TPC Sawgrass' Stadium Course is one of the most iconic layouts in golf. We spoke to 2005 Players champion Fred Funk to find out what makes it so good
The 2005 Players Championship is known for several reasons – from producing the oldest winner of the event to having arguably the worst golfing conditions the tournament has ever seen.
Whatever you remember it for you will recall that Fred Funk and many others in the field completed a huge 32 holes on a blustery Monday in March with Funk, the underdog, coming out on top.
At the time Funk was 48 and, despite almost being focused on a switch to the Champions Tour, he was playing some of the best golf of his career.
As one of the shortest but straightest hitters on tour, Funk was perhaps at a disadvantage compared to the longer hitters on several layouts, but TPC Sawgrass was just about perfect.
As a Ponte Vedra resident, Funk is no stranger to the layout and that is even before you consider the fact that he has now played the Stadium Course on 20 occasions at the Players.
So what is it about Sawgrass that makes it such good layout which produces such a range of winners?
“There’s still no substitute for length, it’s a huge advantage. These young guys are hitting 3-woods off the deck 270 or 280 yards in the air and that’s crazy in it’s own right,” Funk said.
“These guys are hitting driver 300 yards in the air and if you can do that then there are some holes that you will have an advantage on but there are so many holes that these guys won’t hit driver on.
“On holes 1, 2, 4, 5 they won’t hit it, it should be 7 before they are hitting their first drive and then 9, 11, 14, maybe 15, maybe 16 and maybe 18. They’ve got four holes out of the 14 driving holes that are definitive driving holes.
“The other ones you just demand that you fit it in the fairway. Whether you might run out of fairway, or it’s just a weird angle, or you don’t want to hit as close to the green as you would with a driver.”
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While the majority of courses seem to be scrambling to lengthen their layouts, Sawgrass chose to shorten the par-4 12th. At 302 yards it is perhaps one of the more underrated holes on the layout.
“That will go back to being a driver hole now that the tournament is back in March and it will be into the wind,” he said.
Funk acknowledged that while distance will do no harm to your chances of victory in Florida, as Rory McIlroy demonstrated, the evidence to support the idea that Sawgrass can suit all styles of play is simply in the leaderboards of Players gone by.
“All of this doesn’t define the type of players that can play well here and the proof is in the leaderboards and the winners, they are from all across the board, long and short.”