bubba Watson is in favor of the new system. “I thought the Nationwide or whatever sponsor it is, I think that they should have all the spots. I think you should be a proving ground,” he said. “It’s kind of like baseball. You start at the minor leagues, and then you work your way up. Obviously, you play good, you’ll get here pretty quick.” But even he thinks there should be an avenue to the PGA Tour for the true quality player, the future Tiger Woodses. Watson does not want to completely eliminate the path to the PGA Tour at QSchool. “I think there always should be some spots at Q-School because of guys coming out of college, some of the guys, however they want to do it, coming out of high school, whatever,” he concluded. “I played three years on the Nationwide Tour. You learn a lot. Then you get here and it’s a dream come true. So I think it’s a good stepping stone.”
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CAN A 52 YEAR OLD WIN THE PLAYERS? BY KATHY BISSELL
He’s here. He’s healthy. He still has so much cool that when he donned tennis shoe style golf shoes, they became all the rage. Whether he loves it or hates it, Fred Couples still moves the golf needle. This year, Couples returns to The Players as a result of winning the Constellation Senior Players Championship. He is already victorious this year on the Champions Tour, wining his seventh title in March—but can a 52-year-old win The Players? At The Masters, Fred Couples drank from Ponce de Leon’s fountain again and led the tournament after two rounds. Miraculously, it was 20 years after his 1992 victory. Sometimes on courses that he loves, like Augusta National, he just can’t help doing well, particularly now that his back problems are at least partially resolved. Couples recently underwent a second round of Orthokine treatment. The first time was in Germany. The procedure has allowed him to play without pain for the first time in decades. Other athletes, including Kobe Bryant and Alex Rodriguez, have chosen Orthokine, which involves reinjecting a patient’s own blood into the problem areas. (Couples received permission from the PGA Tour to utilize the therapy.) “The reason I went is because I was pretty much going to quit playing because I just physically at night couldn’t sleep. And a bad back is not much fun, but not sleeping is no bargain. And so I quit playing,” Couples explained, adding that he now goes to a Orthokine center in Los Angeles instead of Germany. “It’s a pretty simple treatment. It’s five days. And you can go do whatever you want after you’re done.” According to Couples, Orthokine has been used on knees for 22 THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP GUIDE 2012
quite some time, but the work to relieve pain in the back is more recent. “It’s a lot touchier in your back,” Couples added. “In your knee, he just puts his needle in your knee and shoots it. In your back, for me I had nine specific spots that I went into a CAT scan and they mark your back and it’s precise on how deep you go and all that stuff.” Couples was told he could start hitting balls three days after his last injection. “It’s not like a surgery and then take a month off and figure it out,” he added. In addition, Couples is taking a supplement called Anatabloc to reduce inflammation, and said he could feel improvement right away. The combination of the Orthokine and Anatabloc has him feeling better than he can remember feeling. His recent victory on the Champions Tour in 2012 is likely not his final one this year on the senior circuit. When he plays on the Champions Tour, his focus is on winning, not on finishing in the top 20. “On the Champions Tour, I’ve won a few times out there and won in good fashion, and that’s a nice feeling,” he said. “That’s, to me, what that Tour is all about: winning. If you’re someone who just walked off the regular Tour like I did or Corey Pavin or Mark O’Meara, Tom Lehman, honestly you should win some tournaments out there, because if you can compete out here until your late 40s then you should be able to walk out there and compete. But you’ve still got to shoot low scores.” Though the Champions Tour is his home, he occasionally plays PGA Tour events, like the Northern Trust Open, which is on another of his favorite courses, Riviera Country Club. Two years
ago, he led at Riviera after three rounds. This year he was battling a flu-like virus, and he missed the cut. One reason Couples can still be competitive on the regular PGA Tour is his length. Although he no longer has the length advantage that he and players like Greg Norman and Davis Love III had when they were on the PGA Tour, he can still belt it out there with the some of the longest hitters on today’s PGA Tour. He might not be able to keep up with Bubba Watson or J.B. Holmes, but he can drive it 300 yards plus. “It’s obvious they hit it better, they play more, they’re better putters and chippers,” he said about PGA Tour players in general. “But I still have a little savvy on how to get the ball around.” His length might not even be a factor at TPC Sawgrass where holes demand precision, although it could put him in position for better second shot from time to time, like at the 16th. The difficulty at his age, he says, is possible lapse in level of play here and there. “I hit the ball a long way still, maybe just as far in my 40s and late 40s, so what left me was probably being consistent,” Couples said. So, we return to the central question. Can a 52-year-old win at the TPC Sawgrass? Raymond Floyd won at Doral when he was 49. Sam Snead won in Greensboro when he was 52. So, “old guys” can win. The difference for Couples at TPC Sawgrass compared to Riviera or Augusta National is that he does not have the same affection for the course, even though two of his three biggest victories came here. Let’s face it. It’s hard to love a course that was created to half scare you to death, which is what TPC Sawgrass was designed to do. It’s hard to love a course that’s more about water and alligators than azaleas and Bogey’s tree. One thing is certain though, Couples knows how to win, and he knows how to win at TPC Sawgrass. He won in 1984 when the course was still wild and rough. He won in 1996 when it was more manicured yet still menacing. Each time the victory carried a 10year PGA Tour exemption, causing Couples to quip after his second victory, “I wasn’t really planning on playing ‘til I was 46, but at least now I will be exempt if I am.” Couples is still one of the course record holders, with a score of 63. He is tied with Greg Norman, although those scores were shot in wet conditions, unlikely to occur in May. However, Couples hits the high, soft shot required for pinpoint landings on fast greens like the 13th. He has a short game that can handle pot bunkers. He knows how to play out of Bermuda rough. He has made par after hitting into the water on the 17th. He has length to spare which will allow him opportunities for eagle at three of the four par fives every round. (The ninth hole is just plain too hard for most to birdie.) On the flip side, he has also had some 80s at TPC Sawgrass. Couples’ putting, although good on the Champions Tour and good at Augusta, can suffer from nerves from time to time. So, can Couples win The Players? Right now, it depends on his attitude toward the week. Does he have the game to do it? Anyone who can lead after 36 holes at The Masters can lead after 36 or 54 holes at TPC Sawgrass. Anyone who gets a lead can keep it with consistent play, and that, he has said, is the biggest question mark. He has two or three good
rounds, but four good rounds is tougher. What we do know is having a back that doesn’t kill him all the time means Fred Couples can actually practice again, something he has not been able to do on a regular basis for 15 years. When he could practice and when he wanted to practice, he was number one in the world. Even before he had back treatments, he won four times on the Champions Tour. If he can win with pain, what he can do relatively pain free is anyone’s guess. Does he have incentive? Couples is on record saying he is officially a Champions Tour player at this point n his career. But a victory at The Players would still allow him automatic entry into three regular tour majors — the US Open, the British Open for the next three years and the PGA for 2012. The money is close to three times what he won in 1996. A victory also gives him a five year ticket on the PGA Tour, if he wants it, but at this stage in his life, he might not. “If I was to come out and play the PGA Tour full time and play 16 events, I probably would have a lot of poor events. It’s just too tough,” Couples said. “The players are way too good. But there are sporadically moments where I feel like I can still play.” A five year exemption would allow him to pick and choose. If Couples starts well in The Players, if the crowd is behind him, if the wind is kind, if the stars align, maybe, just maybe, Fred Couples could tie Jack Nicklaus with three Players Championship titles. If he did, it would be a heck of an achievement.
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ADDITIONS & IMPROVEMENTS
AT THE PLAYERS BY ELIZABETH M. STEIF
Three new venues will debut at The Players Tournament this year. Fans at the 2011 tournament enjoyed seven new additions for refreshments and entertainments. In addition to Wine & Dine on 9, The Oasis and the Kid Zone, this year’s changes also include enhancements to the Stadium Village and The Grove, according to information from The Players. All listed venues and locations are open to ticket holders, regardless of ticket level. Here’s a rundown of the new venues, as well as information on last year’s hot spots:
n WINE & DINE ON 9
Northeast Florida chef Matthew Medure spearheaded this new venue, which will offer gourmet food and wine from Beringer. It will be located in a cool, shady area to the left of the No. 9 fairway.
n THE OASIS
Located in a prime location between 9 and 18 tee boxes, The Oasis will include a basic but popular concession stand, plus an open-air tent to give spectators a shaded location. New this year will be the enclosed, air-conditioned Nolet’s Silver Lounge, which is open to all fans over the age of 21 and offers a range of spirits for purchase. The entire Oasis area overlooks tee shots on 18 and the 9th fairway.
n KID ZONE
by The Players Center for Child Health at Wolfson Children’s Hospital Even the most ardent young golf fans need a break sometimes. Kid Zone will offer a putt-putt course, an inflatable rock wall, bag toss (corn hole), face painting and temporary tattoos to provide entertainment for children at the tournament. While kids play or cool off in a mist tent, parents can relax in the adult concession
24 THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP GUIDE 2012
areas and watch the television broadcast of the tournament. Kid Zone is located at the end of the Nicklaus Gate walkway. The Players Center for Child Health will host a Health Fair on Thursday, May 10, with interactive activities and giveaways to help young fans learn about healthy eating, sun protection, hydration and more. Kid Zone is not a day care area, and parents must stay with their children.
n STADIUM VILLAGE AND PWC FIRST
New last year, the Stadium Village is a tented, air-conditioned venue offering wireless internet, high-end rest rooms, a cash bar and charging stations for mobile devices. It also includes PwC First Tee Challenge, a replica of the famous 17th island green. Stadium Village is also one of the few locations where general admission fans can purchase mixed drinks and will feature a Ketel One Vodka Bar at the center of the venue. TVs will be on all sides of the bar, so fans can keep an eye on the tournament while shopping around the Village for clothing and memorabilia.
n THE GROVE
The Grove is an outdoor, shaded area located behind the 17th tee and 16th green that is open to the public. It has been significantly improved and expanded this year, with pavers, tabled seating and an upgraded walkway from the Nicklaus Gate. The Grove will include a large video board with the Golf Channel and NBC broadcast so fans won’t miss any action. New this year, the All-American Grill will be located at The Grove so fans can also get a bite to eat while they relax.
n FOOD COURT
Located behind No. 16 green near The Grove, the Food Court
offers plenty of great local restaurants to choose from. Back this year are Bono’s Pit Bar-B-Q, Brucci’s Pizza and Tropical Smoothie Cafe, which will be joined by M Shack and Firehouse Subs.
n THE PATIO
A fan favorite in 2011, this pavered, shaded area offers tables, food, spirits and other beverages for purchase, as well as a large video board to keep an eye on the tournament. The Patio will also offer the coldest beer on the course with Michelob ULTRA “Chill Chambers” in the Ultra Bar — a state-of-the-art refrigeration system that cools beer down to 22 degrees without freezing, which keeps the beer ultra cold an average of 17 minutes longer. Located southeast of the Stadium Village, close to the 10 tee and the 18 hospitality area, this year’s Patio will be larger and enhanced with a new entrance and improved landscaping
view of the chipping green and practice area, where fans can relax while watching players warm up and work on their games.
n FOUR POINTS
Located south of the TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse and west of the 18th green, adjacent to the practice area pond, Four Points is an exterior fan zone that is open to the public and provides seating, as well as food and beverages for purchase.
n THE BLUFF
This venue replaced the grandstands around the No. 18 green to allow fans to get closer to the action as tournament players finished off their rounds. The Bluff, which was a huge success in 2011, features casual seating and allows spectators to order food and drinks from wait staff. Fans who are sitting in the chairs provided by The Players when the final putt of the day drops at the 18th hole will be able to take their chairs home with them. This is a change from 2011 when fans could “claim” their chair anytime of the day; for 2012, only those who are seated at the end of play get to take them home.
n THE TERRACE
Located on the lawn area between the TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse and the practice facility, The Terrace features a cash bar and food from the TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse. This location also offers a unique
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TPC SAWGRASS THE COURSE PROS LOVE TO HATE BY KATHY BISSELL 28 THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP GUIDE 2012
Who says the notorious Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass isn’t a magnificent setting for identifying truly significant champions in golf? It has history. Most of it bad. It has visual impact. Most of it scary. It has terrain change. Most of it wet. It even has a scaly monster swimming in a moat at the 17th. But for whatever reason it is not the kind of golf course that causes golf pros to wax poetic. It’s the kind of golf course that causes golf pros to curse, break clubs, break out in a sweat — but not break par. This year marks the beginning of its fourth decade as the course players love to hate and hate to love. It’s never mentioned in lists of any PGA Tour player’s favorites. Never. It’s not in anyone’s top three or top five. It’s not even in their top 150. And yet partially for that
reason, it annually makes the Top 100 by course raters. It gets remembered for the unusual stuff. The unpleasant stuff. The awful stuff. It’s where Jerry Pate won, took a racing dive at 18 and then pulled in then-PGA Tour Commissioner Deane Beman and course designer Pete Dye. It’s where some goofball took a splash at the 17th and cost Jeff Sluman a chance at victory. It’s where Nease High School’s Len Mattiace found doom instead of a trophy. It’s where Paul Goydos wore a hat that said Dirtbags. It’s where Angelo Spagnolo took a 66 on the 17th in Golf Digest’s Worst Avid Golfer contest. The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is the pockmarked stepchild of golf courses, and yet each year the winner gets the biggest check all season and charity gets the most money. If it were Cinderella, its glass slipper would be cracked and falling apart as the prince offered it to a waiting foot. If it were the moon landing craft, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin would still be up there on green THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP GUIDE 2012 29
cheese. Like Rodney Dangerfield, it gets no respect. Nobody talks about how Jerry Pate tamed a new and strange and terrible golf course on his way to victory. No one mentions how Hal Sutton strategically maneuvered his way around a minefield of mayhem. How Davis Love III wove an iron through a tangle of trees on the left side of the 16th to the green. How Greg Norman single-handedly crafted a tournament record that will never, ever, ever be touched. For some reason, the Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass is always about the bad stuff and never about the good stuff. And according to our semi-legendary former resident his-own-self, Dan Jenkins, it used to be worse. In 1984, he wrote for Sports Illustrated: â€œThe marvelously scenic and testing course, dreamed up by master architect Pete Dye with commissioner Deane Beman whispering into his ear, had immediately taken its place among the great layouts in the world. There was only one terrible problem with it, as far as our pros were concerned: it was too hard. Unfair, they said.â€? Now Jenkins never met a hard golf course that he didnâ€™t like, mainly because he, Jenkins, stayed an amateur â€” showing his common sense â€” and because he hated to hear professional golfers gripe about anything. It peeved him no end. Dreambuilder-PVR-1-4R1Gf 3/15/12 2:26 PM Page 1 When the PGA Tour professionals complained that
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People are always wondering about The Players as a fifth major and asking who started talking about it. Well, whether it was his-own-self or not, as it happens, Dan Jenkins referred to the TPC, as it was called then, as the fifth major back as early as 1984. Once again proving the man knows everything there is to know about golf: “For two years the pros had been howling louder than a North Florida wind about the horrors of the design of the Players Club layout, their own course at their own headquarters and the site of their own championship, which has certainly become the ‘fifth major.’ ”
34 THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP GUIDE 2012
it was too tough and set about to make the course easier, it just plain got under Jenkins’ thick skin. And he said so: “You’ve got to keep an eye on these crybaby golf pros. They would bulldoze the Alps if they thought it would flatter their games.” Then he described how it was made easier. For anyone who never saw the “old” TPC Sawgrass, which is most of us, just imagine how much more difficult it was in the first two years because this is what happened between 1983 and 1984: “Eleven greens lost some serious contours. The putting surfaces were also overseeded with rye grass and slowed down. Much of the rough and the expansive waste areas were cleared out, almost entirely eliminating lost balls.” Jenkins said the only lost balls were wet and only one hole did its job: “That little horror, the 17th, the 132yard, par-3 island hole, held up its end, though, and claimed almost enough golf balls to dam up the Intracoastal Waterway—64 on Thursday alone.” Then he pretty much asked how a young PGA Tour player, with one tournament victory shoots a second round 64 on what is supposedly the hardest golf course on the planet. How guys he’d heard of like Lanny Wadkins, Lee Trevino and Craig Stadler shot 66s and
still called it hard. At the end of that week in 1984, after Couples won the tournament, Tom Watson said the course was too easy. Facts have not proven that to be true. If anything, it’s the opposite. Just ask some of the guys who finished second: Lee Trevino, Fuzzy Zoeller, Mark Calcavecchia, Bernhard Langer, Larry Mize, Colin Montgomerie, Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, and someone named Tom Watson. Yeah, it’s too easy all right. So welcome to our little neighborhood horror story. The place down the road that no one mentions. The Nightmare on PGA Tour Boulevard that somehow gets out once a year and has to be chased down by the Sheriff’s department with help from Florida Fish & Wildlife. To hear the PGA Tour players talk, TPC Sawgrass is worse than a series of Edgar Allan Poe stories coming to life. So let’s hear it for that Pit-andthe-Pendulum-Masque-of-theRed-Death-Descent-into-the-The-Maelstrom of a golf course. The one that is so hard that it is categorically disliked by nearly everyone who plays golf. And especially by those who play golf for a living. Just remember this: Somewhere, Pete Dye is laughing.
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Shared hospitality venue. Ticket required for entry.
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MOBILE DEVICE POLICY: Please silence your mobile device. Calls only permitted in designated areas. No video recordin
36 THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP GUIDE 2012
ATMs Concession First Aid Restrooms Wheelchair Accessible Merchandise Tent Admission Gates Mobile Talk Locations
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ng at any time. No photos after Wednesday. Violations will result in confiscation of device or removal from tournament.
THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP GUIDE 2012 37
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38 THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP GUIDE 2012
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SEE A TEE SHOT: No. 1, 3, 10, 17 and 18 SEE A CELEBRITY: The Benefactor hospitality venue, Wine & Dine on 9 wine bar WATCH PRACTICING: The range one hour before a tee time. You can watch all players in the field warm up before their rounds.
TOP FIVE PLACES TO GET A TAN: • No. 6 and 7 hill • No. 4 greenside hill • No. 9 green hill • No. 10 green hill • No. 11 green hill TOP FIVE PLACES TO FIND A BEVERAGE: • The Food Court • The Oasis • Kid Zone by The Players Center at Wolfson Children’s Hospital • The Patio • Four Points BEST PLACES TO WATCH IMPOSSIBLE PUTTS: • No. 4. The whole putting surface might as well be an unplayable lie. • No. 11. Watch the ball disappear from view during putts.
• No. 13. Watch the ball roll off the front or side of the green. BEST PLACE TO WATCH TOUR PLAYERS GO A LITTLE NUTS: • No. 17. Drives them crazy every time. BEST PLACE TO WATCH BIRDIES: • No. 16. The easiest hole—if you can believe that! BEST PLACE TO WATCH BOGIES: • No. 18. The hardest hole, just ask Adam Scott. BEST PLACES TO COOL OFF: • The Benefactor and The Turn offer shade by require tickets. • The Grove is shaded • Wine & Dine on 9 offers some relief • The Oasis is shaded and air-conditioned • The Patio is shaded • Stadium Village & PwC First Tee Challenge is completely tented and air conditioned BEST PLACE FOR ADULT FUN AND FREE STUFF: • The Stadium Village has a vodka bar, Charles Schwab Swing Analysis, EA Sports video games, a Verizon hot spot and free samples of Nature Valley food
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FIVE GO IN TO WORLD GOLF
Hall of Fame BY KATHY BISSELL
40 THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP GUIDE 2012
Former Ponte Vedran, noted author and journalist, Dan Jenkins, will be among those inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame Monday, May 7. The rest of the induction class includes PGA Tour player Phil Mickelson; former Players champ Sandy Lyle; three-time US Women’s Open champion and former LPGA player Hollis Stacy; and BBC and ABC commentator and former European pro, Peter Alliss. Jenkins is perhaps best known for his writing in Sports Illustrated and Golf Digest and for his sports books including “Semi Tough,” “Baja Oklahoma” and the quintessential golf novel “Dead Solid Perfect.” Jenkins had the good fortune to grow up in Fort Worth, Texas, when Ben Hogan was still playing golf and while Byron Nelson was still alive. He has reported on 210 major championships in golf and numerous other sporting events, but golf has always been a big part of his life. When asked what were the most memorable golf tournaments he covered, he mentioned three which give an idea of span of his golf knowledge. “The most talked about and the most electrifying at its time was Arnold Palmer at Cherry Hills in the U.S. Open of 1960, when I think I was the first guy that noticed that there was a confluence of three eras of golf that all came together that afternoon. It was the current king, Arnold Palmer, the past King Ben Hogan, and the future King, Jack Nicklaus who was yet an amateur. The three of them battled it out in the last 18.” Palmer shot 65, passed 14 players and came from seven strokes back. “It was unbelievable,” Jenkins said about the feat. “My first Open that I covered was the ’51 Open at Oakland Hills,
and Ben (Hogan) shot that 67 in the last round, which was about as good a round of golf on the most difficult golf course in the world,” Jenkins added. The third was Jack Nicklaus’ sixth Masters victory in 1986. In addition to writing memorably and writing funny for the last 60-plus years, Jenkins played on the Pascal High School and TCU golf teams where his friends and foes became famous in “Dogged Victims of an Inexorable Fate,” a collection of truly crazy golf stories, including one where golf was played through the streets of Fort Worth to a brown loafer in a closet. The thing is, he and his friends actually might have done that. “There have been so many great tournaments that I’ve been privileged to see and people paid me to go watch, that I’m awfully grateful for it, and I’m so happy that I chose the profession I did,” he said. Jenkins enters the World Golf Hall of Fame in the Lifetime Achievement category. Look for his books to be on display as well as press badges from Jenkins’ more than 200 majors. Jerry Tarde will introduce Jenkins. Tarde has been the chief editor at Golf Digest for 25 years, is the chairman and editor-in-chief of Golf Digest and the chairman and editorial director of Golf Digest Publications. Phil Mickelson is one of the most popular golfers in the world today—as well as one of the most successful. In his 20-year career he has won 40 PGA Tour events and is in eighth place on the all time PGA Tour victories list. His career goals remain winning the two majors he has not yet captured, which would give him the career grand slam, and to win 50 tournaments. Certainly, the second is
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well within his grasp. He has been second in the US Open several times. Mickelson has four major championships, the 2004, 2006 and 2010 Masters, the 2005 PGA Championship. (If you count The Players, as we do here, he has five, the 2007 PLAYERS Championship.) He has three international titles. Mickelson has been a stalwart on U.S. teams, participating in the Ryder Cup eight times and Presidents Cup matches nine times. He was elected to the Hall of Fame on the PGA Tour ballot. “I’ve saved much of the memorabilia throughout my career, clubs that I’ve won with back in amateur golf, junior golf even, trophies, as well as just special things. Maybe the Masters dinner menu that we get, little unique tidbits that I’ve picked up over the years, money clips from special tournaments,” Mickelson said when asked what might be in his display. Certainly Masters trophies will be included. Steve Loy will introduce Mickelson. Loy, former golf coach at Arizona State, recruited Mickelson to play at ASU and became his agent after Mickelson turned pro. Loy is president of Lagardère Unlimited Golf. Sandy Lyle is the newest inductee on the International ballot. Lyle won 29 tournaments worldwide, including the 1985 British Open, the 1988 Masters and the 1987 Players. He was the first British winner at The Masters and The Players and the first European winner at The Players. He and Steve Ballesteros are credited as leaders in the emergence
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of modern European golf. He was awarded an MBE (Member of the British Empire) in 2004. Lyle’s victory at The Players came in a playoff with Jeff Sluman which was highlighted—or lowlighted, depending on point of view—by a spectator who jumped into the lake at the 17th hole when Sluman was getting ready to putt. Sluman backed off, missed the putt, and Lyle won. Lyle had a British Union Jack flag in his back pocket, in case of victory. Renton Laidlaw will present Sandy Lyle. Laidlaw is heard in the U.S. on the Golf Channel broadcasts of the European Tour. He is the author of 12 books, received the Memorial Golf Journalism Award in 2000 and the PGA Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism in 2003. Hollis Stacy, one of four women to win three U.S. Women’s Open championships, will be inducted in the Veterans Category of the LGPA. Michael Whan informed Stacy by telling her she was needed on a conference call about the Titleholders tournament. Because her cell reception in Bradenton is not good, she got into her car and started driving inland across the Skyway Bridge where she expected to get a signal. But she was unable to get service. She kept driving hoping to finally get to an area where she could participate in the call, as it was just past the appointed time. “I’m racing down 275 and trying to find the bars,” she said about her cell phone. “Mind you, I have no driver’s license because I had that stolen. It’s in the mail.” Stacy was shocked to find out that the call was not about LPGA matters, but about the World Golf Hall of Fame. Her first thought at learning that she would be inducted was about her family.
“It’s just a wonderful honor, and it will be a very important day in my family’s life and my city of Savannah and state of Georgia,” she said. Stacy is currently working on business interests with the Port of Savannah that have to do with the expansion of the Panama Canal. “My family has been in the port, working in the port since the 1840s, and my father’s family has been involved with politics of Georgia since pre-Civil War,” she said. Martha Leach will introduce Stacy. Leach is Stacy’s younger sister and an accomplished golfer in her own right. Leach won the 2009 U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur. Peter Alliss is entering the World Golf Hall of Fame in the lifetime achievement category. He was an international professional golfer, winning 23 times. He played on eight Ryder Cup teams from 1953 to 1969, and he won the Vardon Trophy in Europe twice. Alliss was offered a position in broadcasting with the BBC in 1961, the year Arnold Palmer won The British Open at Royal Birkdale. He’s been at it since. In the U.S., Alliss is known for participation in ABC Golf telecasts, these days mainly during the British Open, Senior British Open and Women’s British Open. “I’m very honored and very pleased and flattered,” Alliss said. “All these awards have come to me relatively late in life, although I did a few decent things when I was in my 30s and 40s to get awarded this or awarded that, but I never in my wildest dreams thought I would ever be, for example, a member of the R&A, honorary member of the R&A, honorary member of so many wonderful golf clubs in the British Isles and in the United States. I certainly never thought
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I would be elected to the Hall of Fame.” In his manner, he contends that “all I’ve ever done is waffle on about the game of golf.” Terry Jastrow, former executive producer for ABC Golf will introduce Alliss. Jastrow was with ABC Sports for 24 years, produced 68 golf major championships in addition to six Olympic telecasts and a Super Bowl. The 2012 Induction Ceremony will be May 7 at 6 p.m. in the St. Johns County Convention Center, located adjacent to the World Golf Hall of Fame at World Golf Village. The Ceremony will air on Golf Channel at 9:30 p.m. .
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THE LONG, LONGER AND LONGEST PUTTER DEBATE CONTINUES BY KATHY BISSELL A few eyebrows were probably raised when a 32-year-old Johnny Miller brought a long putter to the L.A. Open in 1980. Seven years later, after what had to be endless ribbing, Miller won with it at the AT&T. The funny thing then was no one paid much attention to the club. It was the legendary Johnny Miller having one last day in the sun. Miller eclipsed the putter. Charlie Owens brought a homemade long putter out to the Champions Tour in 1983 which he needed because of a fused knee. But because he was not winning tournaments at the same clip that 46 THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP GUIDE 2012
Hale Irwin did two decades later, no one paid much attention to his putter either. In 1984, when Orville Moody, winner of the 1969 U.S. Open, joined the Champions Tour, he went long and won 11 times including the 1989 Senior U.S. Open. The story then was more about Moody winning both the regular and senior U.S. Opens. Rocco Mediate won at Doral with a long putter in 1991. He went long because he had a bad back. No one went on a long putter craze.
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THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP GUIDE 2012 47
Paul Azinger won with a belly putter at the Sony Open in 2000. Again, the longer club got no love. It was way down the food chain of stories because the victory was Azinger’s comeback from lymphoma. It wouldn’t have mattered if he used a baseball bat or a bow and arrow as a putter. He had beaten cancer. Now jump into the time machine and press the button for 2011. Keegan Bradley, in his first professional major, used a belly putter and — holy Bermudagrass — won the PGA Championship. Finally, the longer putter got looked at. This wasn’t a guy whose putting stroke had disappeared. He didn’t have a back tortured by years of hitting balls. He wasn’t struggling to hang on to a top 125 spot. He hadn’t recovered from a terrible illness. He was a likeable young kid, who, of all things, was a nephew of World Golf Hall of Famer Pat Bradley. Then from the perspective of the purists, things got worse. Bill Haas, son of well-liked PGA Tour player Jay Haas, won the $10 million first prize for the FedExCup with a longer putter. OK, he did hit an impossible shot out of the water, too. And finally, another fresh-faced youngster, Webb Simpson, nearly won the PGA Tour money title with one. What in the name of gutta percha was the world coming to? The belly putter and long putter became the hot topic of conversation. They went from being the club of last resort to the club of choice, the club of champs. Manufacturers could not deliver them to golf shops fast enough. Because pros have had so much success recently with long and belly putters, some have asked if the clubs should be made illegal because some feel it gives golfers an unfair advantage. “I’m not a fan of long putters,” Arnold Palmer said recently. “I suppose that if I were playing, and had a long putter, being totally legal, and would help my game, I might use it. But I’m opposed to it personally. I just think that there shouldn’t be a place in the game for anchoring a club against the body, which is what the long putter does.” Palmer did not distinguish between a belly putter — the kind Keegan Bradley uses — and a broomstick putter — the kind Adam Scott uses. He just thinks anchoring should be against the rules. He’s not alone. Brad Faxon, widely regarded as one of the best putters ever to walk onto a green said, “If you’re asking me what do I think of them, should they be legal, I think absolutely not. To me, it’s not 48 THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP GUIDE 2012
even something that should have been considered.” Ernie Els, after being against long putters, has been using one. “I’ve been outspoken about it,” he admitted. “Right now I’m glad they haven’t banned it. If they ban it, that’s also fine with me. It’s probably a very controversial rule that we have on the Tour and guys that don’t use the belly like myself, you know, have been against it. As long as it’s legal, you know, I’ll keep cheating like the rest of them.” So what is it that the longer putter does for a golfer? For one thing, it minimizes reliance on the smaller muscles in the hands and wrists that typically cause the yips. The yips are a real thing, too, not a mental issue. The Mayo Clinic has even studied it. The same kind of thing happens to violinists, for example, who use a repetitive motion in the hands and wrists. It can cause a singer’s vocal chords to malfunction. It even has a name: focal dystonia. You can look it up. Because the longer putters use different muscles to make the putting motion, the “yip” is taken out of the stroke. A similar solution is possible with the large grip putters, like the one defending Players Champion K.J. Choi used last year. It is similar to the grip that has been endorsed by two-time U.S. Open champ Andy North. Another option has been the heavy putter which, as the name suggests, is heavier than a standard club. The excess weight makes a golfer use the muscles in the upper arms and lessens the emphasis of the hands and wrists in the stroke. The first time you pick up the heavy putter, you can feel the difference. The poster child for overcoming the yips in golf is Bernhard Langer who once upon a time had a regular putting stroke. Then he got yippy and went to something where he grabbed the shaft of the club and his arm with his other hand to make the putting stroke. And now he’s a long putter guy. To his credit, he’s continued to win golf tournaments. Mark Calcavecchia invented a new grip he called The Claw to overcome the yips and a number of golfers adopted it, including Mark O’Meara and Chris DiMarco.
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No one has disallowed any of those solutions. However, a putter has been outlawed because of a player’s success with it. That was Walter Travis’ Schenectady Putter. Travis, who was known to be a rather poor putter, became the first American to win the British Amateur at Royal St. George’s in 1904. It has been said that the Brits were not crazy about an American being champion, and they were less crazy about his unusual center shafted putter. While they were not particularly quick to act at the outset, they were pretty strong with the punishment once they made the decision. The R&A banned it from use beginning in 1910, and the ban was not lifted until 1952. The USGA Museum indicates that the ban was because the Schenectady Putter was considered a mallet-headed putter, like a croquet mallet. However it bears little resemblance to a croquet mallet. Interestingly, the current location of Travis’ putter is not known. So is there a chance that the success of the long putter will make it so popular
that it too will be banned from use under USGA and R&A rules? No one knows, but in February the USGA and R&A said they would take another look at it. Tiger Woods is on the side of making a rule that eliminates the long club for putting. “I’ve talked to Peter about this, Peter Dawson (of the R&A), for a number of years and gone back and forth of how we could word it,” Woods explained. “My idea was to have it so that the putter would be equal to or less than the shortest club in your bag. And I think with that we’d be able to get away from any type of belly anchoring. You can still anchor the putter like Bernhard Langer did against the forearm, but that’s still the art of swinging the club too at the same time. But I think you can get away from the belly or the long putter by that type of wording, whether or not they do it or not.” Woods said that Dawson had been looking into it for a number of years trying to figure out language. “You actually measure everybody’s sand wedge and putter before you go
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out and play, that’s another thing too,” Woods said. Brad Faxon also wants a rules change, whether a USGA rule or a PGA Tour rule. “I wish we were governing by rules that the PGA Tour could make it illegal, which I think the USGA should probably still make the rules, but they probably have guys on their committee who are putting lousy and are using the long putter,” Faxon added. Jack Nicklaus and Phil Mickelson have a sightly different view. “I’m not offended by it,” Nicklaus said. “I always feel like the game is a game that is a very difficult game to start with. You try to figure out, how do you get the ball in the hole. As long as you’re using a legal stroke and a legal club what you’re saying, is the club legal. I mean, how many majors have been won with these putters? I guess Keegan uses one. Is he the only one that’s ever won a major with that?” Mickelson, like a lot of experts, thinks it’s been in play too long to change it now, but that has never stopped the rules-making bodies before. “If it were going to be banned, it should have happened 20-plus years ago,” Mickelson said. “Now that it’s been be legal, I don’t think you can make it retroactive. There have been guys that have been working with that putter for years if not decades. I just don’t believe that it should even be a consideration.” For some, it has helped their game temporarily or permanently. Bruce Lietzke, who feels that his scoring was always two strokes better for the week with a long putter, said he has been helped by it. Vijay Singh has gone back and forth between longer ones and short
ones. Adam Scott chooses it for now. “It works for me. It might not work for others unless they give it a try,” Adam Scott added. “But just like everything in golf, it changes. Driver heads weren’t 460 cc’s when the game started, just like people didn’t putt with a belly putter when the game started. So things change.” Whatever the outcome, the guy who reignited the conversation about whether long putters should be allowed is fine with whatever the ruling bodies decide. “I get that question a lot,” said Keegan Bradley. “My job is to follow the rules. I can’t make the rules. So if they tell me I can’t put with a belly putter, obviously I’m not going to. There is part of me that—I’ve put years and years of my life in practicing and playing with the belly putter—it would be disappointing.” “But if somebody told me I couldn’t use it anymore,” he said, “I’d be fine with it.” Brad Faxon took an interesting view of the younger guys who are using longer putters. He sees it as a possible trend. “I believe it’s kind of like the two-handed backhand in tennis 25 years ago,” he said. “It was the odd guy that hit a two-handed backhand. You see everybody else had the one-handed back hand, and now if you don’t have a two-handed backhand, you can barely compete unless you’re Roger Federer. Now I think the belly putter is going to be like the two-handed backhand.” .
THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP GUIDE 2012 53
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Every year, the biggest show in golf takes place in Orlando at the end of January. The PGA Merchandise Show. Unfortunately for you, it’s mainly a trade show for PGA professionals, although we are told they allow outsiders in on Saturdays. One of the most popular Show activities actually occurs the day before the show begins, Demo Day at Orange County National GC. That’s when club and course professionals can try out the new stuff for the year to try to figure out what to bring back to the shops for the next season. There were some trends in 2012 as there are every year. This season, it turns out, was a great one for drivers, and we don’t mean NASCAR. Several companies have introduced new products and a variety of golfers have had success with them. From Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods to Bubba Watson and Kenny Perry, there’s definitely a club for everyone.
PING WINS BIG
Ping and Ping pink made big news with Bubba Watson, but regular color clubs have also been in the headlines. First, Mark Wilson won the Humana Challenge using the new Ping I-20 driver, 8.5 degree loft with Grafalloy Tour X shaft. Then Hunter Mahan won the Accenture Match Play and the Shell Houston Open using the Ping G-20 series driver and the Nome 405 adjustable putter. Nome allows a player to change the length of the club shaft within a 9-inch range, from 37.5 to 46.5 inches. That
range is sufficient to go from traditional length to broomstick with belly length in between. The club comes with an adjusting tool to optimize the fit. The Nome is a mallet-style and is offered with three different shaft bends to fit three different putting motions: Straight, Slight Arc and Strong Arc. For now at least, Mahan is good with the regular length putter. Louis Oosthuizen won in South Africa and Malaysia. But at The Masters he holed out from the second fairway for an albatross using a Ping S56 4-iron. It hit, it rolled, it curved and went 253 yards from the fairway to the cup. That’s a lot of 4-iron, but it was down hill. Then Ping really hit the jackpot when Bubba Watson won The Masters with the G-20 driver in pink. Ping decided it would sell 5000 of them with a portion of each purchase going to “Bubba & Friends Drive to a Million.” Ping is also donating $300 for every drive Bubba Watson hits over 300 yards. He averages about 315 off the tee, so you know he is a lock to raise a lot of money. In case you missed it, Watson also has a pink driver shaft. His grips are Ping 703 Gold with 10 wraps of tape under his right hand, 12 wraps under his left. In his bag for The Masters victory was his trademark all-pink G20 driver (7.5º), G20 fairway wood (16.5º), S59 irons, Tour-W wedges, (52º, 56º), a Tour-S wedge (64º), and a Redwood Anser putter (34.5”). It was the 52º that he hit from the right trees on the 10th hole in the playoff. If you’re a little skittish on the pink, recite this: it takes a manly guy to hit a pink driver. It takes a manly guy to hit a pink driver. Ping is not the only company with new clubs this season. There is plenty of competition. Rocketballz 3-wood from Taylormade was the original club in that category, and it was so long that the company decided to add
THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP GUIDE 2012 55
a driver and then irons. They have a slogan promising that the 3-wood supposedly goes 17 yards farther than their previous 3-woods. World No. 1 Luke Donald used the Rocketballz driver when he won in Tampa a few weeks ago. He also has the Rocketballz 15 degree club in his bag. Callaway features Phil Mickelson hitting golf balls through walls in his new commercials for Razr drivers, their latest clubs. Now they’ve added “udesign” and you can choose from four lofts and eight colors. Alvaro Quiros apparently requested a RAZR Fit driver in every color so that he can coordinate his driver with his apparel. Recently Jim Furyk switched to Callaway and hopes that it will put him back on the winning track. “I wasn’t happy with the way I played last year,” he explained. “I made mistakes mechanically. I think I made some mistakes in the way I was preparing for golf tournaments. I made some mistakes in equipment.” He was chasing length. “In trying to hit the ball farther, basically fit myself in products that didn’t spin as much as I needed to,” he said. He likes to work the ball a lot, and his ball in 2011 didn’t allow him to do that. Furyk has now followed the equipment people he knew from Hogan and Srixon to Callaway. They got him a new set of irons and
new driver that have made all the difference. He made the change before the Chevron last December and has not switched out any clubs. He got them fitted in a two-day period, which he said was unusually quick. “Testing equipment and putting stuff in play was a painstaking process for me,” he admitted. “I haven’t done that in two months before, let alone two days.” Now he has to get his confidence back. Callaway is not the only company offering colors. Cobra is having an Orange Out, thanks in large part to Rickie Fowler. But they also have Lime Green drivers for women and the Baffler line has black with some yellow racing stripes. If you are not offended by orange, — and how could anyone in Florida be offended by that — there’s even a smattering of it in the cavity back of their new irons. The Adams Fast Driver was used by Kenny Perry in his recent Champions Tour victory. It even looks quick. The Speedline has a tapered end that the company says results in 14 percent less drag and 3 MPH faster clubhead speed. From 8.5 to 12.5 driver lofts. All Perry knows is that he got his distance back. Everyone always wants to know what Tiger Woods is using, and at Bay Hill, where he recently notched his 72nd PGA Tour victory, he had a Nike VR Tour 8.5° loft driver with a Graphite Design Tour AD DI 6 shaft; Nike VR Pro Limited Edition 15° wood and SQ 19° utility club both with Mitsubishi Diaman Blue Board 103 shafts; Nike Forged VR-S Forged 3-iron, VR Pro Blades 4-PW — all with True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts. His wedges are Nike VR (56°), VR Pro (60°) with True Temper Dynamic Gold S400 shafts, and he was using the Nike Method 001 putter and the Nike Tour D ball.
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Forget steel spikes or softspikes. Several companies are changing the way we have come to think about golf shoes. Oakley has jumped into more than sunglasses with shoes that have the most innovative idea in decades. They have what looks like coarse sandpaper plus what they call nanospikes (nubs, basically) on the bottom of their golf shoes. Instead of using a spike removal tool to change out the gripping surface, you peel off the gripper stuff and put on new. It’s supposedly held on with a super Velcro. They come in some wild colors, too, like bright red and turquoise. Barefoot B.E.R.B.S. are a whole new way to think about golf shoes. They are like walking barefoot but there are five spikes, soft pads under the ball of the foot, and the sole of the shoe has little “bear claws” under the toes. Two Velcro closures hold the shoes on. The toe box is exceptionally roomy. Men’s and women’s sizes are available. Adidas is also into the spikeless styles with adicross in white with bright green, bright blue or black spikeless nubs or black shoes with gray nubs. They have one sole that resembles a foot print.
John Ashworth, the man who redesigned golf clothing in the late 1980s and early 1990s— is at it again. His new line is called Linksoul Golf and Ashworth says the inspiration is the coastal lifestyle. “I wanted to design clothes that I would want to wear,” Ashworth said about the new pieces. His promotional “campaign buttons” include one that says, “Make Par Not War.” (www.pimadirect.com) The antithesis of Ashworth’s new clothing is Puma’s golf line with Rickie Fowler and Lexi Thompson in electric colors and powerful styles. If you like the brights —bright pink, bright blue, bright orange, slap on some Puma gear and find some sun. The designs are definitely for the young—or at least the young at heart.
MERCEDES AND HELLO KITTY
WSH, Inc., has licensed the rights to bring two completely different names to the golf market: Mercedes and Hello Kitty. Yes. They are together at last, just as you suspected they always would be. Just kidding. But seriously, the same com-
THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP GUIDE 2012 57
pany has licensed them for golf. The Mercedes line includes golf clubs and golf clothing and accessories and will be featured in dealerships. So, if you always wanted to drive a Mercedes AMG for less than the price of a car, now you can. According to WSH Inc., driver and fairway clubs incorporate the Venturi channel, completely redefining design and performance in golf clubs. The Venturi channels have long been used in Formula One race cars to funnel air flow through the vehicle. The channels are constricted, and as air flows out, a jet effect is created. WSH Inc., licensee of the Mercedes AMG name, has integrated the concept in its equipment design to create the most technologically advanced and aerodynamically efficient golf clubs on the market today, they insist. “By working directly with the Mercedes AMG Petronas Formula One Team, we’ve been able to incorporate some very valuable Formula One Technology directly into the design of our new golf equipment,” said Michael Lee, CEO of WSH Inc. Lee was formerly founder of Nickent Golf. And whether you are looking for the perfect headcover for a Bubba Watson pink Ping driver or you just love the brand, Hello Kitty now has golf accessories including one monster cat headcover in red or white. Of the Hello Kitty line, Lee said, “There’s something about Hello Kitty that has a very mysterious appeal to it which really can’t be explained. No matter how young or how old you are, everyone loves Hello Kitty, and we’re excited to be bringing it out on the golf course with this new line of products.” WSH Inc. was approached by Sanrio to license Hello Kitty golf products for North America.
If you’re the kind of person who suspects that a round of golf is about to break out any time, anywhere, you may want to invest $50 in pull on spikes or what the manufacturer calls them: Insta Golf Shoes. Designed to pull over flat footwear, Insta Golf Shoes also come in Brites — orange, hot pink and yellow — and in women’s and junior sizes.
BELLY FOR A DAY
Maybe you want to try a belly putter, but you don’t want to spend $150-$200 buy a new club and maybe get a wrong length. Neither did Clay Judice. He invented the adjustable “Belly Putt” device which you can attach to your own putter to test out whether the club is right for you. Belly Putt is only $39.99. www.bellyputt.com
RAIN SUIT SUPREME
The latest in waterproofing: Cross Rain Suit. One of my golf pals is a photographer who swears this rain suit is the best ever. The best. Photographers are out in all weather so they know. The manufacturer, Cross, guarantees it rainproof for three years. The fabric is a secret blend that actually has a membrane with nanoparticles that lets sweat out but keeps rain away from your skin. Full suits are available for a lower price than buying the jacket and then the pants. It’s a very slim European cut, so if you are not a sized like Jesper Parnevik or Kyle Stanley, you might want to order one or two sizes up. 58 THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP GUIDE 2012
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Sir Nick Faldo, World Golf Hall of Fame Member, introduced a line of men’s grooming and skin care products earlier this year called Faldo ProCare. There are six products (for six majors) in the line and they come in a kit that can be attached to your overnight case or golf bag. Included are an SPF sun screen, SPF lip balm, repairing hand cream, anti-fungal foot spray, insect repellent and muscle pain relief cream.
JACKIE & GOLF?
The last place you’d expect Jackie Kennedy products would be a golf shop, and yet a new collection of sunglasses is going to be made available to golfers through Physician’s Endorsed products. There are several sunglass designs, reminiscent of styles worn by Jackie O. Products are licensed by Caroline Kennedy. Sunglasses are between $50 and $75.
NORMAL AND NOT GOLF BALLS
Titleist, long a leader in golf ball technology, has a new one called Velocity DT SoLo, but it should be velociraptor because it is fast and long, and has enough spin for a good player to yell “grow teeth” and have the ball to stop. The nifty orange-aid color numbers, the printed line-up aid and a great price per dozen, under $30 make it a hot commodity. Chromax Balls have a slogan that they are hard to lose. They aren’t impossible to lose, but they are as close to findable as you can get in a golf ball just because they are sparkly bright. They shine from under leaves, twigs and grasses. What the company calls “high visibility technology” combines an inner layer and outer layer that is translucent, making the surface of the golf ball appear brighter. It’s not just brighter. It’s screamingly bright. Chromax supposedly compares to other solid core balls like the Titleist NXT Tour, the Bridgestone e5, and the Precept Laddie Extreme. It comes in 75 compression for slower swings and 85 compression for faster swings. The core is mixed with titanium powder and molded under high temperatures and extreme pressure for durability. Half dozen: $19.95.
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THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP GUIDE 2012 61
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Published on Jun 28, 2012