What was your reaction when Tiger Woods called the
island-green 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass 'gimmicky' at
last year’s Players Championship?
Tiger said to me one time that he thought the 17th hole came
at the wrong point on the course. He didn’t tell me it was
gimmicky. He said that it just comes so late in the game. So I
said, “Why don’t you just change the flags?” He said, “What
do you mean?” I said, “All you have to do is get a hold of them
up at Sawgrass and just switch out the flags.” He kind of
laughed. “I don’t think I could get that done,” he said.
Would you consider reconfiguring the layout,
at least for the Players?
Take the 17th hole along with the 16th and 18th — those
three holes can be disastrous, and that’s the way the
course is designed. The 17th wouldn’t have the notoriety
if it were the third hole. One time I hit an 8- or a 9-iron
to the green and thought, “This hole isn’t too tough.”
The player I was with said, “It’s not that tough when
the only things watching you are me and that frog.”
Do you generally take note when players critique
I’ve talked to so many professional golfers, and each one of them has a different outlook on any
given hole. Vijay Singh, I talk to him about
a hole, he’s got one idea. Then I talk to Jim
Furyk, and it’s not the same. My wife (Alice),
I adhere to her opinion more than I do the
rest of them, otherwise I won’t get dinner.
What’s the biggest issue facing
Cost. Fewer people are playing but they’re
paying more. If you add tees and length to
a course, you have to escalate the cost. And
they’re not only lengthening courses, they’re
putting in new grasses and increasing the
speed of the greens. “We’re not as fast as
Augusta!” — that’s all superintendents
talk about. And now you’ve got a $40,000
machine cutting them.
So what’s the solution?
The escalating costs will stop that. The
USGA and the Augustas — they haven’t
been listening. We have to cut back costs
and make courses more environmentally
sensitive. You don’t have to have emerald
green from one end of the course to the other.
Look at a club like Torrey Pines. The USGA
moves in the day after the Buick, spending
money like you’ve never heard of. One of
these days, they’ll realize what they’re
doing, or they’re going to be out of business.
Which of your designs makes you the
Teeth of the Dog at Casa de Campo (in the
Dominican Republic). When I started that
in 1970, there wasn’t a paved road within 35
miles. Now there are 3,500 homes, an
airport, 50,000 people working. I’m going
to be egotistical with this — that golf course
started the whole thing down there.
Why have you never built a true links
I’ve always wanted to but I never got the
opportunity. Most of the courses I try to
build, I’m on site. I’m not sure I want to
spend all that time overseas.
You’re still going strong at 82. When
will you retire?
When they put me in a box (laughs).