May 10 2013
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Who do you think is happier? Is it the broadcasters, the writers, PGA TOUR Commissioner Tim Finchem or golf fans? THE PLAYERS has delivered a perfect leaderboard for this weekend. Sergio Garcia and Tiger Woods in the final pairing? Who wouldn’t want to watch that? Look deeper into the leaderboard and you will find five past champions in the top 10. It's the perfect storm for golfers. The best tournament on the PGA TOUR schedule has delivered the optimum pairings for an exciting Saturday. TV ratings should be huge, newspapers should be sold and golf fans should be ecstatic.
Putting: Garcia won THE PLAYERS in 2008 with great ball-striking and inconsistent putting. He leads this year because he has transformed his stroke on the greens. Garcia ranks 10th in strokes gained-putting this season. He has putting rounds of 25-26 strokes this week while hitting 27 of 36 greens. His putting has led to consistency at TPC Sawgrass where Garcia has 13 birdies and just two bogeys this week. Watching him and Tiger in the final pairing should be fascinating.
Woods watch: Woods has struggled at THE PLAYERS in recent years but has never come into the tournament putting like he has this season. Woods is the top-ranked putter on TOUR and has taken 74 strokes in 36 holes on the greens this week. His course demeanor is drastically improved from just a couple years ago. Woods consistently smiled and joked with his fellow competitors during the first two rounds.
Big hitter: Adam Scott hit the drive of the day at the 11th hole, a 357-yard blast. He also got an assist from a golf cart. Scott’s drive drifted to the right of the fairway, hitting an equipment case that was in the back of a golf cart outside the gallery ropes. The ball ricocheted back into the fairway leaving Scott just 207 yards into the green on the par 5. Unfortunately, Scott did not take advantage of the good break and made par.
Greens: The putting surfaces were noticeably faster on Friday afternoon. They almost became crusty and will bear watching this weekend. They are still receptive but there are some greens that have very little grass. The eighth green looks particularly stressed. A cold spring and recent rains hurt the root structure. The entire TPC Sawgrass staff has done a wonderful job in delivering a championship course during a difficult growing season but the putting surfaces are thin.
Hole locations: There were some difficult cups set for the second round. Several hole locations were close to the edge of greens and sitting atop knolls. The greens are still receptive but it was difficult to get a ball close on some holes. Twelve cups were cut four or fewer paces from the edge of greens.
Scrambling: Lee Westwood took an enormous gamble. He uprooted his family and moved everyone to Florida to benefit his practice regimen. It had simply become too cold and rainy to accomplish much work during the English winter. Has the relocation worked? Westwood is ranked eighth in scrambling this year after ranking 189th in 2012. This week, he is 9-for-9 in par saves and leads THE PLAYERS in scrambling statistics.
Entourage: Scott is not quite “Vinnie Chase” but he certainly has an entourage this week. With a devotion usually reserved for Justin Bieber, a giggly group of teenage girls followed the Masters champion throughout his round. One girl smiled through her braces and excitedly told me, ”He has looked at me three times now.” Imagination is powerful. Scott wore dark sunglasses and appeared to look and smile at everyone in the gallery.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here