Quick look at THE PLAYERS Championship
March 11, 2020
By Ben Everill and Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
- March 11, 2020
All-time shots at THE PLAYERS Championship
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – Of the 144 players in this week’s field at THE PLAYERS Championship, 110 have won at least one PGA TOUR event, combining for 457 total wins. That the biggest group of winners at any TOUR event in the FedExCup era. Speaking of the FedExCup, the top 10 players – and 47 of the top 50 – are in the field. Same if you look at the Official World Golf Ranking. So what does this mean for the gathering at Pete Dye’s iconic course, which offers risk-reward options on just about every hole? That it’s the strongest field in golf. The numbers don’t lie.
THREE PLAYERS TO PONDER
You can’t win at TPC Sawgrass without being bold on the gauntlet that is the last three holes. It opens with the 523-yard par-5 16th where two good shots set up eagle, but wayward ones get wet. It is near-impossible not to be thinking about the infamous 137-yard island green par-3 17th while you’re still playing the 16th (if not earlier in your round). It’s theoretically an easy wedge shot but add adrenalin, nerves and swirling winds plus zero margin for error and it becomes sensational theatre. Survive that and you have one of the toughest closing holes in golf. The 462-yard par-4 18th was the third toughest hole last season in the tournament’s return to March, playing to a stroke average of 4.215. Water hugs the entire left side and coming out of the rough on the right is no picnic on approach either. Stand up and deliver … or drown.
TPC Sawgrass flyover compilation of No. 16, No. 17 and No. 18
The 471 yard par-4 fifth played as the most difficult in last season’s PLAYERS, the first in March since 2006. Water and a bunker guard the right side from the tee and a hill with rough awaits those going left. It averaged at 4.236 throughout the tournament despite giving up a hole-out eagle. Aside from Ryan Moore’s miracle in the third round, there were just 43 birdies compared to 106 bogeys and 21 double bogeys. Here’s a look at where the tee shots landed.
FROM PGA TOUR meteorologist Wade Stettner: “Dry weather is forecast through the weekend with high pressure expected to remain across Florida. Temperatures will be seasonal this week with afternoon highs in the upper 70s each day. Southeast winds are forecast on Thursday and Friday with winds shifting to more of an east/northeast direction this weekend.”
For the latest weather news from Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, check out the PGA TOUR Weather Hub.
SOUND CHECKThey're like beer when you're younger. You sort of don't like it but then you think it's cool to drink it and then you sort of acquire a taste for it.
BY THE NUMBERS: ISLAND GREEN EDITION
9: Holes-in-one at the 17th hole during PLAYERS competition, the latest a year ago by Ryan Moore
3.11: Stroke average at 17 since 2003, making it the toughest 150-yards-or-less par 3 on TOUR during that span.
837: Combined over par by the field in the last 17 years at the 17th
4.08: Stroke average when missing the island green. More than 500 different par 3s have been played on TOUR since 2003. The 17th is the only one with a scoring average over four storkes when missing the green (minimum 500 missed greens in regulation).
26: Birdies at 17 by Bernhard Langer, the most of any player since 1983
15: Birdies at 17 by Adam Scott, the most of any player since 2003
12: Score by Bob Tway at 17 during the third round of the 2005 PLAYERS – the highest score by a single player.
13: Total balls in the water during PLAYERS competition by Aaron Baddeley, the most of any single player since 2003.
802: Balls in the water at 17 since 2003 in 7,427 official rounds (10.8%).
15: Players who have hit 100% greens in regulation at 17 since 2003 (minimum eight rounds). Graham DeLaet and Chez Reavie have the most rounds at 18 each.
69 feet, 7 inches: Birdie putt made by Jhonattan Vegas in the final round in 2019, the longest putt made at 17 since 2003.
SPRING BREAKERS TOGETHER AGAIN: Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler are in the same threesome for the first two rounds. The good friends have traveled with each other (pre-marriage for Spieth and Fowler) and of course, compete against each other. “There's definitely going to be more interaction with the guys that you're closer to or closer with,” Fowler said. “Maybe a little bit of trash talk, just between us for fun and what we would normally do -- but within reason. To me, playing with your buddies, your close friends, it's always kind of pushed me to play my best. Not that that comes out every time that you play against your buddies, but your close friends are the ones that you want to lose to the least amount.” But Thomas doesn’t see that playing with his buddies will impact his performance. “It's not like I'm going to play great today because I played with Jordan and Rick. I would like to hope that I have a little bit more confidence in myself, that I'm a good enough player to play without them.”
TEN-YEAR LEARNING CURVE: The last time Rory McIlroy played the Stadium Course, he won the 2019 PLAYERS Championship. The first time he played it was 10 years earlier, when he shot 74-77 to miss the cut. But he had a good excuse. “The first time I played here, the weekend before I was in Vegas for a fight and then probably didn't prepare the best way possible and missed the cut and ended up getting kicked out of bars in Jax Beach for having a fake ID,” McIlroy said. “So I've come a long way.”
HE PROMISED, HE DELIVERED: Englishman Tyrrell Hatton expected a full-throttle celebration following his first PGA TOUR win Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard. He did not disappoint. “I'm still quite tired, to be honest,” he said Wednesday. “But I was cuddling the toilet by 5:00 in the morning, so it was a good night.” Hatton is making his fourth PLAYERS start, and he’s missed the cut in his last two visits. “Last year it was kind of typical me, where I was … like one shot outside the cut line with five holes to go and I had a blowup, snapped my 3-wood and basically started hitting shots on the run, and I think we missed the cut by five or something like that,” he said. “So it kind of just goes back to making sure can I kind of control myself, and that's normally the first step to me having a decent week.”
GOOSE ON THE LOOSE: World Golf Hall of Famer Retief Goosen is making his 17th PLAYERS start, thanks to winning the Bridgestone SENIOR PLAYERS Championship last July. His best result came in 2006 when he was solo second, six strokes behind Stephen Ames. The next year, the tournament was moved from March to May, and stayed there until it moved back to March last year. “I think March it plays tougher,” Goosen said. “I think the conditions can make it more difficult. You can get more of that north wind, which makes this course a lot tougher.” He added that it’s fine by him. “It's a tough test and I like tough tests,” he said. “The tougher it is, the better.”
WEBB TALKS THE SIXTH: Last year at the 393-yard par-4 sixth, club selection for the field off the tee broke down thusly – 17.2% used driver, 44.4% used fairway woods and 38.4% used irons. It’s the only hole in which an iron was used more than 8% off the tee. Webb Simpson, the 2018 champ, said he uses either a hybrid or a 5-wod. “I hit a club that, if I pull it, I don't run out and into that bunker,” he explained. “So if I hit a hybrid and I pull it, I want it to be in the bunker where I have a clear shot to the green every time versus if I hit like a 3-wood and I pull it, it would run up against that lip, and most of the time if it runs up against that lip you can't hit it on the green. The lip is too tall to hit it that far. So depending on the wind and time of day and the heat and all that, usually we're looking at anywhere from a 230 to 260 club. But our main focus is what is that runout at that left lip playing.” But he has tried driver before. “In my early days, I hit driver all the time, but I hit it up against that lip enough to have a sour taste in my mouth to want to stay away from it.”