"Finchem's minions were apparently hard at work pressuring host broadcaster NBC into not mentioning just how many Fed-Ex Cup points the Swede picked up"

John Huggan with this nugget from last week's Players:

Not only did the diminutive leader of the world's richest circuit manage to mangle the champion's name, calling him "Heinrik" more than once, Finchem's minions were apparently hard at work pressuring host broadcaster NBC into not mentioning just how many Fed-Ex Cup points the Swede picked up along with the $1.7million first place cheque. Embarrassingly, that number is nil, due to the fact that Stenson (who will no doubt have welcomed the sizeable boost to his bank balance in the wake of losing a goodly chunk of his fortune amidst the recent Stanford fiasco) thinks he can muddle by without being a PGA Tour member.

"That run alone is Hall of Fame material."

The weeklies are trying to put Tiger's struggles into perspective. I would agree, though I'm surprised there hasn't been more cackling about his course management Sunday, particularly the weird decision to try for a bold shot on No. 2, when a simpler shot would have taken the water out of play. 

Jeff Rude in Golfweek:

For the moment, we’ll take a breather from theory and perception and focus on record. Woods has finished in the top 10 in his past 17 stroke-play tournaments worldwide. He has won 11 of his past 19 starts worldwide, including two majors. That run alone is Hall of Fame material.

John Huggan in Golf World:

Here's the reality: Like every other poor sap trapped within the endless mysteries and intricacies of the swing, Woods is a golfer forever doomed to toil unavailingly in pursuit of the impossible—perfection. That process has many stages, ranging from a feeling of near hopelessness to one of tingling anticipation as the quality of strike and flight gradually improves.

Right now, despite his post-tournament protestations that he is "not far off," Woods is fearful more than anything. He is a man battling a quick hook, a shot that has always caused him to flip out whenever it makes an unwanted appearance in his bag.


Reader David reported that Commissioner Finchem bungled Henrik Stenson's name during the trophy ceremony. Since Kenny G was not part of the proceedings, I didn't pay attention. Turns out, David heard right, as Lulu McGrew reports:

Hey, did anyone else catch the PGA Tour Commish, Timothy Finchem mispronounce Stenson’s name at the trophy presentation? He called him Heinrik…twice. This is not the first time that Stevenson…er, I mean, Stenson has dealt with his name being mangled. It is one of the easier names out there, sounding just like it written. How do you think he was have pronounced Cejka’s name?

Actually, it was Cejka's fault. Finchem was up late the night before practicing his German and he just never recovered from that.

Sunday At The Players

Henrik Stenson overcame heat, humidity and greens yellower than an R&A member’s teeth to capture the 2009 Players Championship. Crispy, firm and “icy quick” in the words of runner-up Ian Poulter, the relentless Pete Dye design’s mini-verde bermuda surfaces may have looked dreadful in HD but played better than the PGA Tour ever could have dreamed since committing to a hoped-for fast and firm warm season base three years ago.

“Pretty incredible,” said Tiger Woods of Stenson’s bogey-free 66 that included 13 of 14 fairways, all but one hit with his trusty three wood. A birdie at the ninth put Stenson ahead and he soon pulled away in Mine That Bird fashion with birdies at 11, 13, 15 and 16.  Yet even with a four-shot lead the island green 17th loomed like the giant barrier that so many told us strips the course of any world class integrity. However it's late-in-the-round placement is the very thing that makes The Players so intriguing. Champion Stenson approaches the 18th green en route to victory. (Click to enlarge)

Golf Channel's Brandel Chamblee was the most visible opponent, calling it gimmicky. The Florida Times-Union's Garry Smits inquired with the tour about Chamblee's record there during his playing career and found that he played the hole 26 times in nine starts in The Players, and averaged 3.46 with six water balls.

Lorne Rubenstein talked to former Dye protege Tom Doak about the moaning.

"As Mr. Dye once described it to me, it's a 130-yard hole with an 8,000-square-foot green -- a target a tour pro would hit 98 percent of the time, if he wasn't scared of it."

Tiger Woods struggled Sunday, posting a 73 that included a bogey from the fairway bunker on No. 7 (click to enlarge)It's actually just a shade over 4,000 square feet and by no means is an inviting target. The contours appear to have grown too severe for modern green speeds, yet the hole played to a reasonable 3.025 average, yielding 80 birdies compared to 43 bogies, 13 doubles and 6 triples. 83% of shots hit the green in regulation this week.

The folks it seems to be harassing most are the $375 paying customers. As Robert Lohrer noted on his blog, the number of balls retrieved annually and floated this week was 155,000. A Golf Journal (R.I.P) story from 1998 reported that divers dredge up 120,000 balls, "so, if we take these numbers at face value, the only conclusion -- as the number of rounds is the same in both reports -- is that, collectively, as golfers, we're getting worse."

Asked after the round about the 17th tee conversation, Stenson said he was trying for a "r pitching wedge at the middle tower" by aiming just left of the bunker in hopes of getting it on top.The fifth hole scene on Sunday (click on image to enlarge)

He didn't quite pull that off, finishing on the front tier where he two-putted from in stoic fashion.

Having survived that test, he striped his tee shot and coasted to a victory that paid $1.7 million and garnered a whopping 0 FedEx Cup points thanks to his non-PGA Tour member status.

T3 finisher John Mallinger takes the walk toward the 17th green (click to enlarge)Still, the 17th was the crowd favorite, particularly among the coveted 3-12 demo. They were hounding players as they walked down the railroad tie raised ramp. Vets like Kenny Perry and Woody Austin complied but handing their balls to new fans for life, Kevin Na acted like they didn't exist and John Mallinger shined his pearly whites while dishing out high-fives.

Ben Curtis, who hit his tee shot in the water and posted a double bogey 5, entered the fluorescent-lit tunnel on his way to the 18th tee when a young girl yelled out from above.

"Can I have a ball please?"

"I only have two left," Curtis grumbled back.

Her dad offered this consolation: "He still has to play number 18 and there's lots of water."

Okay, so maybe the 17th isn't the only terrifying hole at the other-worldly TPC Sawgrass.

Mosquito Control Road

In honor of today's quote from Jenkins, a few real estate developments along the way to the TPC Sawgrass.

-The Fountains

-Summer House

-Dolphin Cove


-Fiddlers Marsh

And my favorite road:

I sent the photo to former area resident Jenkins, who reports:

That street used to be Gator Food and before that it was Cotton Mouth Alley and before that it was Rattler Court.

Saturday At The Players

I arrived at 6:30 a.m. (a stuffy 78 degrees!) to sit in on a course tour of the front nine setup as handled by John Mutch of the PGA Tour.

The setup is nicely balanced and as solid as can be, though the architecture limits the possibility of the more dramatic day-to-day changes we're coming to expect more and more.The inevitable 17th hole photo, from the 16th hole.(click to enlarge)

Not that TPC Sawgrass needs much drama.

The conditioning is superb, however the design would benefit from a lot more mowing of rough and short grass areas around greens. Aesthetically, it's currently lacking some of the elegance a design so rich in texture deserves, much of which I attribute to the clump bermuda mix in the roughs. And the strategic benefits would be obvious: balls reaching hazards more easily, contours retaining even more of a presence and several approaches appearing more intimidating.

They think of everything! Lights in the tunnel from 17 green to 18 tee (click to enlarge)The current situation with so much rough around the greens limits shotmaking and frankly, looks ugly.

To clarify one issue regarding the rough. After being briefed by the tour, Golf Channel and NBC have reported that the fairway roughs are cut at 2-3 inches, last topped off mid-week. Greenside, the rough started in the same range but is now at 3-4 inches. However, because the severity of the surrounds requires the use of rotary mowers (that's a lawn mower) it has not been topped off all week while the fairway roughs have.  The PGA Tour's tournament director, Mark Russell, says the situation will be different next year.

The obvious question for anyone who watched Saturday: why the higher scores?Camilo Villegas tests the wind with the amazing video screen in the background. (Click on image to enlarge)

After all it's warm, greens are perfect and the wind never amounted to much. However, it's pretty simple, really. There is enough firmness in the greens combined with a relentless course that quickly wears the player down.

And that's why Alex Cejka's five-stroke lead over Tiger Woods appears so surmountable.

Friday At The Players

I was a lazy media whore bum today, having to finish off a couple of items for print and well, it's hot. So I walked around a bit in the morning, then followed Tiger-Ernie-Justin at the finish.

Hey, it was bloody hot out there.

Actually, I had to save myself and my deodorant allocation for the Commissioner's Southern Style Pig Roast, held in the Stadium Players Village from 7-9.  I'm too stuffed to report, though the event was lovely considering it was populated primarily by writers. So I'll just leave you with a few black and white images from Friday.

Unlucky victim of the Commissioner's Pig Roast (click to enlarge)

Tiger tees off on No. 17 Friday afternoon. (click image to enlarge)

No. 17 Friday (click to enlarge)

Who says Tiger doesn't stop for autographs (click to enlarge)

Tiger after his round (click to enlarge)


Thursday At The Players

Take the kids and military guests away and boy did the vibe change Thursday. It didn't help that the players were slogging through a 5:30 minute round, but I couldn't get over the difference between the two days. Personally, if I were a corporate sponsor of a tour event, I'd support more days that encourage family and military guests if it builds that kind of vibe. (Or how about lower prices? There I go again!)

But with more folks and more passion, the corporate hospitality areas become that much more coveted.  Take away the buzz, the place grows quiet and there isn't as much cache in spending on a "chalet."

Now that we have that important statement on corporate hospitality addressed, what about the golf?The scene at 17 Thursday morning (click to enlarge)

I hate to judge the course setup and architecture after just a day of tournament viewing, but it's painfully clear that the situation with rough still has not been properly addressed. You may recall there have been many debates over the years about Pete Dye's intentions and trying to bring the pine scrub and other hazards more into play by having less rough. We've been told that post-move to May, this has been addressed. I'm not feeling it.

Jeff Klauk, son of longtime and now retired TPC super Fred Klauk, tees off on 17 in his first Players (click to enlarge)Though the grass is kept at a lower height than the March Players days, it's still a penal 2-3 inches and fairway cuts appear surprisingly narrow.

Judging by Thursday's excellent scoring, it's not having much effect. Instead, the course still overemphasizes putting and downplays any kind of strategic placement. Not to take away from first round leader Ben Crane's round in any way, but he did have 14 one-putts. And as firm as it was despite a Wednesday night spritzing that eliminated some of previous afternoon's shine, the rough is still stopping balls from reaching trouble. It's most noticeable around some greens where apparently someone on Golf Channel suggested they are growing it at 3 inches, compared to 2 off the fairways. I hope to find out if that's true (doubtful).Trees down the right of No. 6 fairway

I'll try and get a few photographs to illustrate where short grass would make the course more interesting and more difficult (in a good way). But the image to the right shows that it's not just Augusta National resorting to small pines to penalize slightly off-line shots.

Tiger's 7-iron approach to 16 was a highlight (click to enlarge)I followed Tiger in the morning and saw his 7-iron approach that set up his 16th hole eagle. That prompted this stat from the ShotLink crew, working their tales off this week:

With his eagle on the par 5 16th hole, Tiger Woods has now played the hole in 38-under par for his career at THE PLAYERS. His next-best hole is the par 5 second, which he has played at 22-under in 45 rounds. Below is a chart showing how Tiger has played the different holes at TPC Sawgrass.

Par 3s: +25
Par 4s: +40
Par 5s: -88
Front 9: -3
Back 9: -20

As for No. 17, I'll get into the specifics later this week, but the atmosphere and videoboards make it an incredible place to hang out. And for all of the talk about how unfair the hole is, the ShotLink team shares this:

A total of 14 balls were hit in the water off of the tee on the famed 17th hole on Thursday. Interestingly enough, there were 18 balls hit in the water on the par 3 13th hole on Thursday.

More tomorrow on No. 17 and Friday night's media bash, the Commissioner's "Southern Style Pig Roast."