The renovation of the Stadium course and clubhouse at TPC Sawgrass is complete, and both venues are getting great reviews. But the Players Championship's new date will have as big an impact on the event as the refurbishment.
For years the Players has been staged in the cool, soggy weather of March, when the course is overseeded conditions that don't match a course designed to play firm and fast. With the new, warmer May date, a SubAir system under the greens that can extract water, deeper bunkers, beefed-up mounding and no rye overseed, look for the course to be really tough, especially since there are no heavy rains in the forecast.
Wildfires in nearby Georgia could present another obstacle: smoke. Both 17 and 18 play to the northwest. If the wind is coming from that direction, those holes could be playing into a breeze with reduced visibility. Imagine needing to bowl two strikes when the lights at the alley have been turned off.
I can't help but note the irony of an LPGA event landing in Denver in 2008, which seems a near certainty. It would become the second LPGA event to step in after the PGA Tour moved on (the first was in Williamsburg, Va.), and one of the first tournaments that will have commissioner Carolyn Bivens's stamp on it from start to finish.
Only 10 months ago Bivens and her staff refused to attend an LPGA Tournament Owners Association meeting in Denver scheduled to review the new LPGA business strategy. Some serious tensions still exist between various sponsors, the TOA and the LPGA administration, but the product is better, and the LPGA is a terrific, if ironic, fit for Denver.
At this point in 2006 Cristie Kerr had one win among six top 10s. She ended the season fifth on the money list and in the world ranking. This year, she's 32nd on the money list and has one top 10. She has some ongoing neck problems, but more than anything it seems as if she lacks a positive mind-set. U.S. Solheim Cup captain Betsy King needs Cristie to get moving in the right direction quickly.
Dottie Pepper, a 17-year veteran of the LPGA tour and an analyst for NBC and the Golf Channel, welcomes questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.