Should The Players move from TPC Sawgrass?

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Steve Carroll and Mark Townsend lock horns in Alternate Shot

TPC Sawgrass has been home to The Players Championship, the so-called ‘fifth major’, since 1982. But is there scope to play the showpiece event away from Ponte Vedra Beach? Two of our writers disagree…

Yes, says Steve Carroll

Admit it. Outside of the 17th, a hole I’ll accept deserves the word ‘iconic’, can you actually picture any of the others at Sawgrass?

I can’t, and The Players is a tournament I’ve watched avidly for the best part of 20 years.

I’ve wracked the brain, and scrunched my eyes up really tight, in a bid to draw up any kind of image of a shot that doesn’t involve an island green.

I’ve got a vague feeling the 18th might have some water on it, but it’s only a Pete Dye obsessive that would argue this Ponte Vedra course deserves the reverence it receives in some quarters.

Players Championship

It’s certainly not universally popular with the players, who worked themselves into a frenzy when they first set foot on the property. As recently as last year, it was still eliciting complaints about the condition and the speed of the greens.

What makes The Players so special is the field, not the venue. It’s a who’s who of the world’s best and, as a result, it doesn’t matter where you take them – it’ll still be great.

The PGA Tour like to think of The Players as the fifth major but those tournaments generally move around.

Yes, we go to Augusta National every 12 months but is anyone seriously considering Sawgrass in the same light as that Georgia oasis of golfing excellence?

What I adore about the majors is that they do rotate. I love that the Open will take in tracks as diverse as Carnoustie and Royal Liverpool. I can’t wait to welcome those American churches of Oakmont and Winged Foot back into my home after a few years away.

It’s like seeing an old friend again. Not like Sawgrass, where the layout is starting to feel like that annoying uncle that’s got too drunk and won’t leave the party. Variety is the spice of life, they say, so let’s get the Players on the road.

No, says Mark Townsend

Don’t get me wrong, I like nothing more than a bit of variety in terms of tour stops. When Pebble Beach’s pro-am rolls around I die a little bit inside, and am finished off by the annual bore-athon at East Lake that is the Tour Championship.

Even being a cynical, sneery cretin, I’ve never had that with Sawgrass. The familiarity of the place doesn’t breed contempt, only a small surge of excitement which, for me, is quite a lot.

Players Championship

Once upon a time in 1995 I had a dissertation to finish only to be greeted by David Livingstone’s opening words of: ‘What better way to spend the next four days than enjoying 38 hours of live coverage?’ I took Livo at his word, didn’t write a single sentence on the advent of Sunday horse racing, didn’t speak to another human being and frittered away a collection of small-stake bets as Lee Janzen beat Bernhard Langer by a shot. It was brilliant.

Viewing is now made easier by the fact that I have actually played the Stadium Course – I hit the bleachers at 17 after a slightly thinned wedge and it took about three months to get over the disappointment.

Tiger Woods has said that the island hole would work well if the nines were switched and it was the 8th hole but everyone else watching likes it just where it is. A penultimate chance to make someone look silly and end up wet, which is what a lot of us are after, year after year.

Otherwise it generally throws up a succession of brilliant champions, drama and birdies, a nice winning score in the mid teens, plenty of storylines, the odd falling out – remember when Tiger and Sergio had their big dust-up in 2013 – and probably the best mid-air commentary from a player. ‘Be the right club, be the right club today…yes!’

It is the right club so let’s tune in once more come the opening day on Thursday.

 

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