Pepper Mill: Players renovations

Pepper Mill: Players renovations

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 [email protected].

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