This Week in Golf - May 10th through May 13th

This Week in Golf - May 10th through May 13th

This Week in Golf - May 10th through May 13th
May 7th, 2007

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - PGA TOUR - THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP, TPC Sawgrass, Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida - A new date on the schedule and revamped course are two marks for this week's Players Championship.

Previously played a few weeks prior to the season's first major, the Masters, the Players was shifted to May to balance out the schedule. The tournament is now situated between the Masters and the U.S. Open, giving the month of May a big-time tournament of its own.

Last year, Stephen Ames ran away from the field to beat Retief Goosen by six strokes for his second tour win.

The course will play different than it did last year. The TPC Sawgrass will likely play as firm and fast as it ever has. The greens were rebuilt with the sub-air system put in, while the fairways have a new irrigation and drainage system.

An additional 122 yards have added to the course and the famous island green at 17 has been re-contoured to allow for some new pin positions. Some 200 trees have also been added with Nos. 6, 9 and 18 gaining a significant amount of those new trees.

In 2006, Brad Faxon extended his streak of consecutive cuts made at The Players Championship to 13, the best in tournament history. Tiger Woods owns the next-best streak at 10 straight.

Craig Perks (2002), Hal Sutton (1983) and Jack Nicklaus (1974) are the only players to win in their first appearance at this event. Perks, who chipped in for eagle on 16 and chipped in on 18 for par, also became the first player to make this event his first PGA Tour title.

Minus No. 27 Justin Rose and No. 45 Shingo Katayama, 48 of the top 50 players in the world rankings will tee it up this week at The Players. Also in the field this week are Ken Duke and Bobby Wadkins. Duke was the money leader on the Nationwide Tour last year, while Wadkins won last year's Senior Players Championship

The Golf Channel will have the action the first two rounds, and NBC will cover weekend play. Next week is the AT&T Classic, which the last several years had preceded the Masters. Phil Mickelson ran away with the title in '06 as he won by 13 strokes the week before collecting his second green jacket at Augusta.

EUROPEAN TOUR

VALLE ROMANO OPEN DE ANDALUCIA, Aloha Golf Club, Andalucia, Spain - The European Tour returns to Spain for the second of five events countrywide.

Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez is skipping the Players Championship in order to play and promote the Valle Romano Open de Andalucia.

"This is my first tournament as a promoter and I'm thrilled to play in the event as well," Jimenez said. "Andalucia has sponsored me for many years and I have had the opportunity to play all around the world. This is a way of giving back for all the support they have given me."

Four of his 13 European Tour titles have come on Spanish soil. Two of those wins -- Turespana Masters Open Andalucia and Volvo Masters -- came in the Andalucia region.

Last year, the Old Course at San Roque Club hosted for the second straight year. This year, the Aloha Golf Club will welcome the event. Aloha will play host to its first European Tour event, but it has been part of the Ladies European Tour in the past.

Niclas Fasth needed four playoff holes to defeat John Bickerton last year. Bickerton fired a final round nine-under 63 to force the extra session.

The Golf Channel will air action all four days. Next up for the European Tour is the Irish Open, where Thomas Bjorn won last year in a Monday finish as the final round was pushed to Monday after heavy rain and wind halted action early on Sunday.

LPGA TOUR

MICHELOB ULTRA OPEN AT KINGSMILL, Kingsmill Resort & Spa - River Course, Williamsburg, Virginia - Last year, Karrie Webb carded her first three rounds in the 60s to run away for a seven-stroke win.

Webb, who a month earlier had won the Kraft Nabisco Championship, picked up the second of her five wins in the 2006 season. Rounds of 66-68-66 the first three days gave Webb a comfortable lead heading to the final day.

The Australian's four-day total of 270 blew away the previous tournament record of 275 that Grace Park set in '03 and Se Ri Pak tied a year later.

Webb's three-round total of 200 was also a new record. Park had also set the old 54-hole mark of 204 in 2003, while Cristie Kerr matched that on her way to victory in 2005.

Pak's win was her 22nd on the LPGA Tour and qualified her for the LPGA Tour Hall of Fame, where she will be enshrined later this year after having completed her 10th full season on tour.

After 22 years of hosting the PGA, this is the fifth year the LPGA will compete on the River Course at Kingsmill.

ESPN2 covers the final three days after no television the opening round. The LPGA heads to New York next week for the Corning Classic, where Hee-Won Han downed Meena Lee in a playoff to win last year.

CANADIAN TOUR


RIVIERA NAYARIT CLASSIC, Club de Golf El Tigre, Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico - The third of four straight events in Mexico -- the Riviera Nayarit Classic tees it up this week.

This is the second of three straight new events on the schedule.

Next week, the tour completes its run South of the Border with the Iberostar Riviera Maya Open in Riviera Maya, Mexico.

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Re: This Week in Golf - May 10th through May 13th

Changes all around at TPC, except on the island
Tue, May 8, 2007
By Associated Press

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Tiger Woods hasn't seen the TPC Sawgrass look like this since he won the U.S. Amateur in 1994 before heading off to college. Phil Mickelson joined a chorus of players who were thrilled by the pristine condition.

Indeed, the PGA Tour spared no expense - more than $50 million - for a massive upgrade at The Players Championship.

Most of it went into the clubhouse, a Mediterranean Revival style covering 77,000 square feet. The Stadium Course was refurbished to add a sand base to the fairway for better drainage, and pumps under every green to keep them firm and fast in any weather.

It's almost like a brand new tournament.

Except for that island.

Despite all the changes, the signature hole - the signature moment - of The Players Championship still captivates the gallery and intimidates even the best players in the world.

Adam Scott had a two-shot lead in 2004 when he came to the 137-yard island hole in the final round and was so nervous he stood with his back to the green.

''I didn't really want to think about it more than I had to,'' he said.

Scott wound up hitting wedge to 25 feet and getting his par, which is all he wanted.

Phil Mickelson played a practice round Tuesday, and it took him six shots to hit the green. It wasn't as bad as he made it sound. One hit the fringe. Another settled in the rough. One came up short and into the water. One bounced off the green and into the water. The fifth one flew the island into the water.

''And one ended up 10 feet,'' he said. ''So, with a couple-shot penalty along the way, what is that, 12? Nice.''

Two years ago, when every shot counted, Bob Tway was four shots out of the lead when he put four balls into the water on the 17th and walked away with a 12, the highest score ever on that hole in competition.

But that's the very reason Tiger Woods is no fan of the 17th green - more because of its place in the tournament than its location in the middle of a lake. Woods has one of the more memorable birdies, a 60-foot putt that broke three directions and dropped into the cup in the third round of 2001, when he won his only Players Championship.

''I've always thought that hole is too gimmicky for the 17th hole of a championship,'' Woods said. ''I think that would be a fantastic eighth hole, but not as the 71st hole of a tournament, or 17th hole of your round.''

Tway was tied for 10th when he first stuck a tee in the ground. He was tied for 72nd when he finally retrieved his ball from the cup.

Len Mattiace was challenging for the lead on Sunday in 1998 until hitting two into the water - one off the tree, the other a skulled shot out of the bunker - and took 8.

''I think that the 12th at Augusta is the hardest par 3 to make a par,'' Mickelson said. ''But the 17th here at the TPC is one of the most difficult because ... there not a cap on how high you can go.''

Jack Nicklaus is the only three-time winner of The Players, although never on the TPC Sawgrass. He still played 10 times on the Stadium Course, and some of the golf courses he has designed have holes that somewhat resemble an island green.

''You knew you were in trouble when you got on the tee,'' Nicklaus said. ''Sooner or later, it was going to get you. And it was going to get you good, probably. When you're playing at noon on Sunday at the 17th hole, you knew you weren't much of a factor and you could care less if you hit it in the water. You didn't want to hit it in at 6 o'clock on Saturday or Sunday.''

Nicklaus has his concerns about the placement of the hole.

No doubt it adds excitement for thousands of fans who care about little else that seeing one train wreck after another. In another sense, it almost detracts from the other holes that Pete Dye designed.

Then again, if it was placed where Woods prefers - No. 8 instead of No. 17 - it might not be as big of a deal.

''I think that's what makes an exciting and great hole - and I think it is a great hole - is that it's in a position where it creates controversy,'' Nicklaus said. ''That's the whole idea. You just wonder whether a tournament should be determined by that much of a think at that point in time.''

Scott escaped with par the year he won, saving his excitement for the 18th hole when he hooked a 6-iron into the water from the middle of the fairway and had to get up-and-down for bogey for a one-shot win.

''The finishing holes here are probably the feature of the golf course,'' Scott said. ''Playing it is not that much fun, but to watch it is probably a lot of fun. It's a gimmick to have an island green like that, but it serves a purpose here.''

It has become the identity of The Players Championship, more noteworthy than the strong field, the $9 million purse and even more fun to debate than whether this is the fifth major.

So much talk for the shortest hole on the golf course.

Blame that on an island.

''If that was just a bunker around it and not water, you'd probably find more people would hit it on the grass,'' Geoff Ogilvy said. ''There's something about water that does it to people. It's a fun hole. I'm glad it's here. You wouldn't design an island hole on every course in the world, but it seems to work here. It's cool.''

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Re: This Week in Golf - May 10th through May 13th

A new era, an old problem for Players
By Associated Press

PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- What some bill as the fifth-best golf tournament looked more like an open house Monday.

One by one, players pulled their courtesy cars to the front of the 77,000-square-foot clubhouse at The Players Championship and were pointed in every direction. Volunteers guided them to the locker room, to a players-only dining room where not even their agents were allowed, and to the ''Tunnel of Champions'' that led them out a back door to the refurbished Players Stadium Course on the TPC Sawgrass.

Most of them didn't know where they were.

''I'm a little lost,'' U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy said. ''It's such a big building.''

And despite the new look at The Players Championship, one thing hasn't changed: No one is quite sure what it is.

The fifth major?

That won't get too many arguments because the golf course is superb, the field is the strongest and deepest of the year and the purse for this year's tournament will be $9 million, the richest of any tournament in the world.

But there are only four majors, which is why Jeff Sluman's famous line from four years ago still holds true.

''When you go to Denny's and order the Grand Slam breakfast, they don't give you five things, do they?''

One reason The Players moved from March to May was to give golf a major event every month, starting with the Masters in April through the PGA Championship in August and even the FedEx Cup finale in September.

But even with a new clubhouse and a refurbished golf course meant to play firm and fast in any weather, there is still enough evidence to suggest that one of these is not like the other four.

Tiger Woods, coming off a two-shot victory at the Wachovia Championship, won't arrive until Tuesday. Woods arrives no later than Monday for majors, sometimes even Sunday.

Major championships attract fans from all over the country who come to watch. The Players largely remains a local event, drawing most of the crowd from county limits, and a lot of them come to be seen. The PGA Tour is starting a campaign to attract more fans from outside the state of Florida, although this will take time.

And it probably doesn't help that The Players is held a week after the Wachovia Championship, which drew seemingly endless comparisons with a major championship last week, especially after Woods said he was ''ecstatic'' to have won considering the quality of the golf course against the strength of the field in such difficult conditions.

More than one player was asked at Quail Hollow what the difference was between last week and this week.

In every case, there was a pause for contemplation before a nod was given to The Players.

But they had to think about it.

All this feeds into a broader problem at PGA Tour headquarters: The Players is its showcase event, but the conversation seems to always be what the tournament is not, rather than what it is.

''I think enough fun has been made of their place in the golf kingdom,'' Sluman said over the weekend. ''There are still only four majors, but it is an unbelievable golf course with bar-none the best field in golf.''

Shouldn't that be enough?

PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem has said that he only wants The Players Championship to be the best it can be, and he has stopped at nothing to accomplish that. The tour wants the tournament to be known as ''The Players,'' similar to ''The Masters.'' Television coverage will include only four minutes of commercials every hour, just like the Masters.

The winner of The Players gets as many FedEx Cup points as the winner of a major. In the World Golf Hall of Fame ballots, The Players is listed in bold print alongside the four majors.

''Nobody likes being force-fed,'' Sluman said. ''I think everybody associated with the tournament needs to let it take its course. It will find its spot wherever that ends up in five, 10, 15 or 50 years. But just let it happen.''

Ogilvy called it the fifth-best tournament in the world, which probably is what The Players Championship is. But what inevitably followed were more examples of what it's not.

''It's not a career-defining win,'' he said.

Fred Couples and Davis Love III often get labeled as underachievers for having so much talent and only one major championship to show for it, even though both have won The Players twice. Ogilvy also felt that while winning The Players was as physically challenging as winning a major, it was not as psychologically demanding.

''I've gotten so tired of that six, seven, eight years ago,'' Jim Furyk said. ''Is this a major? Is it not a major? My answer was simply, 'Does it matter?' It's a good, strong field. I would say it's by far the strongest field in golf, year in and year out. And it's probably the best way to market it.''

Carl Petterson offered the best answer when asked his definition of The Players.

''It's our championship,'' he said.

That should be enough.

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Re: This Week in Golf - May 10th through May 13th

The Players Championship
by Jeremy Church

This is my fourth year handicapping golf for Procappers. Last weekend for the first time in those four years, my two head-to-head picks both missed the cut with identical scores. Dick Cheney has a better chance at heaven than the likelihood that will happen again. They both shot 73 on Thursday, they both shot 75 on Friday. I swear, one of these days I’m going to hit a 150-1 ...

I wasn’t complaining with the push, given my recent struggles with the H2H. But it made the whole week ride on the outright, which, in golf betting, is not a good spot to be in (I’ve gotta get into Nascar … ).

Fortunately, one of my picks won. Unfortunately, his name is Tiger. My other top contender, Vijay, had a disastrous back nine, going four over on the last five holes. I think I’ve been wrong about Singh with respect to Tiger. He sets up as one of the few out there who doesn’t let Tiger get in his head, who can take Tiger one-on-one. More often than not, though, that’s not the case. More often than not, Vijay’s score cards look like Mickelson’s: up and down, maddening inconsistency.

Speaking of Lefty, I don’t see a whole lot of change in his swing but then minor adjustments can go a long way. A friend once told me, for example, to move the ball one ball length forward at address. I did, let ‘er rip and drove it straight and far ... for two holes ... before I compensated for the overcompensating correction (if you know what I mean) and got back to my wayward ways.

TPC has had a full make-over, looks like Finchem wants the company tournament to be a major. They can’t call it a major because that would mess with the history books but for all intents and purposes this is a major. It tends to bring out the best like all majors do. Accordingly, with the exceptions of recent winners Fred Funk and Stephen Ames, I’m thinking top dogs this week. Except Singh. And Mickelson. No on the Els. No way on Sergio. A little down on Goosen, too. Who does that leave? First, the tally:

Last week: With the push and Tiger’s win at 5-2, 1/6 unit, I netted $416 or .4 units. The season total is – 6.9 units.

At this week’s The Players Championship, take Tiger Woods in the outright (5-2), 1/6 unit: Tiger hasn’t much been intimidated by Tiger-proofing courses.

Take Adam Scott (25-1), 1/6 unit:
He has a win this year, which was his problem last year: way too many near misses. Perhaps the win (at the Shell Houston Open) is still fresh. The Aussies seem intent on making a mark in the major tournaments this year.

Take David Toms (80-1), 1/6 unit: Four top 10s this year, a nice sleeper pick. Has not played Sawgrass well over the years but the course is reportedly speedier, which might help a smooth putter like Toms.

In the head-to-head, take Woods over Mickelson (8-15), 1 unit: So it will be a max of 1 unit for the week if Tiger wins and a push for the week if he beats Mickelson but doesn’t win. I’m breaking my rule of betting on or against Mickelson but I don’t see as to how he has a chance with all the potential for problems and a potentially fast course.

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